The term “Fancy Play Syndrome” was coined by Mike Caro. It designates the psychological yearning to invent creative plays that are non-fundamental in nature for amusement or to show off. Of course, those players justify it the plays by thinking they have an edge, most don’t.
Solid play of solid cards is generally the best option, particularly, though not always, in limit play. But NL offers lots of opportunities for non-standard creative plays. And those that don’t take advantage of them end up missing out on many profitable opportunities. Errors in poker aren’t the just mistakes you made, they are also opportunities you failed to capitalize on.
Most players, particular those new to poker, focus on learning an ABC style of poker. In this situation you make this play; in another situation you make a different play. It’s relatively easy to learn and you can beat weak opposition playing a quality ABC game. But as you start playing deep-thinking opponents, they adjust to your play, and in order to be able to play at their level you need to constantly adjust to their adjustments.
It gets complicated. And it requires a conceptual understanding of poker. If you understand why you make a given play, you can locate situations in which the concept is applicable. By understanding why a concept works, you’ll envision “fancy plays” that can exploit situations.
For instance, you might notice a given player calls you with position on a draw-heavy board, and thinks you’ll check a draw on the turn, but bet a made hand. Whenever you check the turn he bets and if a draw doesn’t hit bets the river again. You should check some made hands to him, and check them twice if the draws don’t hit. By doing so, you get him to bluff his air, thereby getting value from his air range. And/or you might want to check the turn and bet the river when a draw hits in an attempt to get him to fold stronger hands in his range, assuming he’s capable of making big laydowns. Whether either a play is correct depends upon the pot size, effective stack size, bet-size required and your opponent’s tendencies, but the point is you need to think about non-standard options as a way of achieving additional edge.
Taking the time to think through your opponents’ thought process, and design exploitive counter-plays will give you lots of opportunities to create edge for yourself that others will miss. It will add further value to your game by making you much harder to read.
However, if you’re doing “fancy plays” because you want to be perceived as smart by your opponents, or for that matter, yourself. Mike’s right! Don’t do it.
Poker is a game of logic; remove your emotions and psychological nuances from your game. You’ll play much better if you do!