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How much Deception in your play is enough? How much is TOO MUCH?

How much Deception in your play is enough? How much is TOO MUCH? - Tue Sep 13, 2011, 04:12 AM
JDean's Avatar
Since: Aug 2010
Posts: 3,145
I follow Mike Caro on Facebook, where he posts a daily article. For anyone who uses FB, and plays poker, I strongly suggest that you start to check his stuff; they are pure gold. Anyway...

Today Mr Caro's article was entitled, "The Cruelest Deception in Poker". It is a flat awesome read, but to get maximum benefit from any written concept in poker you really have to try filtering the info through your own experiences. That is what I spent some time on tonight, and I share my thoughts here. I sincerely hope you will expand upon those thoughts, and share yours too.

Mr Caro opens his article by stating, "Few things are more deceptive than the concept of deception itself". He elaborates later on in the article by saying that deception for deception's sake alone does not add direct profit to your poker game, and that oftentimes deceptive acts will be performed in hopes of delayed profits, rather than in the current hand.

He also states that, "Secrecy is a primal force in poker", but that these 2 things are not the same.

He defines the difference by stating "Deception usually involves choosing an unusual tactic in an attempt to make opponents arrive at bad assumptions and play poorly", while secrecy is a basic element of poker, the element of incomplete information, without which poker would not be the same game.

Mr Caro mentions the example of checking a big hand just to VARY your play, and thus avoid becoming too predictable to observant opponents, as one which does not result in direct profit.

The recomended play would be to lead out in order to get maximum value from the hand, and by checking you may lose that value (or even give a free card which beats you). He states that the reason a recomeneded play is recomended is because for standard situations, it will usually work best in terms of immediate added profit.

He goes on to state, "whenever you stray from [the recomended] play, you'd better have a good reason. And that reason should NOT be simply to deceive."

Deceptive plays, such as checking a big made hand into an aggressive opponent in hopes he bets, or bluffing with air into a player who folds too often DO result in direct profit, but not becase of their deceptive value. These deceptive plays tend to also be the best STRAIGHT FORWARD (standard) plays as well. This got me to thinking about some other potential situations, and how best to apply the info from this article...

(Note: As Mr Caro's site where the article can be found is a FORUM he runs, I will not post the direct link on this forum per PSO rules. For more info though, entering "mike caro web site" into the bing search engine will give the link. I imagine the same parameters would work for most major search engines.)

- "Standard Raise sizing pre-flop"

While Mr Caro does not address this in his article, this appears to me to be a good example of working to keep your true hand strength "more secret" by not throwing off pattern information, such as raising X amount when strong, and Y amount when weak. In and of itself, maintaining a standard pre-flop raise sizing is not a deceptive act per se; it is an act designed to keep your secrets better. BUT...

"Balancing" your pre-flop raise range by position, such as occasionally raising in EP or MP with hands you would (or should) fold to a re-raise (like T9s or KJo) IS a deceptive act. This is true because the "recomended" action would be to not play these hands for a raise out of position.

To use the information Mr Caro puts out, you should have the ability to recognize WHY you are making a deceptive type pre-flop raise. Such reasons may include:

1) To increase your appearent VPiP, thus inducing looser actions by opponents when you do hold a recomended raising hand in the same position later on.

2) To show opponents who do re-raise you that you will FOLD, thus making play back more likely when you hold a strong hand.

Per Mr Caro's article, you should be aware that you will not derive direct profit from your deceptive actions, so it occurs to me that making the "non-standard" play in pre-flop raising hand selection TOO often will deplete your chip stack severely in MTT play, and may have you stuck deeper than you'd prefer in ring game play. But the "cost" of mixing up your actions in order to be less predictable may be worthwile because you can (potentially) leverage greater profit potential later on. If you fail to make these investments, you may become too predictable, thus costing yourself profit in the long run.

- "Playing weak opponents"

When opponents are extremely weak, the standard play will work far better than a deceptive option, simply because their "mistakes" will tend to occur whether you are purposefully deceptive or not. This is true because:

- They may not understand enough to know when your deceptive actions are designed to make them think they SHOULD FOLD (and when you want them too), so you lose more.

