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Mind Over Poker

The Opposite of What You Say

by David Apostolico |  Published: Aug 01, 2010


Mike Caro made famous the maxim that most players “act weak when strong, and act strong when weak.” There is an offshoot of that maxim that is often overlooked. Most players will tell you the opposite when talking about what they held. Let me offer a specific example, to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

The following hand occurred at my table, although I was not in the hand. Player A was in the big blind, holding pocket sixes, and he called a preflop raise from Player B, a very tight player. The flop came 9Club Suit 7Club Suit 6Club Suit. Player A checked, as did Player B. The turn brought the 10Spade Suit. Player A bet, and Player B, after some period of time, finally made the call. Now, Player B was either on a draw or doing some serious play-acting. The river was the JDiamond Suit, making a final board of: JDiamond Suit 10Spade Suit 9Club Suit 7Club Suit 6Club Suit. Player A again made a bet, and Player B then went all in.

Player A thought for a long time about it, and finally folded his pocket sixes faceup. Player B made a snide remark about that’s how you play poker as he mucked his hand and scooped a fairly large pot. Player B then continued to brag about how he had nothing and had bluffed Player A off his set.

Now, I have played with Player B numerous times, and he is a very tight player. He will make a very occasional preflop bluff, and when he’s successful, he always shows it. The reason he shows is not to get some free advertising so that he can later get paid off on his strong hands; rather, he can’t help himself. He seeks the validation of others instead of playing optimum poker.

On the break, I spoke with Player A. I tried to convince him that Player B had him beat, and in all likelihood held the AClub Suit KClub Suit. The reason I thought this was that Player B said that he had A-K and didn’t have anything. When players lie, they often adjust slightly to make their lie more believable. Plus, the way that Player B played the hand would have been very consistent with him flopping the nuts. He failed to make a continuation-bet. He play-acted on the turn. Then, he finally went all in on the river. I’m not suggesting that it was the optimum way to play that hand, but it definitely fit the modus operandi of Player B. However, the real convincer for me was that he did not show his hand. If he was that intent on bragging about his big bluff, he would have relished flipping over his cards. When I mentioned that to Player A, he grinned and realized that he had made the right move.

Not every player is the same, by any means, but just remember that anything a player tells you without showing you should be regarded with a great deal of skepticism. Spade Suit

David Apostolico is the author of several books, including Tournament Poker and The Art of War and Compete, Play, Win: Finding Your Best Competitive Self. You can contact him at