7 Highly Effective Ways to Confuse Good Poker Players and Profit More
It isn't always so easy to win at poker these days. Even at the lower limits you are likely to encounter many decent poker players who take the game seriously and play to win just like you.
What this means is you can't just make the same predictable plays over and over again and expect to win big against them. You need to mix up your decisions instead and always keep opponents guessing as to which hand you might show up with this time.
In this article I am going to give you seven of my most effective ways to confuse the good poker players and start profiting more.
1. Slow Play Your Big Hands Preflop
The first way to confuse the better players at the poker table is to start slow playing with your big pairs and strong aces once in awhile.
Instead of always reraising with , , or , why not try just calling sometimes for deception instead? You especially want to consider this when you are in position (i.e., you are in the cutoff or the button).
There is one particular scenario where this is even more effective, though — when there is another aggressive good player left to act behind you in the blinds. By just calling the original raise with your strong premium hand, you can set the trap for the aggressive player who is likely to put in the light squeeze-reraise.
This allows you to reraise it once again and get the maximum amount of money in the middle with the best hand before you ever even see a flop.
2. Mix Up Your Continuation Bets
You want to mix things up on the flop as well. Many people will just go ahead and bet their top-pair hands nearly every time versus a good player. But it is really important to have a checking range in this spot as well.
For instance, say you look down at and raise, then after getting one caller the flop comes . If you bet this flop every single time, this makes you pretty easy to play against. The good player you face will likely notice this and stop paying you off.
However, if you can check back or check-call this hand sometimes as well, this will confuse your opponent and cause him to bluff at it or pay off your value bets later on the turn or river.
3. Mix Up Your Raising Range
Another area where you can look to confuse some of the better players is by mixing up your raising range, especially on the flop.
Many players at the lower limits will only raise the flop with hands like:
- an overpair to the board
- a two-pair hand
- a set
- a monster draw (12 outs or more)
Once again, playing this way makes such players incredibly easy to play against. What if you started raising the flop with just two overcards or an inside straight draw sometimes as well?
By having even a small part of your raising range include bluffs, you make yourself much more difficult to read. This will also help you get paid off more often with all your strong hands.
4. Barrel With a Wider Range
Another area where many people play transparently at the lower stakes in particular is the range with which they barrel postflop — that is, bet again on the turn and/or river.
Most people will only continue betting on the turn with a really strong range like we just talked about (overpairs, two-pair hands, monster draws). Of course, once again, this approach makes them incredibly easy to play against.
What you want to start doing instead is mixing in a few more semi-bluff barrels on occasion with hands like two overcards, an inside straight draw, or even bottom pair.
You don't need to do this very often. In fact it should be pretty rare.
The point is you should have at least a small part of your barreling range that is a bluff. This makes you so much harder to play against versus any thinking opponent.
5. Don't Give Off Timing Tells
Another way to confuse the better players is to notice any timing tells that you are giving off and start eliminating them.
This advice applies to online poker in particular. Such timing tells often show up specifically with people betting too fast with their mediocre hands or regular strength draws.
Such quick actions often make it very obvious to any smart poker player what you have, because you essentially alert them you didn't even need time to think about your decision. By contrast, most people who have a really strong hand (or even a bluff) will want to consider the situation for a little bit longer.
What you want to do instead is take the same amount of time to act with any important decision. If you normally take three seconds to act for instance, then slowly count to three in your head whether you are bluffing, have a mediocre hand, or hold the complete nuts.
By standardizing the length of time that you take to make important decisions at the poker table, you avoid giving away the strength of your hand to observant players.
6. Don't Give Off Bet Sizing Tells
People also give off tells that good players pick up on through their bet sizes. More specifically, they will stagger the size of their bets depending on the strength of their hand.
This approach does in fact tend to work very well against the bad players. As I have suggested many times, especially in my book Crushing the Microstakes, you absolutely should bet more with your strong hands against the recreational players, and less with your bluffs and weak hands.
Why? Because these opponents aren't paying close attention to any patterns you might be exhibiting with your betting. Against them you may as well get more money in the middle when you are a big favorite to win and bet less when you are just trying to make them fold.
The good players are much more likely to be paying attention, though, which is why against them you need more often to standardize your bet sizings in every situation.
For instance, when you make a flop continuation bet of (say) 60 percent of the size of the pot, you should make it this amount whether you have top set, middle pair, or absolutely nothing.
7. Become a Poker Chameleon
Many of the good winning poker players these days will be taking notes on you as you play, or if you play online they might even be looking at some HUD data about you as they decide how to play against you.
What this basically means is that they are constantly trying to create a snapshot of who you are. They want to put you into a neat little category like "tight and passive" or "loose and aggressive" and tag you accordingly, sometimes by "color-coding" you with such tags.
But what if you could change your style of play from day to day like a chameleon changes it's colors? This once again would make you infinitely harder to play against for the better poker players.
One way that I often do this is to pick one good player on whom I happen to have direct position (this is very important), then I will play extremely aggressively against him for the entire session. By this I mean that I will be reraising him and bluffing much more often than normal, both preflop and postflop. Basically I'll just try to be a huge pain-in-the-you-know-what against that one player.
However, the key here is that in all future sessions I will revert to more "normal" play against this player. This will confuse them and cause them to make all sorts of mistakes against you in the future.
Try playing like a complete maniac once in awhile against some of the better players. This will mess up any "reads" that they may have on you and always keep them guessing about what kind of poker player you really are.
It isn't enough these days to just make the same standard plays against the good poker players every single time. You have to learn how to mix up your play and take different lines if you truly want to profit the most from them.
There are a variety of ways you can do this, from slow playing your big hands a little bit more often before the flop to checking flops with strong hands and barreling lighter as well.
The bottom line is you always want to be thinking of ways to prevent opponents from ever noticing any patterns in your play. When you can truly show up with any hand at any time, then it will be impossible for them to ever develop a winning strategy against you.
Nathan "BlackRain79" Williams is the author of the popular micro stakes strategy books Crushing the Microstakes, Modern Small Stakes, and The Microstakes Playbook. He also blogs regularly about all things related to the micros over at www.blackrain79.com.
Be sure to complete your PokerNews experience by checking out an overview of our mobile and tablet apps here. Stay on top of the poker world from your phone with our mobile iOS and Android app, or fire up our iPad app on your tablet. You can also update your own chip counts from poker tournaments around the world with MyStack on both Android and iOS.