Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: Take Advantage of What Opponents Think They Know About You

The longer you play poker with the same bunch of guys, the more likely it is that they’ll pick up on your tendencies. Not surprisingly, that will enable them to play better against you.

No matter the style you employ or how well you’re playing, it will cost you money in the long-run if your approach to the game remains static and stays inside the box. That’s because the trick to winning consistently is to exploit what your opponents think they know about you.

Let’s say your opponents are convinced that you always check-raise the flop whenever you have a strong hand. Well, if that is the case it’ll cost you, because other players will overcompensate by routinely folding their playable hands. There is a way, however, to take advantage of this situation. Try playing against your stereotype by occasionally check-raising when you’re dealt a marginal hand.

Here’s an example.

You raise pre-flop with 8h-10h and a player calls from the button. The flop comes Qs-7d-2h. You have absolutely nothing and decide to check.

Your opponent, however, doesn’t know if your check means that you’re giving up on the hand or that you’re setting up a check-raise. In any case, he takes a stab at the pot and bets out. You fire back with a check-raise.

Unless he flopped a very strong hand himself, like three-of-a-kind or top pair with an ace kicker, he’ll probably fold. Mission accomplished!

Now, after he folds, should you show him your cards?

That’s debatable, but in this case, probably not. True, showing your hand will force players to second guess future reads against you. On the other hand, it might reduce the play’s effectiveness if you choose to run this bluff again. So, don’t reveal your cards in this situation. You’ll make more money by perpetuating the notion that you always have the nuts when you the check-raise on the flop.

You see, professional and amateurs alike have to adjust their games to keep their opponents guessing. Because many of the hands that I play are shown on television, opponents have ample opportunity to study my play. That makes it a little trickier for me. I’m forced to continually adjust my game. I simply can’t afford to fall into any discernable patterns.

Neither can you. Trust me; it won’t take long for your buddies to figure out your tendencies in your weekly home game. Fortunately, you’ll have time to figure out their tendencies as well.

The bottom line is that there are many subtle ways to alter your play to exploit opponents who believe they know your style. For example, if a player thinks that you like to keep pots manageable by only making minimum size bets, occasionally toss in an uncharacteristic big bet. Or, if they think you only play big pots when you’re dealt a monster hand, try mixing it up with a well-timed bluff.

However, you should never bluff recklessly. Instead, look for a situation where you read your opponents as weak, and then make your move.

Remember, your goal is to play solid, fundamental poker. But when other players pick up on your tendencies — and they will — it’s time to take advantage of them by adding a few new wrinkles to your game.



Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.


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