There’s no need to wax eloquent on the finer points of poker strategy. Suffice to say, poker is one of the more organic card games out there. By organic I mean that there are a number of different layers operating simultaneously in any given match.
There is psychology: the duel of wits between other players, all trying to outwit each other and prevent their opponents from doing the same. There is luck: what cards you are dealt are completely random, and part of any good player’s game is knowing how to adapt his or her strategy to compensate. There is also, and I argue the most important element, patience: being able to keep a cool head and stay focused, sometimes for hours.
The “Honest Fool” strategy is designed around the first and third points – it demands a great deal of patience and observation, and its fundamental goal is to unsettle your opponent by luring him into a false sense of security. In most poker games, the players rarely interact because they are trying to minimize showcasing their ‘tells’ – in a game that employs the “Honest Fool”, the approach is the opposite.
The basic premise is that the player will frankly tell the other players what cards he has in his hand. “Oh, two more fives… shucks.” His opponents will most likely think he’s bluffing until the end of the match, when the player reveals his cards (if he calls the bet). The more times a player blurts out what cards he has, and then reveals them at the end of the match, the more he raises the suspicions of the other players – and the more they’ll try to attribute a pattern.
This is the ultimate goal. Once you’ve “given away your hand” enough times, the ball is in your court. And not only can you pull off some killer bluffs, but you’re annoying strategy will also make the other players lower their guard, and this is the ideal time to pick up on their tells.
Granted, this strategy is by no means fool-proof. In order for you to successfully pull of an “Honest Fool”, the virtue of patience is crucial. Firstly, you should only tell people what is in your hand if you have a good hand – doubles, triples, straight, flush (or possible straights and flushes). The reason for this is so that you can guarantee you’ll make it to the final round of bets and be able to flip over your cards for the other players to see you were telling the truth. Secondly, it’s important that you play enough rounds honestly before attempting to bluff. This strategy is about gaining a reputation, and it may take any number of rounds before people start falling for your tricks – pull it too early, and you’ll lose your credibility. Third, be selective about when you decide to tell people what’s in your hand.
Many casinos will probably frown on this style – and you will most likely irritate some of your fellow players as well, you will get frustrated: especially when they discover that you were telling the truth about your straight flush. The more aggressive the opponent, the stronger the “Honest Fool” ends up being.