The Importance of Being Unpredictable in Poker

unpredictable poker

Other than having a big bluff called down by an opponent, there isn’t much worse than being a predictable player. Being predictable at the poker table is what everyone wants from you. They want to be able to know where they are at all times. They can detect when you’re strong and weak and therefore play almost perfectly against you.

If you’ve been developing your poker game but finding it hard to extract value or your bluffs are too often called, you may have become too predictable. In that case, this article is for you. I’m going to explain the value of being unpredictable,. I will offer a few tips on how to be unpredictable and summarize the pros and cons of unpredictability at different poker stakes.

Why unpredictability matters

If your opponent’s have a hard time reading you, there is a greater chance they will make errors. Poker, like chess, is game of mistakes, the players who make fewer mistakes will win more. By enforcing more errors from opponents you can achieve better poker win rate by exploiting their mistakes. The flipside of predictability is that a standard ABC game where you are playing in a predictable manner is that opponents will understand your ranges easily and know what your bets and checks mean. They will recognize which textures hit your ranges and make very few mistakes against you.

Tips on how to become unpredictable

I can’t just say “be unpredictable” and leave you to it. There’s a fine line between playing unpredictable and being a fish and losing money at poker. You need to strike a balance between playing strong poker and throwing in some unpredictable plays that keep opponents guessing. That’s why the tips below will have a disclaimer on each, to use sparingly. Overuse of these plays will almost certainly harm your win rate.

1) Make the occasional weird bet size

Most poker players have shortcut keys for bet sizes. They’ll hit min raise pre-flop and 50% pot on the flop and value bet 2/3 on the river. These are standard bet sizes and commonplace. By deviating from these bet sizes and making the occasional “weird” bet size in a hand will keep you unpredictable. By weird, I basically refer to bets that are very small or very large. There are merits to these bet sizes too. They can throw opponents off and also enhance your table image which may get you paid in the future.

An over-bet is often perceived as a fishy play and a tiny bet in relation to the pot is also looked at in disdain by many players. But, by executing these bet types on occasion, you will stay unpredictable and potentially win the pot with a bluff or a cute value bet.

2) Take deceptive lines from time to time

Your opponents are always looking at the lines you’re taking. They’re constantly analysing the hand in real time and narrowing your range. Usually, common sense will help them achieve this. For instance, on a wet flop, players will almost always eliminate a two pair or three of a kind hand from your range if you back the flop. Details like this are important for hand reading as they will be armed with knowledge that they may use on a later street.

That’s why its important to occasionally take an unorthodox approach and play a deceptive line in a hand. This may mean smooth calling aces pre-flop, checking two pair on a co-ordinated board or slow playing top pair on a dry flop. By balancing your lines with some unpredictable plays, you can hope to extract excellent value in scenarios and also frustrate opponents who can’t possibly read you for what you have.

3) Get used to playing more hands

To become unpredictable at the poker table means playing a wider range of hands. You can’t really adopt an unpredictable playing style while only playing the top 10 poker hands. Therefore, I encourage you to get used to raising more liberally and calling in position with some speculative hands. By getting used to playing more hands you’ll find yourself in interesting scenarios post-flop and be tougher to read by opponents who will have difficulty putting you on hands.  

Does unpredictability matter at micro stakes?

It may surprise you to learn that the answer is no. At the lowest stakes games ($20 and below), unpredictability isn’t important. In fact, straying from a solid TAG or LAG approach at micro stakes is probably going to do your bankroll more bad than good. This because players at the micro stakes are making so many errors. You don’t need to do anything wild or crazy..

Therefore, if your poker goal is to win at games under $20, you can ignore most of the tips in this article as you can crush micro stakes games without incorporating unusual plays.

If you want to move up stakes…

If you have aspirations of developing as a player and moving up stakes, you will need to master unpredictable play. The higher you move up in poker, the tougher the opposition and the greater emphasis on being unpredictable is required. Its no surprise that players like Dwan and Ivey did so well and gained notoriety is it? They played so many hands and often in unconventional ways that it kept opponents guessing. There’s no escaping the fact that to achieve poker greatness, you’ll need to find ways to be hard to read and unpredictable.

If you’re interested in improving and moving up stakes, I recommend our training video membership. You can sign up today for $59.99 for 1 year and watch hundreds of hours of content.  

Narciso Baldo is the Director and Head Coach of Texas Hold'em Questions. He has been playing poker for over 16 years. After spending many years as a professional, he now runs UK poker training site Texas Hold'em Questions. Narciso regularly writes poker articles sharing tips, strategy, news and experience with gambling enthusiasts. Narciso also writes for reputable gambling portal Casino City Times, (bio here). Contact: