The whole dynamic of poker is based around the fact that no player knows what hands the other players are holding. While there is always an element of chance involved, most poker strategy is based around trying to guess whether your hand is better or worse than the other players. So, given that the last thing you want is for them to be able to predict what hand you’ve got and how you’re going to play, it would make sense that unpredictability is a valuable trait to cultivate in poker.
Back to the old school
In fact, unpredictability has fallen out of favor to a degree in the modern poker game. Back in the day, star players were larger-than-life characters who relied on audacious bluffs, confidence and style to carry them through. It was all about reading your opponent while remaining unreadable yourself, and if possible, psyching them out.
Today’s game is much more controlled and calculated, with tried and tested strategies based around math and logic the order of the day. Admittedly, the old style was developed and worked best in a live setting, where you could see the whites of your opponent’s eyes. But unpredictable play can still be very effective on the internet, for instance, at an NJ online casino where you can play a wide range of different styles 24-hours a day, including video poker, via your phone, tablet or PC.
Arguably, the use of deliberate unpredictability is even more effective in today’s more sober poker environment, precisely because it is less expected and so other players are even less prepared to counter it. A player who doesn’t seem to be following any of the usual strategies is hard to play against. You can use this to your advantage, mixing up your styles of play to keep your opponents off-balance. It can also have a great impact on an audience.
Neither one nor the other
In poker, you always want to size up your opponent. The first thing you’ll do, after observing their play for a few hands, is to try to place them into one of two broad categories: the tight and cautious player or the loose and aggressive player. You can then adapt your own strategy accordingly.
This is the advantage of mixing up your style of play in an unpredictable way. Play loose-aggressive one moment, then tight-cautious the next, and watch your opponents grow confused and flustered.
Pros and cons
Don’t try to force it: being unpredictable for the sake of it, as a considered strategy, can mean making moves that are against your better judgment, leading to you losing more than you should. But ultimately, ‘wild style’ is the hardest style to play against and may lead to the rest of the table dancing to your tune as they try to figure out what you’re up to. You may even annoy your opponents so much that they get annoyed, lose their cool and start making dumb moves, all to your advantage.
Unpredictability is a valuable trait, though hard to cultivate if it doesn’t come naturally. Start by mixing up your playing style and following your instincts rather than a pattern. See how you get along.