To Show or Not to Show - Part 2

If you make an opening raise and everyone folds, showing your cards to them (whether good or bad) can work to imprint an image of you in their minds in a similar way to the situations addressed above. Showing that you’ll raise with a good hand (“good” being left up to interpretation), or a nothing hand, may affect decisions made by your opponents later. Of course, just as in the situations discussed above, their decisions are not always going to be consistent or predictable, and can easily backfire against you.

Showing your big-blind hand when the table folds around to you seems like an innocent enough thing to do. People made their decision based solely on their own cards, and not on anything you did, so they can’t gain any information about your play. While this may be true, some players may see your weak hands as a reason to try and steal your blinds in the future, and may be successful if you’re holding bad cards again. Similarly, if you show them a pair of aces, it reinforces their decision to fold, causing some players not to get involved with their marginal hands later on in the game (either a good or bad outcome for you). Of course there’s no way of telling who, if anyone, will react this way, but why take that chance?

Table talk is a separate strategy often employed by some players but can be combined with card showing to add another layer of manipulation to your game. Say, for example, you were to tell your opponent that you have a good hand while they’re contemplating a bet, and at some point later in the hand you make a bet that causes them to fold. Showing them your good hand can let them (and everyone else) know that you were telling the truth, which could make someone fold in future hands if you tell them you’ve got a good hand again (or at the very least they’ll be forced to think about whether or not you’re telling them the truth again). Most experienced players will realize that your table talk is not to be trusted, however, and will not fall into the trap of folding just because you tell them you’ve got a good hand. So be aware that if later you’re trying to pass off a bluff by saying it’s a good hand, you may get callers simply because they’ve read your earlier table talk as a set up for future bluffs. Talking-up then showing your good hands is a strategy that could potentially work if employed enough, but you may also risk losing any curiosity calls from players who realize that you’ve been betting big hands. In either case, while you’ll likely keep them guessing, there’s no way to tell who will react in what way to your antics. There are of course many different variations to the way table talk and card showing can be used, but rest assured that none will give you a predictable reaction from your opponents.

If you’re going to be flashing cards around, you’ll also want to be careful of the rules of wherever you’re playing. Many card rooms have a “show-one-show all” policy, which prevents you from showing your hand to only one of your opponents. Similarly, you may or may not be allowed to show only one of your cards, sort of as a teaser to taunt them with only partial information about what cards were in your hand. And if there are spectators around the table, showing them your cards increases the number of people your opponents can use to get a read off the hands you’re playing.


The above sections deal with only a few examples of times when showing your cards might provide you an advantage strategically, but have also cautioned you on how that strategy can backfire. Poker is a dynamic game, played against a wide variety of opponents, so you never really know how someone will interpret or react to your shown cards. If you’re banking on your opponents falling into a trap you’re trying to set by showing them your cards, think very carefully about exactly what you hope to gain by doing so, and whether or not your opponents are likely to take the bait. If you’re sitting at a table of very experienced, highly skilled poker players, then be careful not to give them too much information about your cards, and don’t expect them to always react the way you expect them to. At a table of less experienced players, they might not have any reaction at all to your cards, simply because they’re busy concentrating on other aspects of their games. One thing is for certain, if you’re going to show your cards, shake it up a little – show some times and not others, show both good and bad hands, bluffs and legitimate bettors. Don’t let your card showing strategies become predictable or you risk losing any benefit you might have gained from it. Finally, resist those urges to show your hand at those times when it’s not part of a strategy. Good players can tell a lot from the cards you show them, so it might be in your best interests to limit the number of cards they get to see.