'Mixing It Up'
often hear players talk about "mixing up their play." It really is an important
aspect of becoming a successful and unpredictable player. If you play each and
every hand the same way, it makes it that much easier for your opponents to get
a read on your play.
The problem is that there is no textbook that will give you a
formula for mixing up your play. So much of it depends on your opponents, what's
happened recently, and their impressions of you. In order to mix up your play
effectively, your memory of your own play has to be as good, if not better, than
your recollection of what your opponents are doing.
The simplest example of this would be the following: Let's say
you have just been caught three times in a row trying a check-raise bluff on the
river. Well, if your opponents are paying any attention to the game at all, they
are going to be very suspicious of you if you make that play again. So, you'll
want to avoid that play for a little while, and if you are going to check-raise
on the river, you have to be aware of the fact that you will get called because
of your table image, so you had better have a strong hand!
Now, that was a pretty simple example, but I want to look
deeper into a few tricks you can use to help mix up your play:
1. Lead with draws, check-raise
with draws: If you are playing limit hold'em and have a drawing hand and are out
of position, it's sometimes a good idea to just bet right out, hoping to pick up
the pot with a semi-bluff. Or, you can even check-raise the flop with a drawing
hand to make it look more powerful.
How you play a flush draw on the flop should depend on who
your opponents are in the hand. If you know, for example, that the original
raiser will bet every flop but fold to a check-raise unless he hits the flop,
you might decide to go for the check-raise. Conversely, if your opponent would
look to "save face" and call the check-raise with a wide variety of hands, you
may be better off trying to win the pot by leading out.
There is a third option, of course, and that's playing it slow
by checking and calling. By sometimes betting, sometimes check-raising, and
sometimes check-calling with your drawing hands, it makes it more difficult for
your opponents to know what you have.
2. Lead with top pair,
check-raise with top pair: Similar to the previous example, you can also add
texture to your game by mixing up how you play hands such as top pair, or even
two pair or a set. Once again, let's say that you are playing limit hold'em and
are in the big blind with A-J. A player raised coming into the pot, and you take
the following flop heads up: Jh
This is a great flop for your hand, so now you have to decide
how to proceed. If you are up against an aggressive player, he will likely bet
this flop regardless of his holding. Knowing this, you might decide to go for
Or, if your opponent would check a hand such as K-Q behind
you, it might make more sense to bet. Now, those are the two basic thoughts that
should go through your mind when deciding what to do.
Once you've had a playing history with your opponent, though,
there are more variables to think about. What does he think you would do with
top pair? What does he think you would do with a draw?
The best way to answer those questions is to go back into your
memory bank and think of what your opponent has seen you do. Let's say he has
noticed that you like to check-raise with made hands, but either check-call or
lead out when you flop a draw.
If he reads your lead bet as weakness, you should go ahead and
lead out at the flop. With the Jh
on the flop, there are lots of hands that he might convince himself he can beat.
If he has 5-5, for example, he might put you on a hand such as 10-9, a flush
draw, or even Q-10, and call you down having only two outs.
Once he calls you down in this spot, you've effectively
nullified his "read" of your play and you will have him back on his heels
guessing. At that point, you can really start to mess with his head and go back
and forth randomly. That way, when you lead out at a flop, he'll know you do
that with draws and with made hands. So, effectively, he will have no clue when
you are semi-bluffing or when you are protecting the best hand!
These are just two examples of how you can mix up your play on
the flop. There are many more examples and ways in which you can keep opponents
guessing, and that is one of the most fun aspects of the game.
In no-limit hold'em, you might trap an opponent by just
calling before the flop with A-A. Or, you might bet out at the flop with the nut
flush and then check the turn. You could even try one of my old favorites: bet
the flop with top set, check the turn, and then surprise your opponent with a
raise on the river.
I just have to add one warning, though, and that's to avoid
FPS and focus on making sure that you aren't veering too far from fundamentally
correct play. Fancy plays work best when you use them sparingly. There is a fine
line between mixing up your play and just using it as an excuse to play badly!
-Beating Up on Weak Players
-Go Big or Go Home
-Mixing It Up
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