Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2009.
This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.
Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lessons from MCU
— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —
Lesson 160: The practice of deception
Mike Caro claims the “Essential soul of poker is deception.”
When you are involved with skilled, observant players, applying deception and varying your play is necessary, otherwise they’ll take advantage of your predictability. If your opponents are playing a lot of hands, then many of those are probably weak, so they’re not applying good judgment.
You may be able to wheedle such an opponent into betting a weaker hand which he might otherwise have merely checked. You try to convince him you might have feeble cards, inspiring him into thinking he could hold the better hand, so that he’ll take the lead.
When you are able to successfully convince your opponent that your cards are weaker than his, enabling him to bet his pitiful hand, then you have invested in a profitable venture. However, it is crucial that you spare the feelings of your opponent, so as to avoid unduly distressing him. Don’t flaunt your success.
In fact, when players effectively deceive their opponents and then boast about their accomplishments, they’re merely going to anger the victim. The victim is now out for blood. War has been declared!
The duped player will now tighten up and play his better hands in a more misleading manner, turning the tables on you, the previous attacker. Furthermore, enjoyment and camaraderie has left the table. It’s now a battle of wits. Had you been more discreet and kinder, your bankroll would not be suffering now.
In fact, Mike suggests that when you’ve successfully manipulated an opponent with your deception, you should be friendly and casual about your conquest. You should make light of your actions, maybe mentioning your loose, wild play. You don’t want him to feel bad about his gullibility, because he’s the one contributing to your increasing chip pile.
Remember that usually you should use deception to lure extra bets and get extra calls from loose opponents only if they’re sophisticated enough to understand basic hand values. Deception is usually unnecessary against a loose, unsophisticated opponent. These players may not be alert enough to comprehend normal tactics and to be tricked. They simply aren’t going to notice! So, why bother?
When faced with loose players, you can play more hands profitably, just not as many as they do. You should also keep in mind that if there’s a rake, it becomes an important factor in determining the hands you play. Some hands with small edges against the player aren’t good enough to overcome the rake, and you’re both at a disadvantage.
You don’t always have to apply trickery to deceive your opponents. If your opponent suspects that you might attempt something devious and you merely play with your best strategy instead, then you are able to reap rewards in this manner, as well. Just another form of deception!
Mike uses psychology most of the time with his opponents. One of his favorite methods is the either/or form. He may muse, while regarding his cards, “Wow, I think I may have made a straight. Hmm. Well, maybe I’m just bluffing.” Now the opponent is wondering, did he make a straight or is he bluffing?
This frequently enables Mike to value bet a pair or two pair without fearing a raise from an opponent holding a larger pair, two pair, or three of a kind. Instead of normally checking, Mike can now bet. A profitable bit of psychological strategy!
If a player grumbles about deceptive practices in poker, you can assume that he hasn’t mastered that ability. You probably won’t have to be too concerned about any trickery from him.
Deceptiveness is an integral part of poker. Whether by actions or words, the use of successful deception can increase your bankroll. Practice it whenever possible so that you can master the art. Have fun with it, but avoid unnecessarily upsetting your opponents. Be gentle! — DM