Talking about the Gambler’s Fallacy in my last post, I was reminded of another poker application of this concept. The situation comes up frequently when you hold AA or KK, and you raise preflop and everyone folds. Some people will show their hands in situations like this, just because it’s kind of fun to show big hands. It’s also sometimes sort of a way to complain because the raiser didn’t get any action. Another situation is that the person with AA or KK has to make a fold on the river, and they’ll show their fold, usually just in order to get some sympathy for their plight. People just like to show pocket AA and KK more often than they show other hands. I think this is a bad idea, and I pretty much never do it. The reason why it’s a bad idea is because of how this affects the perception of your opponents.
The reasons why not to show are directly related to the Gambler’s Fallacy. Players who see your AA and KK will be less likely to give you credit for strong starting hands in the near future. Basically, they’ll think something like, “Oh, he just had AA; he probably doesn’t have another premium hand; chances are good my AJ is ahead so I’m going to reraise.”
As we know, this kind of thinking is completely false; the chances of getting a hand like AA or KK or QQ has not changed at all. You are just as likely to receive these hands as you were the hand before. But we are talking about the average player’s perception–and most poker players’ minds hold many delusions and illogical thoughts. Even good players can fall victim to these kinds of thoughts. (Like I did recently in a no-limit game when I didn’t respect the raise of a very tight player who I’d seen get pocket Kings twice and pocket Jacks twice in the last couple rotations. I knew better, but still found myself thinking, “Even though I know he’s very, very tight, he can’t have another premium hand.” So I ship it pre-flop with 8Ts and he’s got KK again. I deserved that one.)
What this means in practice is that many players will give you less respect if you raise again soon after showing the AA or KK. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it should be something you take into consideration if you have shown the AA or KK. If you’re an aggressive player, and do a good amount of pre-flop raising, you might find that your chances of getting played with goes up soon after you’ve showed one of these hands. It’s something to think about, because you might apt to not make some borderline raises you otherwise would have if you think this might be a factor.
That’s why I usually opt not to show these hands if I can help it, because I want the possibility of strong starting hands to be as present in my opponents’ minds as can be. I want to be able to represent a full range of cards. I don’t want the possibility of me having AA or KK to be discounted, even mistakenly, by bad opponents, because most of the time I’m not going to have those hands, and I’d like to be able to represent the full range of strong hands.
In summation, showing your premium starting pairs accomplishes nothing, and may have a downside, so there’s really no reason to do it.