To show or not to show…

Showing off that you can do something crazy is not always a good idea

I played at the local Casino the other night and the following hand got me thinking about showing your hands when winning a pot without showdown.

Young Banger Shows a Bluff

I had been playing for 20 minutes or so when a 20-something guy takes a seat at the table.  His demeanor sports that “poker room rock star” image.  Soon I learn he is a regular player through his discussions with others at the table about having been away from the casino for a couple of weeks, having won $1200 in his last session, and stating he was “Crazy, but not that crazy” when he let go of a hand against a river bet.

The hand starts off with Young Banger (or “YB” for short) floating a fairly passive player who may  have not have spoken 3 words since I sat down at the table.  When passive player checks the turn, YB leads out for three quarters of the pot,  passive player folds and YB shows total air,  no draw, no pair…5/3 off suite.  After he throws his cards down on the felt, he offers a disjointed “that is my last bluff of the night”.

Why did he show his hand?

I believe he did so for 3 key reasons:

  • He showed the bluff to agitate his opponent
  • He was proud of his bluff and wanted to show his poker prowess to the rest of the table
  • He showed the bluff so he can get paid off when he does get a strong hand (people will think he is still bluffing)

Reason 3 is quite interesting because I have thought of using this short sighted tactic before. The logic being: showing a total bluff leaves an impression with the table that we are always “up to something” and the next time we catch a big hand, the players are going to pay us off.  This tactic seems solid at first glance, but it does have some glaring weaknesses.
The tactic of showing a bluff is transparent. Most players can level this attempt at misdirection by looking at the player’s motive. Showing a bluff means the player is looking to get paid off with the goods later on.

The bigger problem with this tactic is the expectation that a “big hand” is coming soon.  Not only are we implying a big hand is coming soon, that big hand also needs to run into a very strong second  best hand.  Moreover, what are we going to do while awaiting for this big hand to happen?  Are we going to tighten up in the meantime?  Play loose/passive? Are we damaging the chances of successful C-Bets and other types of bluffs?  The biggest problem with this plan is that it might  encourage our opponents us a lot tougher than usual.

It’s way too restrictive to follow the old school advice of “never show your cards, never give away information”.  Misdirection is key in poker and showing hole cards strategically can definitely help us confuse our opponents.  While there are definitely situations where showing a bluff can be profitable, the one stated above is not one of them.
Do you agree with me?  Can you think of any situations were showing your hole cards after taking down an uncontested pot can be beneficial?  Let me know what you think in comments below.


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