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Playing Deceptively – Part 1: Defining Deception

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Lately I’ve been thinking about deception in poker, and I decided to write a modest series of articles describing my take on exactly what deception means and how to play in a deceptive way.

I think if you asked people to define what it means to play poker “deceptively” I think most of them would mention something about playing opposite of your hand strength. If you have a weak hand, you play it strongly or bluff. And if you have a strong hand, you play it weakly or slowplay.

I’ve never been comfortable with that definition of deception. One reason is that many times people are at their most transparent and readable exactly when they’re trying to be their most deceptive. For example, consider this hand.

It’s a 9-handed $2-$5 no-limit hold’em game. A player opens for $20 from early position. A middle position player calls, the button calls, and both blinds call. The flop comes

Q :diamond: 7 :club: 6 :spade:

The blinds check, and the early position player bets $40. The middle position player calls. The button raises to $100 with $500 behind. The blinds fold, the early position player folds, and the middle position player shoves for $600.

What does the middle position player have?

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7 Responses to “Playing Deceptively – Part 1: Defining Deception”

@ Fri Dec 12, 2008 10:41:00 AM

Good post, especially the first part.

My name for what most people think is deceptive is “Transparent Trickiness”.

For example, any time you raise preflop with AA and then check/raise an Axx board, you are being transparently tricky.

@ Fri Dec 12, 2008 01:41:31 PM

Print button seems to have stopped working.

Ed Miller
@ Fri Dec 12, 2008 02:20:53 PM

Thanks. :)

Should be working again now.

@ Sat Dec 13, 2008 04:40:55 AM

Good day Ed and all ppl out there.

A very informative post, as always.

But theres one moment i would like to clear up for myself.

In your example, imagine you flop a set also, holding 77. All the remaining action is the same as described in the original example.

So after the villain shoves, you are pretty sure he flopped a set. But which one, exactly? Well, according to preflop action,u might suppose he holds 66. But if he opens up and shows QQ, could you then call his play “deceptive”?

@ Sat Dec 13, 2008 08:46:00 AM

Excellent. This is something that I think about a lot in poker. You really have a lot of ammunition if you can keep your ranges somewhat balanced. I think that even the decent players in the online small stakes games struggle with this concept as they will often take lines that leave their hand range unbalanced.

@ Sat Dec 13, 2008 12:53:04 PM

To me, being deceptive means one of two things:

1. Playing my hand different then what my opponents would expect me to if they put me on a range of hands.

2. Playing my hand like my opponents would expect me to play a given range of hands, but I actually don’t have that range.

@ Fri Feb 20, 2009 01:12:33 AM

Nice articles about deception, Ed. Thank you very very much!!!!

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