You know that to be a successful poker player, you need to start analyzing your opponents’ behavior and betting patterns from the moment you sit at the table. Well, guess what? They are trying to do the same to you.
If you want to have any sustained success playing poker, you must not only learn how to read your opponents, you must also learn how to become unreadable to them. You must avoid giving out any signals that may reveal the strength (or weakness) of your hand.
In order to do this, you have to conceal your movements and disguise your activities. Now you have probably seen a movie like Maverick, where an ingenious poker player is able to beat his opponents by observing cute little tells like touching your hair when you bluff or picking your nose when you have pocket aces. This doesn’t really happen in real life. By all means, be conscious about any body movements, habits, or tics while you play, but the chances are you are not doing anything obvious, and your opponents are not either.
Disguising your play is mostly about staying unpredictable at all times. Touching your hair is fine if your opponents don’t know what it means. Here are three important tips that will help you continuously mystify your opponents:
Tip 1: Vary Your Bet Sizes
Poker hands vary in strength, so it is only logical that you bet accordingly. You put more on the good hands, and less on the weaker ones. Except if you continuously use the same structure, you opponents will likely catch on to it. If you always raise six times the big blind with a premium starting hand, the next time you do it will be like shouting out that you have a premium starting hand.
The key is to vary your bet sizes enough that you don’t form an easy pattern in your bets. Throw curveballs sometimes. Raise with a suited connector here and there, or limp in with a premium hand. It will keep your opponents guessing, so they will be more likely to call when you want them to call and fold when you want them to fold.
Tip 2: Keep Players Out Of Hands
The real mark of a good player is the ability to win dozens of small pots with aggressive play. We already mentioned the importance of aggression in post flop play strategies last week. It also accomplishes one important thing in disguising your playing patterns: forcing players out of small pots also ensures that your opponents see fewer of your cards.
Every time that your opponents see your cards, you will become a little bit more predictable. It is key that you play very aggressively to keep yourself shrouded in mystery.
Tip 3: Don’t Show Your Cards
There are a lot of players who like to reveal their cards when they pull off a good bluff. It's usually a vain gesture from the player, trying to satisfy his or her own ego. Pulling off a big bluff is both hard and stressful, so it is only natural to want to show you hand to gain recognition for your accomplishment. It also brings a certain “in your face” satisfaction.
There are some situations where showing your cards might also be a good move, for instance if you know it will put your opponent on tilt. However, in most circumstances, showing should be avoided. When you show your cards, players will start to understand how you behave when you bluff. It will generally make it more likely that you will be called next time you do it, and once again make you more predictable.