Poker: To Show Or Not

There are many little things a good poker player will do to increase their chances of a winning cash-game session or a high tournament finish. One thing they can do is use a well-timed show of their cards to let other players know they were either bluffing or had the nuts. I almost never show what my cards were, but there are times when I think it’s a good idea. I would say I only show maybe no more than 3% of the time when I take down a pot, but when I do, it’s for a good reason.

Poker is all about making proper decisions, and for the other players, it’s easier to make those decisions when they have more information. That’s why I almost never show, because it keeps the other players guessing. There are times, though, where I think it’s advantageous to show. In the beginning of any tourney or cash-game session, I’m a pretty tight player, only playing premium hands and being very patient, so when I raise it’s because I finally caught a good hand. I rarely make it all the way to the river with the 2nd-best hand so when players do see my cards, it’s almost always a great hand.

Once I’ve solidified that tight image to the table and the blinds start to get higher (in tournament play), it’s time to start stealing, and this is when I think showing cards is a good idea. Let’s say everyone has folded to me in the cutoff (next to the dealer button position) and I raise. I’ve put up this image that says when I do raise I’ve got a good hand, so when it happens it’s likely that everyone after me (the button and the blinds) will fold. This is a perfect time to bluff raise with absolutely nothing because they’re going to think you’ve got a good hand and if/when they do fold, you show them the 7-2 offsuit.

If you do that, it’s going to get them thinking that you’re not quite as tight as you had earlier portrayed and now the next time you raise you are more likely to get called by a marginal hand. So now, you’ve given the opponents some information but it’s misinformation based on the way you usually play. Once you’ve shown a bluff, go back to your tight style for a while and show a good hand when you can. In your next steal situation, go ahead and try another bluff and show. You want them to think you’re bluffing all the time because they’ll pay you off when you aren’t. Once you’ve shown a couple of bluffs, I would then go ahead and stay tight because now you’ve firmly established the possibility that you could be bluffing, and that’s all you really need to do.

If you’re in a multi-table tournament and you get switched to a new table with players you haven’t faced previously, you’ll need to re-establish your tight image before you can start bluffing and showing. Make sure that you’ve either shown or had to show some good hands before you start the whole “showing bluffs” process again.

Winning poker strategy dictates that you need to have the other players not knowing what you could be holding, because then it puts all the pressure on them to guess. People are naturally curious, so a lot of times they’ll be more inclined to pay just to see what the heck you have this time. Showing cards at well-timed intervals will do that and will improve your winning potential. Good luck!