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Keeping it Simple in Poker

Part of what makes poker fun is the different strategies you can use to win. Tailoring your plays to your individual opponents, taking advantage of their weaknesses and avoiding their strengths,Alex McCayAlex McCay has been playing poker for over 20 years and has written many articles on the subject of how to best play the game.  He is also the creator of, one of the most complete resources for players of Texas Hold'em on the web.   Alex's website is  is what poker is all about. It gives players an opportunity to illustrate their ingenuity and receive a reward for it. However, sometimes in poker, it is possible to be too clever.

Fancy Play Syndrome

Poker legend Mike Caro refers to this phenomenon as “Fancy Play Syndrome“ or “FPS.” Essentially, this means making a complicated play when a simple one will do.

Here is an example. You are playing at a texas holdem table with an extremely tight player who usually doesn’t enter a pot unless he has a big hand, and will rarely continue unless he hits it. You raise with pocket nines and the tight player calls. The flop comes Qs 8h 4d.

You realize that if he did not hit a queen you can probably get him to fold. You check, with the idea that he may bet and you can then check raise, showing extreme strength and winning a few extra chips.

FPS Example Explained

This is an example of over thinking the situation. If your tight player has a hand like AK, he is unlikely to try to attack the pot, given the type of player he is. If you check to him, he will probably check behind, winning you nothing. If he bets, it almost certainly means he does have a queen.

Now you will have to figure out how much to raise to convince him that you can beat top pair. This is all unnecessarily complicated. If you bet out right away, your opponent will often fold, giving you the pot. Other times he will raise, letting you know your nines are no good, and sometimes he will call, letting you see another card cheaply. In this case, the simplest play is best. The same conditions apply to playing sets. Straightforward play is often the key to extracting the most out of almost every situation.

Avoiding FPS

The best way to avoid FPS is to make an honest assessment of your opponents. If they are straightforward, non-deceptive players, correct straightforward play will often win you their chips. If they are savvy, complex opponents they may require more elaborate strategies, but this is the case less often than you might think. Also have a look at some good advice from Phil Gordon about simplifying matters in poker.
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