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Texas Hold’em: Deceive Others but Not Yourself
Poker is a game of deception. Your objective is to get opponents to do what you want. Your opponents want the opposite. Therefore, the only way to achieve your objective is to deceive your opponents about your goals. However, in the course of your deceptive tactics, there is one player you must be careful not to deceive, and that is yourself.
Deceiving Others in Poker
We deceive others in poker in a number of ways. Plays like the bluff -- where we try to convince opponents that we want them to stay in the hand when we really don’t -- and its opposite number the trap are obvious examples of poker deception. To deceive in poker though, we need to set up our bluffs and traps, which is where “table image” becomes important. Your table image is how others at the table perceive you. Before trying a big bluff, you may want to establish an image as a tight player. The most effective bluffs come from a player who has only played five hands in the previous hour. Similarly, players who are perceived as maniacs tend to get paid off with big hands. In poker, as in life, image is everything.
Deceiving Yourself in Poker
However, it can be dangerous to romanticize your image. Many students of the game understand that for years the most professional, effective style of play has been the tight-aggressive style, being very selective about which pots you enter, always taking poker odds into consideration, but playing the hands very strongly (in recent years, there have been some advocates for a loose-aggressive or hyper-aggressive style of play, especially in online Texas holdem). Since many players want to think that they are or are approaching professional quality, they may lead themselves to believe that they have a tight-aggressive image. Getting married to the idea that you have a tight-aggressive image can cause mistakes. You may be getting called on your bluffs much more often than you realize because you are convinced opponents fear you. You may be entering too many pots and not know it even though your opponents do. If you deceive yourself about your play and your image, you will not make corrections and you will not improve.
Sidestepping the Self-Deception Pitfall
A great way to stop a pattern of self-deception is to get involved with some kind of poker group or forums on poker sites. In many areas, friends will not give you an honest critique of your abilities. In poker, you may find people who are all too happy to tell you what is wrong with your game or your self-perception. They may not always be right, but they can give you a different perspective. And if there is a consensus from your group about one or more aspects of your game, you are going to need to give that serious consideration.