- They may be willing to lose more than you extract, so checking to be deceptive may well save them money they'd otherwise lose; you win less.

So increasing the frequency of deceptive plays (when those plays are not also the recomended action) will tend to result in greater losses, either in actual loss of chips or loss of value you may have otherwise won, versus very weak opponents.

Of course versus very weak opponents, you will tend to find more "cross-over" in terms of a deceptive play also being the standard one. Cases such as this would be to check top 2 pair into an opponent who has shoved in on the last 3 flops he has seen. This is a very good thing.

- "Playing Strong, but vulnerable, hands"

Again, while not specifically addressed in the article, it occurs to me that balancing deception with straight forward play when holding a "strong but vulnerable" type hand is critical.

Mr Caro does recognize certain deceptive plays which do derive direct profit (see examples above), because these plays are deceptive AND the recomended play.

This article has effected my personal poker thoughts. To wit:

I have stated to numerous people that there are 2 hands that I will tend to check/raise on the flop when oop: bottom 2 pair, and big combo draws.

My reasoning behind this was that bottom 2 is usually the best hand on the flop, but it is vulnerable enough that you do not necessarily want to create a large pot immediately. If an opponent is willing to bet behind you, you have enough of a chance to hold the best hand that a raise is in order, but if he checks behind he probably does not have enough to be worried about with any 2 pair hand.

With the big combo draws (like an oesd and flush draw), you are not likely to hold the best hand on the flop, but since your hand will tend to be (at worst) a "race" with as large a hand as top set, you are certainly not check/folding it very often. Leading out immediately may well result in building a bigger pot than you want for your draw, but if a villain raises BEHIND you hold enough of a chance to win that a check/raise is fine. If the villain checks behind, then HEY! you got some free cards.

My "prefered" actions with both of these hands is, by nature, deceptive. Since either hand is strong enough to lead, and since the "standard" play would be to lead, I am not following the info in this article often enough. Aware opponents, especially those I've communicated my play tendencies too, may be much more willing to FOLD to a flop check/raise by me unless they hold a hand which is better than bottom 2, or FLOAT my C/R more often on a draw heavy board. in either case, by not electing the standard type play often enough, I am probably costing myself value.

(Note: I do tend to mix in enough flop C/R bluffs to perhaps balance this, but since those tend to focus on ABC TAG types, I am still vulnerable to floats.)


This is some of my personal reflections on a particular article I have read. Obviously, this post is PART of my reflective process, so it is not 100% complete; despite yet another "mega-post"! The key things I am weighing from this article are:

(directly from the article)
- Deception for deception's sake is often counter productive.
- Have a reason to include deception, and be aware of the potential cost of the deceptive acts.
- Sometimes the deceptive play is also the standard one; these situations tend to be excellant.
- The recomended play is recomended because it will tend to be the best play most often.


- Deception is only effective against opponents observant enough to notice it.
- Stack awareness versus the blinds (in MTT/SNG), and a willingness to use whatever depth of money is in your pocket (in ring games) determines in large part how much you can "spend" on your deceptive plays which do not add direct profit; spend too much on deception, and you may not have enough chips later to leverage benefits from your deceptions.
- The observational skills of opponents plays a large part in how much later profit you may derive from deceptive actions without direct profit potential.

It is my plan for the immediate future to do an "assessment" about my use of deceptive actions.
I will note each hand when I consciously seek to be deceptive, and write down a short blurb as to WHY I elected to be deceptive. After my playing session has ended, I will check my Hand Histories to see if I am balancing my standard and deceptive actions, and whether or not my assumptions which led to the deceptive plays were true. Hopefully this will help to curb excessive "fancy play syndrome" tendencies, and to balance the amounts I am applying to deceptive actions.

How would you see yourself using the info form this article?

I'm am going to keep thinking on this article, and how best to integrate it into my own play, and I anxiously await your thoughts...

Tue Sep 13, 2011, 06:52 AM
0HighTimes0's Avatar
Since: Apr 2011
Posts: 860
Another great thread/post
Tue Sep 13, 2011, 11:38 AM
spike8998's Avatar
Since: Apr 2010
Posts: 853
Food for thought...........As always JD

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