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Real Poker: Getting Too Fancy

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Mar 29, 2017


Deceptive plays have more value in no-limit. Reason being, the extra bet(s) gained from deception are larger, and often have higher expected value (EV) than in limit. Plus, deceptive opponents are often tricky to play against. That said, players looking to be deceptive often make unnecessary conceptual errors.

Three players limped in a $2-$5 game, the small blind called, and I knuckled in the big blind with 8Spade Suit 5Spade Suit. The flop was favorable, the 9Spade Suit 8Heart Suit 2Spade Suit giving me a second pair and an eight-high flush draw. The small blind, an aggressive and tricky opponent, $320 deep, led $15 into the field, which I flatted. I didn’t mind letting players in behind me as it both improved my price and gave me a greater chance of getting paid off should I improve my hand. Two players called the $15 behind me.

The turn came the 5Diamond Suit, giving me two pair. Mr. Tricky again led $15 into the $85 pot. Perplexed by the small-sizing, I pondered my best play. I contemplated Mr. Tricky’s potential range and thought process to make such an unusual bet. Small bets often indicate “blocking bets” with hands that don’t want to call large wagers. They’re often good spots to raise-bluff. That said, many players know this and bet small to induce raise-bluffs. Could that be the case here? Mr. Tricky was knowledgeable and cunning enough to attempt that sort of play.

But, unless Mr. Tricky held specifically the 7Spade Suit 6Spade Suit, in order to have the nuts he would have had to fire into four opponents on the flop with only the low-end straight draw on an extremely draw-heavy board, make it, and then bet incredibly small into a bigger pot and even greater draw-heavy board on the turn. While I felt the 7-6 straight might be in one of the two callers’ hands behind me, I didn’t think there was much chance it was in Mr. Tricky’s range. If he held a set or two pair, that was also an extremely strange bet-size into the draw-heavy board on the turn. Feeling that the bet was most likely a “blocking bet” with a weak hand or draw, I raised it to $75. The two callers behind me folded.

To my surprise Mr. Tricky went all-in, although he only had $290 more. I was getting $465 to $215. If I called the all-in, the pot would be $680. Assuming Mr. Tricky held exactly 7-6 for the nuts, I would need only around 31 percent equity to call for the bet to be EV-neutral. With two-pair and a flush draw with one card to come, I am around 28 percent to beat 7-6. Seeing as I assumed there would be other hands in his range that he would turn into a bluff, albeit probably including equity against my holding, it didn’t take much to swing the equity calculation of a call in my favor.

I called, a deuce hit on the river, and Mr. Tricky turned over the 7Club Suit 6Diamond Suit for the straight. I tossed my hand into the muck!

Yes, I lost my stack! But I didn’t care for Mr. Tricky’s play in this situation. The expectation of the play determines the correct play, not the results. First, many hands that would raise the small bet would raise anyway, and/or fold to a push. With two pair and a flush draw, I was probably raising a larger bet against the short stack anyway. And the assumption of risk Mr. Tricky accepted by betting such a small amount on the turn made it a correct for any of his opponents to call with any gutter or better draw, and if they made one he would be likely to lose his stack. Furthermore, he would lose any value from an opponent that would flat the $15, but call a larger bet.

Mike Caro called such plays “fancy play syndrome.” The player’s desire for creativity causes them to make the “fancy” play when a more standard play is the correct one. It’s an affliction in many players. I’ve had it myself at times. And while I’m a strong believer in creating plays to exploit weaknesses in your opponents, you must weigh any potential benefits against any assumptions of risks that the creative play generates.

The hand also deals with facing non-standard situations from thinking opponents. In such situations think about how the opponent must be thinking to execute the given play: Is he capable of the play and how his previous actions relate to the current situation? Then make your best judgment of how to counter the situation and pull the trigger. Keep in mind, you’ll often be wrong, and include that fact into the equation.

But if you think it through, and make your best decision, you’ve done all that you can ever ask of yourself! ♠

Roy CookeRoy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke. Please see ad below!