Mixing Your Play

As mentioned in the previous lesson, you become easy to read if you always play your monster hands the same way, much like you become easy to read if you always play draws identically. This is especially true if you are playing against better and more observant opponents.

Altering your play disguises the strength of your hand, and in some cases, you can make identical plays with two completely different holdings. This will confuse your opponent and make you unpredictable and difficult to play against.

It can even be profitable in these instances to be caught bluffing once in a while, or to show down an unexpected hand. It keeps opponents guessing and introduces an element of doubt into their game.

The next examples shows how you can “change” your game by playing totally different hands in precisely the same way, or by modifying your play based on slight changes in game dynamic.

You call a raise from UTG2 and a call in MP2 on the BTN with 2♣2♦. You flop a very strong hand with a set on the flop of 2♠K♠10♦. The initial raiser makes a big bet of almost the size of the pot. Usually you don’t want to slowplay your monster hand.Instead you want to build a big pot by betting and raising. But you might want to consider a slowplay and just call on the flop. Be aware that this play is risk and you might face toug decisions if a 3rd spade or a facecard falls on the turn. The default play should be a raise here but at times you might want to mix it up and just call. This is especially true if you are playing against an aggressive opponent. The turn is the 7♣ and the player in MP2 bets big again. Now you can raise and it will be a tough fold for your opponent if he holds a strong hand as well.

Another way to mix up your play is preflop. Same action as above: UTG2 raises, MP2 calls and you hold 10♠8♠ on the BTN. This is not a call you should make as a default play against a raise but as you are on the button and a 2nd player has called already this is a good opportunity to mix up your preflop hand selection and call with a weaker hand as usual. But only do this with hands that have the potential to flop good hands: Suited connectors, even if they have a gap like 10♠8♠ for example. Don’t start calling weak hands like A♠9♣.
Back to the hand: You decide to call and blinds fold. The flop is Q♠2♠9♦, your opponent bets 3/4 of the pot and you decide to call with your draw. The turn is the 7♣ and again your opponent bets. You might consider a semi-bluff here. A raise on the turn usually means a very strong hand and it will be tough for MP2 to call unless he hold something good as well.

Exploiting position

All of the examples above involved hands that would be deemed “playable” pre-flop. However sometimes you don’t even need this. All you need is good table position:
You are in the BB holding a trash hand like J♠]2c]. Everybody folds to the SB who is a very careful player. He calls and the action is on you. He is unlikely to have a strong hand as he didn’t raise so you can try to steal the pot. Just raise it up and force the SB to call a bet out of position.
You can’t do this every time but it will work quite often.

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Pot Odds and Expected Value

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