Balanced Deception

One way of balancing your range is playing a board and texture situation the same way with the widest range of hand groups. Another way of achieving balance with your range is playing the same hand differently on the same board texture. So one time you check-raise with a set on a draw heavy board, and another time you check/call with it. If you get to showdown against the same villain with each hand, they are going to have a more difficult time knowing your range the next time you check/call on a draw heavy board.

In a similar vein, there are slightly more ideal lines to take with particular hands on certain board textures. Even as you’re balancing your range, you’ll note based on the previous pages, there may be some lines you will take rarely. You’ll take a particular line with lots of different hand groupings, but rarely or almost never with some that won’t make for very profitable lines long term, especially against opponents you don’t have much history with.

As you begin to build history with an opponent, or you think you have an idea of how your opponent is likely thinking about the game, you can begin to take some lines that add deeper balance and deception to your hand strength. This will typically involve taking lines on the flop and/or turn that against unknown opponents wouldn’t typically be the highest EV line to take. However, you’re looking to make up this EV with large bets, check-raises, or over shoves on the turn or river. Your opponent is so confused by how you played your hand that they call bigger bets lighter than they would on average because they can’t put you on enough hands that would take this line and beat them.

Again, keep in mind that you need to have history or some sort of insight about how your opponent likely plays. In online games this can be as simple as recognizing someone as a regular who will likely open raise X range of hands from each position, and has some grasp of hand ranges and common lines that opponents, especially other regulars in the game, would take. Let’s take a look at an example:

In the above example, we have 100 BB effective stacks in a 6-max cash game. An opponent UTG opens to 3 BBs. Everyone folds to the small blind who calls, and we have KhKs in the big blind. We squeeze to 14 BBs. The UTG player folds, and the small blind calls. The flop comes 6s9sJc. The small blind checks, and we check the flop.

This is where balanced deception comes in, and normally in most situations you’d bet this flop. We’re trying to make it look like a botched squeeze play, or whiffed AQ, AK giving up. The plan is to make all of the money by the river against a range that on average couldn’t handle more than one street of value. It can also be used as a pot control line against hands like 99, JJ, where you can call the turn and river if your opponent bets, or induce weaker hands to bet on the turn like TT, Jx. Neither of those hands will typically call more than a street for value in a 3-bet pot unless there’s some history.

There’s 31 BBs in the pot and the turn brings the 4c. Your opponent bets 15.5 BBs, and you just call. Lots of draws on the board now, and your opponent’s range won’t contain very many draws having flat called from the small blind against an UTG raise, and calling a squeeze out of position. His hand is going to contain mostly middle and big pairs and a couple of big broadway hands like AQs. Your hand however can very well look like a turned draw, top pair, or botched squeeze that has middle pair.

There are 62 BBs in the pot, and your opponent has 71 BBs left. The river brings the 2h, your opponent checks, and you over shove. Your opponent thinks for a bit, and then calls with TcTd, and you have successfully stacked him. If you had bet the flop, your opponent likely would have called your flop bet. It’s unlikely they would have called the turn if you bet again since they would have been committed at that point. In a re-raised pot they would have had to check-raise shove at that point.

Depending on your opponent and history, it’s possible they would do this a percentage of the time. However, if you think through their entire hand range, this was a fairly safe line to take even though the board is fairly coordinated. We know a bulk of their range is weighted towards hands you’d be crushing because it contains a lot of mid and high pairs. In the event that they did flop a big hand, like a set, and they bet the turn and river you can call. It’s unlikely they would bet the turn and river with a hand like Jx or TT.

When you’re contemplating taking a deceptive line to balance your range, in this case, your flop checking range, you want to make sure you have enough insight into your opponent’s game. If you don’t, then it’s going to be a very minus EV approach to take. You’re much better off just betting the flop and turn, or betting flop, checking turn and betting the river.

This was an actual hand taken from a recent online 6-max cash game. Using balanced deception can be an effective tool to use against the better regulars in your game. You shouldn’t be implementing it until you’re confident in reading your opponents range, and you know your opponent is a thinking player.

One of my personal favorite balanced deception lines to take is when I flop a set out of position against a pre-flop raiser on a coordinated board. I will check/call the flop, and then check-raise all-in on any blank turn. Sometimes even check/call both streets, which of course is extremely risky, and if both streets brick reasonably enough, over shove the river. Again, I’m only taking those lines against the better regulars. Even against average regulars, I wouldn’t advocate taking those lines very often, if ever. You have to get creative though against the better regulars in your games if you want to get paid off consistently.

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