Charge High Price for the Information You Give Away

Masters of poker claim that this game is a battle for information. Indeed, the player who knows about the other’s hand the most is likely to get the best of it.

Many players know this and agree to spend some money to avoid revealing information about their hand. “Mixing it up” or “Range balancing” usually means playing a hand in a way that is far from being ideal but which creates a false picture about your ranges in the minds of other players and makes you more invincible to play against later.

The opposite of this tactics, making sure that you are charging your opponents for whatever information you disclose, is not so widespread. Let’s see why this concept shouldn’t be underestimated.

A Hypothetical
Imagine that you are the tightest NLH poker player in the whole universe. You always play pocket Aces and people you play with know full well that you open fold KK from any position. In addition, they are all experienced players with a clear knowledge of poker theory.
Self-evidently, this strategy won’t bring you a victory, and there are only a couple of things you could do to make it better: play more hands, switch to some other game, or quit playing. However, the problem is that you have no wish to do any of these things. You would only agree to play Aces some other way. If you don’t want to play anything else but Aces, and all the players know this, what would be the best way to play them?

You need to move all-in each time you hold Aces or make bigger raises so that your opponents can’t afford to call you with any risky cards, which is basically the same thing. This is much better that simply folding because you are almost sure to win at least the blinds, provided it’s not that rare scenario when some other player has the other two Aces.

This strategy makes more sense than raising anything less than all-in because your knowledgeable opponents will make no mistakes. What would they do? They would either call your pre-flop raise with hands that can beat you, or they would combine value bets and bluffs against you after the flop. Since they don’t need to pick up a clue as to your holding (they are 100% sure you have aces), raising an amount that could be afforded to call can only give them a chance to put you on the spot.

However, if you hold aces in the big blind in an unraised pot, this rule wouldn’t work. In this situation you should probably reject the option of raising all-in and check instead. This is the only situation when you can play your hand without letting it be known to other players what you hold.

In all other cases, however, the only way to alleviate the harm done by giving away valuable information about your hand is to charge a high price for using that information so that other players are unable to do anything about it.

Pre-Flopi Raise Sizing
It is a usual thing to raise the same amount pre-flop no matter whether you have aces or 65s. On the face of it, it seems reasonable to make significant raises with your premium hands and small raises with your marginal or trash hands. However, it’s not the best strategy because of the information it gives away to all the players. But is it really impossible to make bigger raises with your premium hands than with your junk ones without giving away any extra information?

Well, there is a solution. Just vary your raise size by position and you’ll reach this aim. Naturally, your raising range in the first position is superior to your button raising range, and all your opponents know that. If you raise 4 times the size of the big blind every time you raise from the first position and 2 times the big blind every time you raise on the button, you will be making big raises with premium hands and small raises with trash hands out of proportion.

Still, this does not give anyone any new information about your holdings. They knew it all along that if you raise in the early position, it means you hold a premium hand, and if you raise on the button, the odds are high that you hold a trash hand.

To confuse your opponents and make them arrive at wrong conclusions about your hands, you need to raise the same amount of chips with any hand you are raising from a given position. For example, if you face the need to raise 65s in the first position, you should still go to 4 times the big blind, and if you chance to take a hold of Aces on the button, you should still raise the smallest amount. Though this strategy doesn’t seem to be ideal, it can be more effective than raising the same amount with any cards from any position, without disclosing any new information.

In fact, such a strategy is disputably superior because it charges opponents for information that a standard raise sizing strategy reveals gratis. If you are going to declare that you hold a premium hand by raising in the first position, then why not charge a higher price to opponents who hope to take advantage of their position to use that information against you? A player who want to set mine with a low pair might still outplay you, but his earnings will be smaller because he had to pay the higher price for seeing the flop.

Cold-Calling 3-Bets
If the pot has been raised and re-raised before your turn to act, you shouldn’t call the 3-bet cold. If you are confident in the strength of your holding, you are recommended to 4-bet it.

Doesn’t a cold 4-bet reveal the strength of your hand? Isn’t it disclosing too much information about your holdings? Definitely, but no more than cold calling a 3-bet does. If there have been two raises and you haven’t yet contributed any chips into the pot, any action from your side except folding will scream about an incredible strength since not so many ranges of hands can be played profitably in this scenario. The 4-bet achieves the aim of building the pot and makes players pay for the information you are giving away.

This is aggravated when you are not in position since your cold calling range will have to be tighter lacking the advantage of position and your opponents will find it less difficult to make use of the information you are giving them. The only situation which requires cold calling a 3-bet out of position is when you feel you can wipe your opponents out despite the advantages they enjoy (better position and information).

The conclusion here is to spot situations where your opponents will unmistakably put you on a very strong hand range. A player with the talent of hand reading won’t try to bluff you, but he would rather take free cards hoping to hit a miracle draw. Your best strategy would be to bet your hand hard and use bluffing counting on the possibility that your opponent makes the mistake of calling with a marginal hand.