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Showing Your Cards In Poker

Jordan C

Feb 14, 2023

Showing Your Cards in Poker

Poker is a game of incomplete information, where the unknowns are the cards your opponent has and the cards that are coming next. However, sometimes you get an insight into your opponent’s hand as they’re forced to show you what they have. There are situations at the poker table where you must show your hand, whether you want to or not! This article will look at when you have to show your cards, why it’s bad, and how you can get around it.

When Do You Have To Show Your Cards In Poker?

If you’re new to poker, you may be concerned that you have to show your cards in the game, but don’t worry – this only occurs after the betting action is complete. It would be a much easier game if your opponent was obliged to show you their hand when you asked!

There are certain situations where you must show your hand in poker, even if you don’t want to. Let’s take a closer look at what those are.

  • When You Are All-In In A Tournament – Tournament rules state that any player who is all-in must show their hand once all betting action is complete. This is to prevent collusion between players. Once there is no more betting action to be had, all players remaining in the hand must turn their cards face up before the dealer finishes dealing the hand.

  • If You Have The Winning Hand At Showdown – If you have made it to showdown with the winning hand, you must show both cards to claim the pot. Some players will try to only show one card, such as the card that’s made them a pair, but both cards must be shown to claim the pot.

  • If You Were The Last Aggressor At Showdown – The player who makes the last bet before the players show down their cards is the first person who has to show their cards. If you’ve played live poker, you’ve often seen the standoff where players refuse to show their hand at showdown, hoping the other player will do it first. If the dealer is properly implementing the rules, they will force the player who made the last aggressive action to show their hand first.

  • You Reach Showdown When Playing Online Poker – In online poker, every player’s hand is revealed at showdown, regardless of who the last aggressor was.

When Do You Not Have To Show Your Cards In Poker?

When To Show Cards in PokerThe four examples above are the only times where you are forced to show your hand first. In no other situation are you compelled to do so, and we recommend that you don’t show your hand unless you have to. Some beginner players may be tricked into showing their hands when it is not necessary, such as in the examples below.

  • When You Call With The Losing Hand – If you reach a showdown and you are not the last aggressor, you’re not forced to show your hand unless you’re trying to claim the pot. If your opponent has the best hand, you are free to muck your hand without turning it over.

  • When You Are All-In In A Cash Game – Unlike tournaments, cash games do not have a rule where all-in players are forced to table their hands. You are free to conceal your cards until all remaining cards have been dealt, and you are only forced to show them if you want to claim the pot.

  • When You Win The Pot Without Showdown – If all the other players in the hand fold and you win the pot, at no point are you obliged to show your hand. Other players at the table may try to convince you to show, but you’re under no obligation to show them – unless you’re feeling generous!

Why Is Showing Your Cards Bad In Poker?

Some of you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Why is it so bad to show your hand in poker?” Well, as we said at the beginning, poker is a game of incomplete information. One of the only things your opponent doesn’t know is your cards and how you play. If they can see your hole cards, your opponents can start to piece together your strategy. The more your opponents see your hole cards, the easier it is for them to understand how you play and adjust their game to exploit you. 

For example, if you’re the kind of player who plays your draws passively, it only takes a few instances of showing down missed draws before good opponents start to realise this. Once they understand that you play your draws passively, they can exploit you in all areas of your game:

  • They can fold more against your aggression, as they know your range will be weighted towards value.

  • They can aggressively bet into your checking range, as they know your range is more weighted towards draws.

  • On draws completing turns and rivers, they can play more aggressively if you had previously bet, and they can fold more if you previously played passively.

A good opponent can make all these adjustments just by seeing a few of your showdowns. This is why showing your cards in poker is a bad thing, and it’s a big reason why the best players win online. When you play online poker, all cards are shown when players reach a showdown. This means that good players have more opportunities to figure out how you play and adjust their game accordingly.

Natural8 Bet And Muck FeatureBet Muck Feature Natural8

This is why Natural8’s newest feature, Bet Muck, is a game changer for online poker. When you make an aggressive action on the river, you have the option to select the Bet And Muck function, which means that if your river bet is called, your hand is instantly mucked and cannot be seen by anyone at the table.

This greatly reduces the ability of sharp players to gain insight into your strategy, helping you to stay winning at the tables for longer. The best part about the feature is that your hand is still alive even if your river bet gets raised. You can decide whether to call, fold, or raise, and if you decide to raise, you can re-select the Bet And Muck feature again.

However, one thing to be aware of is that you lose the potential to win the pot when your hand is called if you use this feature, as your hand is automatically mucked regardless of the hand your opponent has. We’d advise that you only use this feature when you have a pure bluff that has no chance of winning at showdown; otherwise, you may be giving up some value!

Bet And Muck is only available in Hold’em, Omaha (including PLO5), Short Deck, Rush & Cash, and Spin & Gold games and only if there are two players left in the hand. You cannot cancel this feature once you have selected it, so make sure you’re certain you want to use it before clicking that button.

What To Look For In Your Opponent's Hands

While having to show your own cards in poker is a bummer, your opponents are in the same boat as you are. If you’re a good player, you should be looking at the hands your opponents show to pick up on patterns in their plays that you can exploit. If you’re not used to studying your opponent’s hands at showdown, here are a few things to look for.

  • Try To Find Patterns – You want to look for repeated patterns of play that your opponents are making. While it’s tempting to look at the outliers and make sweeping assumptions based on crazy hands, the most profitable way to exploit your opponents is to look for those repeatable patterns. How are they playing top pair hands? How are they playing draws? How are they playing weak hands? These are the questions you should try and answer when looking at your opponent’s hands.

  • Work Out Their Opening Ranges – Another thing to look for is whether the hand your opponent shows down is appropriate given their preflop position. Are they playing solid preflop ranges, or are they doing things like opening 5-3 from UTG? Knowing if your opponent is too wide preflop can help with your hand reading on later streets.

  • Work Out Their Playing Style – By looking at your opponent’s hole cards, you should be able to get a good idea of their overall playing style. Are they tight or loose? Are they aggressive or passive? Understanding your opponent’s style will help you understand how they play hands both pre- and post-flop and will help when you try to hand-read against them in later hands.

Summary

While showing your cards in poker is a necessary evil, it’s important to only do so when you’re required to. Otherwise, you’re giving up valuable information to your opponents. If you’re playing online, you can use Natural8’s helpful Bet And Muck feature to conceal your cards from your opponent when you make your river bet – why not see how useful it is for yourself?