Everyone and their mother has an opinion on showing cards. If you bluff you way to a pot, do you show your hand to rub it in or do you just slide your cards to the middle of the table and stack your chips? If you fold a hand in a big pot is it ok to show what you mucked?
Personally I don’t like to show my cards under any circumstances, but there are times when showing your cards may help set a trap for a future hand. With that theory in mind, I’ve come up with my own compromise: Just show one card. Whoever said that if you’re going to show your hole cards, you have to show both? Showing one card can make your hand even more mysterious than not showing at all. I generally do this at least once at a table or tournament to throw off other players. I never knew its impact until I did it one night by “accident” in Atlantic City.
I was playing in a low limit $2 / $4 hold em game. I was at the table for about an hour or so and was doing fairly well. I was up about $100. There was another player at the table who had to criticize other players when they won a hand on the river or didn’t play up his level. We’ll call him “Fred.” I think we’ve all encountered this type of player before. I immediately didn’t like Fred when he criticized me when I won my first pot. I was holding 6-7 of hearts and I flopped a straight. To make a long story short I won the pot with my straight, but the there were 3 spades on the board along with a pair of nines. I couldn’t raise my straight with the possible flush and full house out there. When I showed my straight Fred shouted across the table to me “Why didn’t you raise?!” I told him why (trying to be the gentleman), but Fred told me I played it wrong.
I didn’t mind being yelled at by Fred because I won the pot and figured he was jealous of my chips, but he did get under my skin a little bit. No one likes to be yelled at like a little child in the poker room. I said to myself that if I had that chance I’d make a fool of him. I didn’t wanted to go after him right away so I just kept playing my game.
As the second hour started I was up $200. Not too bad for a $2 / $4 table. I was dealt an Ace, 8 offsuit. Little did I know this would be the hand that would put Fred on tilt for the rest of the night. I was first to act so I raised the big blind. The $4 bet made some people fold, but before the flop there were about 5 players in the hand. The flop came King, Jack, Eight – rainbow. I flopped a pair of eights but I figured that someone else was holding a King so I checked. Sure enough Fred raised. A couple of players folded. When it came to me I called. I had a pair and maybe I’d get lucky on the Turn. 4th Street came an Ace. I now had 2 pair Aces and Eights. I was really certain I had the best hand so I bet $4. Fred called, but he hesitated first. I figured he had a pair of Kings and he read me perfectly. He knew I had the Ace and only called to see if he could get lucky on the River. For as much of a jerk that Fred was, he was still a decent poker player.
He had the right read on me and since the stakes were low, he called. The River showed a rag. I was confident Fred had a pair of Kings and he was sure I had a pair of Aces. I raised and he folded. I won the pot.
I didn’t have to show my cards. I could have just slid them to the dealer, but I wanted to show him my two-pair. Instead I turned over my 8. I wanted to show him that I paired the board. Fred was furious. He said, “I thought you had the Ace.” Like a good poker player I lied and said that was I what I wanted him to think. I was never going to let him know he had done the right thing and folded to a better hand.
It was definitely a great lesson learned that night in A.C.