Two Symptoms of Fancy Play Syndrome


Fancy Play Syndrome, or FPS, is used to describe an overly creative way of playing a hand when a straightforward approach would win you a lot more chips.

A syndrome is defined as a group of symptoms and diseases that together are characteristic of a specific condition. In the poker world, instead of symptoms and diseases, it's plays and actions.

Since there is no such thing as a "good" syndrome (Good's syndrome doesn't count), this article is using the term "syndrome" loosely, as the plays talked about in this article can actually be valuable, profitable weapons when used properly.

When misused or overused, though, they enter the realm of FPS. Each of these plays should be planned, thought out and executed in accordance with a plan. You need to have a clear conception of your goal and your line before you make the play.

Free-Card Play

The free-card play, when executed properly, is a valuable move for both Limit and No-Limit games. The concept is simple:

Paul Andrzejewski
By removing one street of betting, the free-card play can be a simple way to control the total size of a pot.

Raise or check-raise on the flop to force your opponent to check the turn, allowing you to see a river without any more bets.

For the most part, your goal with a drawing hand is to keep the pot size small until you hit your draw. By removing one street of betting, the free-card play can be a simple way to control the total size of a pot.

In Limit, the free-card play will always save you half a bet (assuming you're in position heads-up). In No-Limit, the play can be much more valuable.

No-Limit betting is most commonly dictated by the size of the pot. If x is the pot size after pre-flop action, assuming your opponent bets the pot on all streets, the bet increases exponentially.

Let's look at an example.

Standard play:

Street Bet/Pot Size Dollar Amount
Flop x $10
Turn 3x $30
River 9x $90

You called $40 to see the river post-flop. The pot going to the river sits at $90.

Free-card play:

Street Bet Size Dollar Amount
Flop x $10
Turn n/a $0
River 3x $30

As you can see, the free-card play cost you only $10 post-flop. The entire size of the pot going to the river is less than the amount of money you paid to see the river in the standard play.

Unless you're an action junkie, you're running a semi-bluff or you're not worried about lowering variance, keeping a pot small is always the best choice with a drawing hand.

But the free-card play falls under the category of FPS when used in a situation favoring large pots.

Players with hands worthy of a large pot will use the free-card play in an attempt to show weakness and induce a river bet by their opponent.

The problem with this tactic becomes clear if you look at the charts. If the plan works, and your opponent bets the pot on the river, you're getting 3x the flop pot - $30 in our example.

By playing the hand "standard" - you betting the pot; them calling - you've made the same amount of money going into the river as you did after the river using the free-card play.

Even if you bet half the pot on the river while playing standard, you more than double your profit on the hand.

Squeeze Play

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the squeeze play refers to using someone else's presence in the pot to your bluffing advantage.

Alan Cutler
With the pot out of his control, more often than not player 1 has to fold anything but the most premium starting hands.

Player 1 raises; player 2 calls that raise. You (player 3) reraise in position. You have just made a squeeze play.

Player 1, the original raiser, is now not only faced with being reraised, he has a caller left to act behind him. With the pot now out of his control, and not knowing what the caller will do, more often than not this player has to fold anything but the most premium starting hands.

Players familiar with the gap concept will understand that player 2 has to be worried about the range of a player willing to reraise player 1. After player 3 reraises, player 2 has to accept that player 3 is representing the nuts.

The more pressure you can put on the players in the situation, the better the chance your squeeze play will be successful. For this reason, the most successful squeeze plays happen in the later stages of a tournament.

Even if a player strongly thinks you might be bluffing, chances are they will wait for a better spot to put their tournament life on the line.

In a cash game, many players will call you down in an attempt to catch you running a bluff. Not only that, but in a deep-stacked No-Limit cash game, stealing the pot with a squeeze play doesn't add up in a risk-versus-reward evaluation.

Your goal in a No-Limit cash game is to win players' stacks, minimize your losses, and play consistent solid poker.

Phil Hellmuth
Making deceptive plays to stroke your own ego: textbook example of FPS.

A cash-game squeeze play is almost always FPS; there's simply no reason to risk approximately 30BB to win maybe 10BB as a pre-flop bluff. The numbers just don't add up.

The rule of thumb is simple:

Unless you have a specific reason for deviation, making the standard play is always correct.

At the micro and small stakes levels, it's rarely correct to make anything but the standard play. Only when you're up against opponents only beatable though deception do you need to make deceptive plays.

To make one exclusively to stroke your own ego is a textbook example of FPS.

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