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Fighting Fancy Play Syndrome

Fancy play syndrome (FPS) is when we make poker decisions based on a desire to feel smart, look cool, or ‘confuse’ our opponents, instead of making decisions based on strategic factors like ranges or pot-odds. If you ever find yourself making unorthodox or intentionally non-optimal plays because you want to show off what a great poker player you are, then you’ve probably got a case of FPS.

All FPS is -EV (expected value) and based on a series of assumptions. People assume they know their opponents’ strategies, that they know how their opponents’ will react to their adjusted fancy play, and that they’re better off making an adjustment rather than just playing solid poker.

The truth, however, is that we don’t know most of these things. There are tons of unknowns in poker. When you make these sweeping assumptions, then you’ll make errors and lose chips.

That’s why we need to fight back against FPS.

Symptoms of Fancy Play Syndrome

The first place to start is by identifying FPS. Here are some common scenarios where people get trapped by their own fancy play.

First, some people will open limp pre-flop even though they know its generally wrong. Their thinking goes that this will throw off good players because they won’t know how to play against you if you employ this strategy. However, open limping is just a bad strategy, and so we’re just throwing away chips.

Second, we have reverse tells. A tell is some physical clue, such as blinking or stacking chips, that people can pick up on to get information about their opponents. Essentially, it means trying to read someone’s cards from signs like their body language.

A reverse tell involves trying to trick people by pretending to give a tell. For instance, if you think that people blink a lot when they’re bluffing, you might try furiously blinking when you have the nuts. By trying to seem weak when you’re strong, you’re using a reverse tell.

Most reverse tells, however, end up backfiring. There are so many things that we do unconsciously, it’s actually more likely that you end up giving a real tell than fooling anyone with a reverse tell.

Fancy Play Versus Exploitation

It’s important to distinguish between FPS and making adjustments to exploit opponent weaknesses. It all comes down to the reason.

People change their strategy to exploit weaknesses as a response. Even if folding a great hand like AK is wrong most of the time, we can do so as an exploit if we know our opponent is only 3-betting hands like AA or KK. However, folding AK because our opponents ‘would never expect it’ is the wrong reason.

Exploitation is a specific tactic against a weak opponent. Fancy play syndrome is a general fallacy that has nothing to do with the opponents and is rooted in ego. Do your best to identify FPS and eliminate it from your game.

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