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Mixing Up Your Game

by Bill Burton

Bill Burton is an advantage blackjack player and skilled poker player. He is the author of the best-selling book, "Get the Edge at Texas Low Limit Holdíem", available at 10% discount from the BJI online store, and the guide at


A few months ago, I was in Tunica teaching at one of the Golden Touch Craps seminars. I ran in to a friend of mine who had recently started playing low limit Texas Holdíem. Clarice told me she was having some problems and asked me if I could watch her play because she thought she had a "tell." She said all the other players seemed to be able to read her at the table. I asked her to give me some more specific details about her play and what she was doing during her sessions.

She told me she was playing very few hands and had been waiting for the very best starting hands however, when ever she bet or raised, everyone folded. She also said that when she was in the blinds there was a lot of raising going on and she would end up folding her hands. I didnít have to hear another world and I didnít have to go watch her play to know exactly what Clariceís problem was. She was too predictable at the table.

The other players at the table were observant and they knew she was playing very tight. If she entered a hand or raised after the flop they knew that she had a big hand and they were able to fold and get away from their hand if they didnít have a strong one. When you play the same way over and over, a smart opponent can pick up on your play and read you like an open book. If you want to be successful you have to learn to mix up your play in order to keep your opponents guessing. Iím not advocating playing garbage hands or becoming a loose player but there are some things you can do to keep from becoming predictable.

Defending Blinds

The majority of the time you will have nothing when you are the small or big blind. Many opponents will raise from late position if on the button, to try to steal the blinds. Even in a low limit game when the blinds are only a few dollars, some players will try to "steal" because they read that that is what you are supposed to do. If you keep folding your hand when you are in the blinds every time a player raises they will keep doing it. In order to avoid this you must occasionally call even with a marginal hand. You can also raise him back from time to time just so he knows you wonít fold every time to a raise.

Changing Gears

Some players call it "changing gears" when they mix up their play. They start off playing one way and then switch to playing another way. This happens a lot in tournaments but can also be very useful in live ring games. In the situation with my friend Clarice, I told her she had a perfect opportunity to take advantage of her tight table image by playing a few more hands raising more in late position to steal a few blinds of here own. Since everyone was sure she would only play the best hands she could lead out betting on the flop with second pair or a flush draw and perhaps take down a few extra pots based solely on her tight image. You canít expect to sit at the poker table for any length of time and not have someone pick up on your playing style if you play every hand the same way

Avoid Betting Patterns

Another way to mix up your game is to avoid betting patterns. I was in a game with a fellow who would raise every time he flopped top pair. If he had middle or bottom pair, or a drawing hand, he would only call. Every time he raised on the flop it was as if he had a neon sign telling everyone that he flopped the top pair. Another player I have the occasion of playing will raise pre-flop with any pocket pair. I run into him at the tables on a regular basis and itís nice to know his game hasnít changed. I know if he raises, that he has a pair.

Take a look at the way you play certain hands and try to determine if your own play is predictable. Do you only raise preflop with big pocket pairs? If so, you might want to mix it up and raise with some other hands, or occasionally slow play those big pocket pairs. (As long as the your not dong it in a big field). Donít bet the same hand the same way each time.

Try It

If you are too predictable at the table, try changing your style a little. Once you start mixing up your play, you should see some better results. Iím not advocating becoming a crazy loose player but try to be a little less predictable. If you find yourself in the same situation during a game, try to remember the way you played the hand that last time and do it differently.

Be Observant

Every coin has two sides and if you are mixing up your game you can perhaps discover someone at the table who is not. The only way you can do this is by watching the other players when they play a hand. If you pick up on a predictable player, itís like money in the bank. Trust me on this.

Until Next time remember:

Luck comes and goes.....Knowledge Stays Forever.


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