Remember the scene in Rounders when Matt Damon's character happens upon his professor's card game and deduces each player's hand? He states that in a game like this, "I wouldn't even need to look at my cards." This is your first trial—to play blind.
How to set up your test for success (or at least not a bankroll-shaking failure):
Play a home game among opponents you have experience. Make sure that your skill level is on par with theirs or above. After all, you are giving them quite a handicap. Begin play as usual to get into your "poker zone" and let the other players think this is a normal game. After a couple deals around the table, stop looking at your hole cards.
When playing blind the most important thing to remember is to maintain the illusion that you know your cards' value. If your opponents notice that you aren't looking, well...you'll have to start looking. I usually turn up the corner of my hole cards slightly with my hand covering the value and glance down. Your opponents will never know the difference.
You will quickly find that there are some advantages to playing the unknown. Suddenly, there is no reason to worry whether or not you are being read. The stress of maintaining a perfect poker face falls down the priority list. In fact, if you come across a player who verbally works out what he thinks you hold, it can be quite humorous.
The power of this exercise is that it takes out certain aspects of play so that you can focus on reading—reading the cards, reading the players, reading everything. Think of the blind man who develops a more acute sense of hearing. Working out your odds of improving is irrelevant, so you can more easily delve into the mind of your enemy.
I'll leave you with a couple tips to help you on your way.
- Confidence is everything. If you don't have it at first, you will after the first pot you take blind.
- You are bluffing, but you aren't bluffing the strength of your hand, you are bluffing the weakness of your opponents'.
- Just because the only way you can win is by getting others to fold doesn't mean you should never fold yourself. If your opponent acts as you know he does with the strongest hand, fold. In the purest sense of the game, you should fold blind, but if you want to check your cards for the unlikely nuts, go ahead.
- When blind, the best early position pre-flop strategy is folding. So if you don't want to waste these hands there is an option of playing quasi-blind. Pre-flop, check your cards when you are either first or second to act and play the top five starting hands when applicable. Stay blind for all other scenarios.
- Use the force, Luke.