Poker and The Art of Checking

Here’s a simple tip that requires some restraint to use. Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” outlines a fundamental tip of warfare as something like this. If you are weak your enemy should think you are strong, when your strong, your enemy should think you are weak.

Although poker was probably the last thing on his mind when writing The Art of War, the principles of this concept could not be more relevant, with this in mind let’s look at making your opponent think you are weak when you have a strong hand.

An over-eagerness to bet is one of the clearest “tells” of a good hand – there is little point scaring off everyone with an aggressive bet on the best hand you’ve had all night, you are telling your opponent you may have a great hand.

By checking or just following with the current bets you are giving nothing away as to how highly you rate your cards or at worse your opponent’s will think your hand is weaker than it is.

This is an ideal scenario since other players may begin to think they have the edge even with a much weaker hand which will lead to more players staying in, and for more rounds of betting, which of course will lead to more money in the pot.

Here is where the real beauty of playing in such a caged and controlled way comes in – after the “river card” is dealt you can bet big and bet aggressively and with confidence. This hammer blow is unexpected by your opponent’s they are forced to question the hand they once thought may have just been enough to steal the pot. but they are now faced with a complex physiological dilemma they feel a commitment to the investment already made in the pot, some players may find this commitment overwhelming and match your bet, many will fold as they realize they have just been ambushed by a true poker Samurai.

In either case, you should have landed a good size pot by keeping people in and committed to the betting for longer. There are other benefits too, delivering a large shock bet like this is a great way to pick up on your opponents tells, so when you make the bet look at the other players, not your chips, looking at your chips doesn’t tell you anything, looking directly at the other players can tell you everything.

The other benefit of betting like this is that from then on your opponents will have even less idea about the state of your cards when you check and bet low in the future which puts you in a strong position within the group dynamic and allows you to play the flip side of the coin making them think you have a strong hand when it may be weak.