Mixing It Up

I’ve heard that it’s good to mix your play up a bit, to not become too predictable, especially when playing with a regular group–a home game or a league here on Replay Poker. Occasionally when I have made an uncharacteristic bet, I write in chat, “Just mixing it up.” But in truth, some of those times I was just a little tilted and trying to make myself look more purposeful: saving face.

Do you “mix it up” when you play poker? What shapes your decision to do so? Looking to learn here!

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Definitely, I mix it up all the time. I would never offer any explanation in the chat, unless the offered explanation is in itself a deception. And never show your cards when you win on a bluff. I might show my cards when opponent folds to my bet when I have flopped a full house or straight, as this is saying to them “you made a great fold, well played” which will possibly make them overconfident. But then again, when three players fold to a total bluff on the flop, I might write “good fold” in the chat box, without actually revealing my non existant hand.

Yeah, you do have to mix it up. If you are playing in the 1 million chips buy-in MTTs, you will encounter the same opponents time after time, and you want them to think that you are an erratic player who occasionally gets lucky and wins the tournament. You want them to call your bets when you have best hand and fold to your bets when you are bluffing.

To that end I will sometimes deliberately make a bad play, for example calling a bet when I don’t really have the odds to do so–assuming that I have enough chips to invest in false advertising without putting my stack in jeopardy. The beauty is that sometimes you hit the card you don’t deserve and then the opponent is really thrown off his game when he sees what you turn over.

I can’t find a very good example hand, but in the one that follows my rather small bet on the flop left my opponent with no idea what I was holding, which turned out to be disastrous for him. Either he made a pair of tens on the river, or he made two pairs on the river (because he later told me in the chat box that he had a ten), but he did not believe a word of it when I raised his river bet and this was due to my table image of making erratic bets and bluffs and of playing hesitantly on this hand.

https://www.replaypoker.com/hand/replay/576421808

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Excellent, informative response. Thanks much!

Mixing your plays up is a good idea. Part of the problem some players have is the lack of a way to decide when to do that random act.

Suppose you want to bluff X% of the time. For convenience, let’s make X = to 10%. If you have a time display that shows seconds, when it is your action, look at the time. If this is your first bluff of the sitting, and your seconds indicator is between 0 and 6, THIS is when; if it’s any other time, you don’t bluff. On the second chance, you’d be looking for a time between 6 and 12 seconds to bluff. No one is going to think anything of you looking at your time-piece even if they notice you looking, and even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to connect it to a specific action. If you don’t have a time-piece that shows seconds, there are other ways to trigger your “random” action, say two suited cards below a nine in your hand. You can make up almost any random thing to act as a trigger. You might even have more than one trigger for different actions. Just remember not to over do it.

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Fascinating, and exactly the kind of specific I’m curious about. Thank you!

Yes, exactly, there are many ways to mix it up and determine the frequency. For example you decide that you will use 97 as a bluff hand, or narrow it by making it 97s, or narrow it further by making it 97 suited as long as the suit is black, or that you will use 97 of spades only.

If you raise and just one opponent calls, possibly the BB, if he has an unpaired hand, then two times out of three the flop will miss him. If he is BB, he must go first, so if he checks to you, either he does not expect to take the pot down on the flop, or he is planning to check raise. Usually it is the former and he will fold to your bet.

If he does call, then we are on to plan B which will be determined by the texture of the flop which will give you an idea of what he is holding.

If you are suited and there is just one card of your suit on the flop, then any card of that suit on the turn will improve your hand significantly as it gives you the flush draw, especially the Ace, because that rules out the possibility that opponent has a suited ace in your suit, and so will any 9 or 7, and if there is a Ten or 6 on the flop, then any 8 will help you to, so that is possibly 20 cards that might improve your hand on the turn and give you the odds to see another card on the river.

Because you raised preflop, any Ace that falls on the table is going to scare your opponent if he does not have an ace and his behavior should be studied for that as you may be able to represent an ace and take down the pot. Consider the possibilities–he could have called with a weak ace and made a small pair on the flop, then two pairs on the turn. If so, expect him to shovel a lot of chips into the pot.

But having made that raise preflop and having bet the flop, your opponent is probably going to be pretty wary of you unless he has a monster and many times you can take down the pot with nothing. The key is to size your bets in what some cricket journalists call “the corridor of uncertainty”. Your opponent should not know whether you are betting hoping that he will call and put more chips in the pot, or if you are betting in the hope that he will fold.

This is why it is good to be inconsistent in sizing bets. If you always bet half the pot when you have second pair and the full pot when you have top pair, you are not going to get callers for your bets unless they have a better hand than you.

One of the biggest fallacies over bets in RP is with the use of the shove or all-in on the flop or later streets. Does the shover want you to call, because he has the best hand, or is he terrified that you will call? Weak players will tend to shove when they have the nuts or a very strong hand and thus reduce their chance of being paid off by second best hand.

Very few players on RP will risk their whole stack with an all-in bluff on the river when they don’t have the goods. In the later stages of the 1-million chips tournaments, you may find a few who will do this if they think they know the opponent is cagey and might fold top pair suspecting a slow played set or something like that.

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I typically don’t mix up my play. I play a lot of 9-handed games. What I find is that the players will fall for the same mistakes over and over again. There isn’t much point in trying out new strategies.

