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Counter Intelligence Operations: Deception

If your opponents play systematically, you can eventually break their systems down and deduce counterstrategies to beat them. And as much as poker players love to think that their opponents are bad, the fact is that your opponents aren’t complete morons. If you play systematically, most of your opponents will deduce counterstrategies to beat you.

To consistently win, you need to lean one way while your opponents think you’re leaning the opposite way. You need to induce your opponents into making big mistakes in big pots, and your ally on that front is deception. I’m not talking about the blatantly transparent “weak means strong” and “strong means weak” psychology that makes beginners stick out as much as American pop stars who’ve skated through life without rehab or jail. Instead, I’m talking about employing inherently deceptive betting patterns.

Mapping Actions to Situations

One way that opponents will dissect your game is to associate actions with situations. Suppose you call a bet out of position with nothing, check the turn, and then make a half-pot bluff on the river after your opponent checks behind on the turn. The hand tells your opponent that this betting pattern corresponds to a float. Later, you can catch this opponent off guard by employing this same betting pattern when you have a good hand. You’ll get value from your opponent if he has a mediocre hand, and if you’re really lucky, you might induce your opponent into attempting a rebluff on the river into what’s actually your made hand.

Mapping Situations to Actions

The other way that opponents will dissect your game is to associate situations with actions. After opponents see you play a situation a certain way, many will assume that you always play the same situation the same way. Suppose that you flop bottom set against two opponents, and you’re first to act. You check-call the flop, check-raise the turn, and bet out on the river. Provided they’re paying attention, your foes will now associate this betting pattern with really solid hands. Next time you have a monster, change things up and bet out on the flop, the turn, and the river.

Keep ‘Em Guessing

Once you start playing tougher foes, you can’t play according to a predictable algorithm. And that includes employing a predictable algorithm for mixing up your play. For example, if you play every single hand identically, you’re being predictably deceptive, and your opponents will correctly assume that they’re playing against a random hand every time they’re in a pot with you. You need deception to win, and the best way to be deceptive is to come to the table armed with a wide range of plays.

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