The Hidden Hand: The Power of Redraws

Daniel Negreanu
It's hard to hide your hand when up against someone like Negreanu, he sees all.

Poker is a game of choices and mistakes.

You make money by making the correct choices, and capitalizing on the mistakes of your opponents.

The more mistakes you can encourage your opponents to make, the more opportunities you'll have to make some serious money at the tables.

If your opponent knows what you're playing, and how you're playing it, they will never make a mistake; for this reason it's crucial for you to disguise your hands and to play deceptively.

There are two main types of made hands: hidden and obvious. The more hidden your hand is, the more likely your opponents are to make mistakes. There are two circumstances in which your hand qualifies as hidden:

1.       The hand is naturally disguised.

2.       You played the hand in a deceptive manner.

Naturally Disguised

A naturally disguised hand is a hand that your opponents don't see as a possibility, or one they assume it's improbable for you to be holding.




Antonio Esfandiari
Even if he isn't disguised, the hands he plays usually are.

In this example, your opponent may have been astute enough to have put you, correctly, on a flush draw off the flop. What was completely hidden was your double inside runner-runner gut-shot. There is no way for a decent player to ever see a river with a naked 6-8.

For this reason, any player with a marginal to large hand (you're really hoping to be up against a set here) won't think twice before paying you off. More often than not your opponent here will be convinced that they're the one value betting you.

This example is disguised in both ways, as there is no logical way to put you on the hand, and it's even hard to see that a straight is even possible on this board. Many players without a few thousand hours of experience in the game will miss this possibility completely.

The Power of the Redraw

The hand above is an example (albeit a very loose one) of a redraw. A redraw is an extremely powerful idea in Hold'em, and a critical part of playing Omaha.

You always want your hand to have the ability to improve on later streets. The stronger a chance your hand has of improving, the more value the hand holds on earlier streets.

This flop:



is an example of a typical flopped redraw.

Your flopped top pair, top kicker is most likely the best hand (giving you a large amount of equity in the pot), while you have a nine-out redraw to the nut flush. The equity lost against better hands and strong draws against you is partially recouped by the redraw.

A redraw hand is the most common way to be holding a strong, or even nut, hidden hand. If you changed the cards around in the previous example to you holding top pair, top kicker with a backdoor flush draw, you're now in a position to play for the hidden hand value.

Phil Ivey
Likes to have so many re-draws his backup had backup.

It doesn't make sense to be betting on the come of a naked backdoor flush draw. For this reason, if you're betting your TPTK with the backdoor draw, your opponents will assume you're betting top pair and typically ignore any possibility of you holding the backdoor flush.

The ideal situation is for your opponent to be drawing against your pair with a straight draw, or some other hand such as a two pair. If your opponent misses, you win a small to medium-sized pot.

If your opponent hits, you lose a small to medium-sized pot, while if your opponent hits his hand on a card to bring your backdoor draw, chances are you win a very large pot.

Deceptive Play

When your hand doesn't naturally lend itself to being hidden, the only other option you have is to play your hand deceptively. Even if the hand you hold is the most likely and obvious choice, if you play it deceptively enough to confuse your opponent, you're able to achieve hidden status.

Betting on the come, check-raising draws or even exercising pot control with a big single pair are all examples of potential deceptive plays. Anytime you pick a line that opponent believes you're unlikely to take with the hand you actually have, you're being deceptive.

Sometimes, the most deceptive play is the most straightforward. If you have an opponent reading too much into you, trying to be far too tricky, sometimes doing the obvious ABC correct move will be subterfuge enough.

When playing against beginners, they are prone to stick to reasoning like "If he has a monster, it makes no sense for him to make large bets, since he wants the call." So by making large bets, you're convincing them you're weak. If your opponent's image of you is that of a straightforward player, checking the obvious best hand can be deceptive enough to enforce a mistake by them.

If your opponents always know how you will play when you hold different types of hands, they will always know what hand you're holding. Playing with your cards faceup will allow your opponents to play a mistake-free game. If your opponents make zero mistakes against you, you're playing at a game you cannot beat.

Use Moderation

Doyle Brunson
All the pro's say the same thing, Don't bother trying to read Doyle. Deception is his middle name.

When evaluating your hand selection, you want to take hidden hands into consideration, but only after remembering the basics. Oftentimes, being deceptive, or playing hands known to be likely to flop a hidden draw, can cost more money than it will earn.

If everything you do is hidden and deceptive, then your opponents will assume you're doing just that, and will adjust their play accordingly. You need to play a mix of straightforward and deceptive poker, allowing you to maximize your earnings on most hands, while using others to set up future plays.

If you're a true beginner, and you want an easy way to start playing deceptively, I recommend the role-play. Pick a hand you want your opponent to think you have (as opposed to what you actually have), and make every action as if you have that hand.

For example, if you have the nuts, play every street as you would if you were running a bluff. If you flop a set, you might want to play it as if you flopped the draw, or vice versa. Instead of thinking "How can I trick my opponent?" just think about what you want them to think, and play your hand straightforwardly as if you had just that.

Just remember, being deceptive should never take the place of adhering to poker fundamentals. If your deception is always building small pots with big hands, and big pots with small hands, it's hurting your game and your profits more than it's helping you.

It's a fine line to walk between deceptive and straightforward profitable. Once you can manage it, though, chances are you'll be crushing your regular game in no time.

More strategy articles from Sean Lind:

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick

Latest Blogs »