Do I Show Or Do I Muck?

Alex | April 17, 2010

It could possibly be one of the biggest topics spoken about within poker strategy and within online poker community forums, should a play show their hand or should they muck every time?

With so many differing opinions surrounding the topic, players have become divided within their choice over this topic and that is why poker is such a great game, the variance of play that each and every poker player possesses means that you’re very unlikely to come across any two players who play exactly the same.

Lets look into why a poker player would even consider showing their hand.

There are a couple of reasons that might make a player become willing to show their hand to the table through a choice of their own, firstly the player could be looking to reveal that they have just beaten a player out of a large pot with a huge bluff or to show their strength of hand to those around them.

So showing your hand would be designed to either impress or anger your opponent but what negative effects could showing your hand have on your game?

The willingness to show your cards means that you are willing to give opponents the opportunity to get an insight into your game and playing strategy as once they can see your hand they can replay the hand over in their head and analyse where you showed the strength or weakness.

This means that should you do this on a regular basis against an opponent, you are basically opening up your mind and playing style for them to read and analyse, helping them to counter act your plays and in turn profit from you.

Remember that what ever you have to show to a player will have already been seen, you’re not going to get anything from your showing of the cards, instead you’re giving information away.

  • The huge bluff that you have just played – its been done before.
  • The pocket aces that you have in your hand – they have been seen before.

So if you look at your hand in that way, you have no reason to show your cards and reveal anything about your game.

Keeping an air of mystery about your play will mean that until players are able to analyse you and your play, they will offer you the respect that you have them beat in a situation that they have nothing, reveal that you’re prone to bluffing and you’re likely to lose that respect and they will become more willing to bet or call your play.

So with all these negatives, why would any poker player want to show their hand?

An experienced poker player could well be willing to show a hand every hour in order to reveal their play to their opponents but the only way that a player would consider doing this is if their play was uncharacteristic to their regular playing style or they are about to switch their approach to the game.

In this situation, the player who is showing the cards is trying to feed their opponents a wrongful insight into how they are playing their hands, basically showing a further bluff.

I guess that the decision remains in the hand of the player, if they feel that they can benefit from showing their hand while not revealing too much about their game play and strategy, then they have the right to show their cards.

Personally I refrain from showing my cards due to the fear of revealing information about my play to stronger players, if they were ever able to get into my head and figure out how I play the game at what points, my high roller poker career would soon become small stakes.