Usually, I like to raise 8-10bb with strong hands and will get one or several caller. On the flop I will include a balance of bluffs and value hands, but as it gets closer to the river, it’s almost always a bluff or almost always a value hand depending on the board texture. There are boards where people overfold way too much, and boards where people overcall way too loose.

I only mix it up when I’m feeling like a donkey. I sometimes will raise 8-10bb with suited trash, and the table will think I have a strong hand.

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This is a very helpful alternate perspective. You STILL are keeping people a bit off-balance by occasional bluffs. Thanks!

It sounds like aoeu is playing ring games, which are quite different from the tournament games that I always play. The biggest difference is that in tournament play on RP, if you lose just one large pot, you may be effectively crippled and have to raise all in or fold. The other big difference is that the blinds rapidly escalate, meaning that you must keep playing and winning pots to stay in the game to avoid becoming progressively less of a threat to opponents and that it is all about using your stack size as a weapon to bully opponents and knocking out opponents to get into the prize money. So a very different game.

In tournaments you also have to adjust to playing with different numbers of players on the table, for example in a six players per table hand, you may have to play for an extended stretch with just three players at a table waiting for one player to be eliminated so that you can move to 6 people on the final table. And on a nine player table, you may be playing with five players just before arriving at the final table of 9. With fewer players on a table, you have to win more pots, otherwise, again, you will face being blinded down to a small stack and will become prey for the larger stacks to bully.

I think aoeu’s strategies are excellent for ring games, and if you are winning, you are winning.

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I do not for the most part employ any kind of mixed strategy here on Replay or in most of the live games I play. It just complicates matters where the game is already insanely easy. I would just play good fundamentally sound pre flop strategy and punish the fish when you make big hands post flop. I play somewhat tight/aggressive ranges preflop, I stay positionally aware and I will adjust slightly one way or the other depending on how the table is playing and/or to specific player types who are extremely out of line. Never mix it up just for the sake of mixing it up. You should have very good and specific reasoning for deviating from your normal strategy.

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No offense Mekon, but this is just horrible advice. We should always be making the most +EV decisions we can make.

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Sounds like a little debate here! :slight_smile: I am waiting for more thoughts prior to taking sides, but well-reasoned.

@JanCee - I think you are considering the merits of a more balanced strategy vs straightforward play. “Mixing it up” assumes that you are playing your strongest hands for value almost always. This becomes predictable to observant players who have histories with you. Rather than throwing in a somewhat random play to throw people off. I’d suggest working on your bet sizes and range to disguise your hands better.

As a simple example: On a flop of Kc 5h 6h (and 3 or fewer people in the hand), you can bet your strong top pairs, your sets, and your no-showdown value draws (8/7 cc and hh) exactly the same way. You can check/call some of your weaker top pairs, draws with no backdoor flush potential and nut flush draws. This isn’t a perfectly balanced approach but the point is to blend a range of hands into your range so that opponents can’t put you on any specific one. If you just add a little balance to your play, you will make it far harder for people to play back against you. You won’t need to go out of your way to mix things up because your natural strategy will be taking care of it. You will have a mixture of hands/strength on every street that will be very hard for your opponents to exploit.

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I like to mix up my strategy at the tables when my current stratgey isn’t working or If I’m playing against players I’ve played before.

If I’m not betting a lot I’ll sometimes get more aggressive and start betting more. Same goes for bluffing. If a player has been consistently winning pots against me throughout the game or tournament I’ll often try to bluff more and win pots against that player.

Sure it’s risky and sometimes you can go broke at the tables but sometimes in poker you just need to take educated risks to be successful.

-Marc

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Very good advice. Thank you!

Excellent, and yes! Thanks, Marc.

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:heart::heart::heart::heart:

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@JanCee I totally agree with @1Warlock although I cannot articulate it as good as others here on the forums I think its a linear range vs a more polarized range with that said mixing it up depends a lot on who your competition is.

If you can spot weakness or player tendencies well then you can take advantage (someone playing too loose, maybe 3 bet more knowing they may have weak holdings, know when to get out of line with your linear range regardless of the cards you have) or if you can’t spot any weakness around the table maybe your the weaker player (I don’t mean that in a harsh way) but maybe everyone is good and its a difficult table, a more GTO strategy could be worth it where you bluff with good draws or semi bluffs to be more polarized instead of playing a linear range.

I’m definitely not one to take advice from because Im a novice but just trying to say ranges and player tendencies play an incredible role in your decision process on whether or not to mix it up and how you mix it up, Id suggest researching the difference between linear ranges and polarized ranges with player tendencies in mind to know when to deviate from either of those ranges (I know I mentioned GTO earlier which linear ranges play a part in as well).

In other words don’t worry about being predictable take advantage of others and their tendencies, get out of line, when you get to higher levels then being polarized and balancing matters because the competition is better (mixing it up is how you stay alive in those fields) against weaker opponents feel free to really get out of line because you can see them but they can’t see you :smiley: once you can’t see them anymore its time for a more balanced approach to the game (or more study time) because the players are better (then just jam a lot hahaha, just kidding here, to a point) being balanced and mixing it up matters against good players.

Geeez I almost sound like I have a clue lol but am still all over the place. Take care and good luck
P.S. don’t mix it up just to mix it up have a valid reason (this guy is short stacked and tight, raise his blinds relentlessly until he fights back ;))

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I’d say very well written. Thanks so much for taking the time to help!