You can sometimes get a sense of an opponent’s strength by acting as if you’re going to bet.
It’s a fixed limit game; you’re first to act on the river. You’ve fired a bluff on the flop and the turn and you’re considering firing the third barrel. You start stacking your chips up for a bet, but you are really just trying to get a reaction from your opponent. Your opponent, thinking you are betting, beats you into the pot, throwing his chips in for a pre-emptive call. You, of course, change your mind and fold.
That’s a scenario I’m sure you’ve seen before. Let’s take a look at another way this might work.
It’s a no-limit Hold’em game. The river card has just arrived and you’re first to act. Your hand is worthless. You start to stack your chips as if you’re going to bet, just to try to get a reaction from your opponent. You look across the table and see your opponent stacking his chips as if preparing for a call. You have played with this player enough to know that when he does this, he is trying to prevent you from betting and will likely fold. So you bet the pot and he folds. If you hadn’t faked a potential bet and gotten that reaction from him, you would not have had that information.
If you’re going to use this move to induce a tell, you should make your actions subtle. I’m just talking about touching your chips thoughtfully, or putting your hand near the chips. If a player is weak enough to perform a tell in reaction to this, it won’t take much from you to induce that player to show it. So I don’t recommend actually getting ready to put your chips in.
In some jurisdictions, making a forward motion with your chips, even if it’s not completed, is considered a binding action and you will be forced to bet. Even if making a forward motion with your chips is not binding, you should be aware that a lot of people will still consider the maneuver angle- shooting and be angry with you. If the move is technically legal and you’re comfortable with pissing people off, go right ahead, but just be aware that you might make some enemies.
I personally have never pushed my chips forward if I didn’t intend to bet. But I don’t have a problem with people who try such things. I always wait until a bet is fully completed before I act. If everyone at the poker table followed this same rule, no one would ever gain any information from performing these “tricky” maneuvers.
ACTING LIKE YOU’RE GOING TO CALL TO PREVENT A BET
By acting as if you’re going to call, you might prevent an opponent’s bet.
This is similar to the previous move. As Caro pointed out in his book, this maneuver replicates the waiting-for-action grabbing-chips tell that indicates weakness. In this case, however, a good player can use this maneuver to gauge how strong an opponent is.
Here’s how this one might work:
It’s a limit Hold’em game and you’re heads-up on the turn. You’re second to act. You’ve got a gut shot straight draw with one overcard. If he bets, your opponent will have you beat the large majority of the time, although there is always the slight potential he could be betting worse hands than yours. Your opponent is reaching for his chips. Mirroring his action, you reach for your chips as if you’re going to call. Your opponent’s hand pauses, as if he’s rethinking his bet. He checks to you. Your display of an intended call allowed you to stay in the hand, when you would have folded to a bet. Now you can either check behind or bet, depending on what you think is best.
This move should be limited to situations where you are definitely going to fold if your opponent bets. This might be useful against a very tight player who, when he bets, will have a hand that beats you the large majority of the time. For some weak and predictable opponents, setting up this slight psychological barrier to their bet will give you useful information. If a player continues with his bet, he is most likely strong and you can fold your hand as planned. If he rethinks his bet and checks, he is probably weak, and you can either check it down or make a bluff.
The thing you need to realize about discouraging your opponent’s bet in this way is that, if it works, you’re losing the opportunity to catch him bluffing. If your opponent is fairly aggressive, and he bluffs a good amount, and you have a bluff-catcher, then you might want him to bet. Don’t use this move thinking you’re being tricky when in fact you’re being weak.
You should also realize that this maneuver has decreasing value if used more than once, because your observant opponents may notice that you are doing it and then folding when bet into. So be aware of what others may have noticed.
This maneuver is not very useful. I can think of only a handful of times in my life when I’ve used it. But against certain weak, predictable players, who will react in an expected way, it can come in handy. As I’ve said, this isn’t a move to be used against experienced players, because they’ll either interpret it for weakness or else know that you’re fishing for information.