MCU poker tip: The value of trickery

Most smart poker players make a terrible mistake. The mistake is so monumental that it keeps many would-be winners broke and drastically reduces the profit of pros.

I’m talking about the bad habit of using tricky tactics at the wrong time or against the wrong opponents. As you begin to master poker, you learn that there often are several potentially profitable ways to play a hand. It’s a revelation that lets us be creative. And it’s a revelation that can destroy us.

Usually only one tactic is straightforward. All the rest are deceptive. It’s only natural to look at your choice of tactics as you would a selection of fishing lures in your tackle box and try different ones. Doing that can be useful against sophisticated opponents who are paying attention.


The goal is to keep opponents guessing and to manipulate them. The more you can manipulate opponents, the more profit you can earn. Fine. But the big secret is that you cannot manipulate using fine strokes and precise control if opponents don’t understand what’s expected.

For this reason, beginners and those with limited poker skills are not good targets for fancy poker plays. Sure, they can be manipulated, but only in broad ways, such as teasing them into calling.

You probably won’t be able to use trickery to get them to make daring laydowns. That’s why you should save your fancy plays for sophisticated opponents. Also, even against experienced opponents, you should only choose unusual plays sparingly, otherwise you become predictable.

More money

I’m betting that you’ll make a lot more money if you stop trying to confuse weak opponents with fancy plays. When you hold an advantage against them, simply do the obvious thing. Usually that means to bet or raise. Don’t try to bluff them. They’re loose players by nature and they call far too often for most bluffs to succeed.

So, stop using sophisticated deception against players who don’t understand sophisticated poker. You’ll be surprised how much difference that simple change in strategy makes. — MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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  1. Once, I was playing 7-stud with some friends. I ended up in a hand with two other players, one I knew very well (very agressive and loose) and one I had never played with before, but could tell he was very green at the game.

    7th street comes, and I only end up with split 5’s. My aggressive friend (to my left) bet his board pair of 4’s. I knew very well that it was likely that was all he had, and his bet was not indicative of having much more, if anything. However, the newbie player called. So, I made the ASSumption that he must have 4’s beat, so logic obviously tells me then he must have 5’s beat as well, so I lay it down.

    Of course, the newbie player had NOTHING!! Didn’t even understand the game enough to know that if you can’t be an opponents board, calling is the last thing you should do. I gave him too much credit for even knowing THAT! And, of course, my buddy only had a pair of fours to take down the pot.

    Oh well, it was a low stakes game, so not much lost.

    thanks for the tips!!


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