The Change-Up Play in Poker

The Change-Up Play in Poker

One of the tactics of winning poker is the change-up. Let the others think you play a certain way, and then, boom!, change your play for a while.

Give the impression that you’re playing loose for several hands. Suddenly, along comes a crucial hand in which you have the nuts. The others think you’re still gambling it up. They put in more money than they would normally on such a hand. You win more than you might because they’re still giving you action. They think you’re playing loose as you did for several hands, not aware you’ve done your change-up.

Or play super-tight for a while. Just when they “know” you’re not giving any action, not in there with less than the nuts, change up. Start robbing them. Never show the hands with which you rob them, of course; merely take advantage of the impression you have created. Keep it up until they get suspicious, and are ready to start calling again. “He can’t have all those hands,” thinks one of the losers; “I better keep him honest next hand.” Only next hand you have already anticipated reaching the limit of their patience, and changed your style of play again.

Properly done, this change-of-pace playing ebbs and flows and keeps the others off-balance, making the pro a lot more money than an unimaginative player.

But you know all about this weapon in the arsenal of a good player.

What a lot of players don’t realize:

is that some poor players are also change-up players. Failing to be aware of this, otherwise good players sometimes let the poor players get even after being stuck a lot, or help the poor players get much more out of a lucky streak than they ought.

This happens because many do not know that how some players play depends on how many chips they have. When losing, they play one way; when winning, they play another. It’s right at that transition point that they make their own change-up play, and fool the others.

For example:

In a no-limit hold’em game, an off-shift dealer likes to gamble it up. Four people in the pot for $10 each; he raises $100, and no one calls. He shows his deuce-nine-off, laughs, and takes the pot. He’s ahead about $40 now. Next hand, he gets pocket queens beat by a jack-ten that makes a straight, and suddenly he’s down $40. Two hands later, four people are again in the pot for $10 each, and here he comes with all his chips. This time one of the players, who has only $25 left, calls with his pair of eights. The “action player” has deuce-five suited. He was just trying to rob those opening bets like before. Not a good play, because he didn’t realize two things. One was the others realize he’s playing less than premium hands; the other was one player was low enough on chips to make that an easy call for an otherwise perhaps speculative hand. The eights stand up. Our hero is stuck $75, and he’s hot.

He buys more chips, and anytime anyone in a pot shows the least bit of weakness, he tries to run that player off. He puts all his chips in with any two picture cards or ace-anything. If anyone passes to him on the river, he bets them all. The players love it, and keep picking him off. Soon the guy is stuck $1500, and it looks like he’s going to be here all night, making the others wealthy. He buys another $2000 in chips.

Three players are in a pot for $10 each. The fellow raises it $50, and the opener calls. The second player reraises $200, and the third player folds. We don’t know what is going through the mind of the action player. He must realize the second player was slow-playing a big hand, hoping to catch him in an out-of-line play. No matter; he reraises all his chips. The opener now reluctantly folds. The second player has $1000 left; he puts it all in, and turns over his queens.

The off-duty dealer is not a complete dummy. He may take the worst of it in a gamble, but with so much money involved, he does not have a completely hopeless hand. He has ace-king, and an ace on the flop turns his hand into a winner.

If you’re observant, you’ve noticed something:

The off-duty dealer is close to being even. Before, he was so far in the hole, that he just kept playing wilder and wilder. Now, though, he’s down less than $200, with a shot at getting unstuck. Most of the other players have not noticed. They assume he will continue his wild play. They are mistaken. Suddenly he starts playing jam-up. He doesn’t get in the pot without a high pair or ace-king, or maybe ace-queen or even ace-jack in last position. And no more bluffing.

And he’s started a lucky streak. Several good hands in a row. He continues raising every pot he gets in, but now it’s only with good hands. They all keep calling, assuming he’s still playing crazy. They give him much more action than his present play warrants.

He gets ahead $500, and hits the cage, leaving the others looking around wondering what happened to all that loose money.

You see, a poor player, an overall losing player, is also capable of the change-up play. Observe that some players play differently based on whether they’re winning or losing.

Oh yeah. Some poker writers call “the change-up play” changing gears.

by Michael Wiesenberg

Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash