Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker

Fancy Play Syndrome

Symptoms of this horrible disease include checking when you should bet, raising in bizarre situations, calling when you should be raising, and finally, raising when you should be folding.

Here’s a little quiz to test whether you suffer from FPS.

 Do you call in situations where the correct play would be to raise?

 I’ve often seen players trying to be too cute when pots gets large, thus risking the entire pot in the hopes of squeezing out a few extra bucks from their opponents.

Unfortunately, what often happens is they just end up losing the hand.

 Here’s a simple example. The FPS sufferer holds K-Q, and the board reads Js-10s-9h-4h. The pot is already extremely large, and FPS’s opponent bets the pot.

FPS will often just call here, but the correct play is to protect the hand and raise big.

FPS believes he can trick his opponent into thinking he has a weak hand, and hopes his opponent will make a big bet on the river. However, with the pot already large, and his hand far from invincible, he needs to make winning the pot his priority.

 Do you care more about making cool plays when standard tactics make more sense?  

In Texas Hold’em, check-raising an opponent three times in the same hand is akin to a 5’8” defender swatting a Shaquille O’Neal dunk attempt into the crowd.

It’s the ultimate move to embarrass an opponent.

However, this move hardly ever works, and when an FPS sufferer tries it too many times, he ends up costing himself value bets that his opponents may have called.

Say the flop is Ah-7d-3h, and FPS holds Kh-10h. FPS checks, his opponent bets, and FPS throws in a semi-bluff raise. His opponent calls.

 The turn is the Jh giving FPS the nut flush; he decides to check again. The opponent bets, and once again FPS raises. The river is a blank — 8s.

 It’s extremely unlikely that FPS’s opponent will go for a check-raise again. But that doesn’t stop him from trying. In this case, when a river bet might have been called by an opponent, FPS let him off the hook by trying to get too fancy with yet another check-raise.

 Do you bet four of a kind on the flop thinking, "No one will figure me for that hand."

This is a common mistake made by lots of poker players.

 Let’s look at another example. Five people have called and the FPS victim is in the big blind with 3-3. The flop comes 3s-8d-3c, giving him incredible quads.

While it’s true that if he bets the flop his opponents won’t likely figure him for four of a kind, it’s still the wrong play and will cost him money in the long run.

What would his opponents have to hold in order to call? Since he’s in the big blind, they may not figure him for quads, but they certainly might put him on a set of threes. And unless an opponent holds 8-8, no one can beat his trips. Besides, if someone is holding 8-8, FPS would get all of his money anyway.

 The key reasons for checking quads are to let others try to bluff the hand, and to let players with over cards catch up. If someone holds 7-7 or 9-9, they could catch a full house on the turn, which means a smart player is in for a big payday.

If you answered yes to all three questions, you have full-blown Fancy Play Syndrome and are in serious need of help. Here’s the cure: Forget the fancy stuff and focus on betting fundamentals.

 If you answered yes to two questions, you’re headed down the wrong path. It’s time to change course.

 If you answered yes to just one question, there is hope for you yet. In poker, creativity is a good thing, but make sure you only employ fancy plays sporadically.

 If you answered no to all three questions, it’s likely you’re doing very well at the tables, and show none of the dreaded symptoms of FPS.


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