"Fancy Play Syndrome," also known as, "FPS" refers to the process of playing a hand in an overly creative way when a straightforward, standard line would have been better over the long term. More experienced players are able to plan and execute a creative approach in a profitable way, however for those of us who are still learning "ABC" poker, we probably won't need to worry about applying this concept yet. However, I find it interesting that advanced players can choose to make standard plays or deviate from the "ABC" of poker.
In this blog post I am going to explore this concept and address the following question:

When does "creative play" become "FPS?"

Firstly, it’s important to consider what the difference between creative play and standard play is. The standard approach of “ABC” poker refers to taking conventional lines which are known to be profitable in the long term and work well against unknown opponents as well as new or unfamiliar situations.

An example of the standard approach is when considering bet sizing pre-flop: the standard open raise is 3xBB + 1xBB per limper. Another example is selecting a stronger starting hand range in EP. Bet sizing and starting hand selection are aspects of poker which complement each other, as weaker or newer players tend to size their bets according to their hand strength. By considering and applying the concept of standard bet sizing, the strength of a hand is concealed and thus eliminates any “bet sizing tells” to better and observant players. I came to know of this convention only after taking the courses here at PSO and posting some past hands in the hand analysis forum, so I definitely recommend all players to make the most of these resources:

1. Hand Analysis Forum - https://www.pokerschoolonline.com/articles/Poker-Hand-Reviews
2. Courses - https://www.pokerschoolonline.com/courses

In contrast, ‘creative’ play describes favouring an unconventional approach to standard lines and is certainly an advanced form of poker. It’s like thinking outside the box. When the creative spirit within a poker player awakens, it creates inspiration to take an innovative and original line. Although it can help to gain an edge, whether the deviation from the standard conventions of poker is +EV or –EV depends on many factors and if done correctly could be profitable over the long term.

As mentioned earlier, creative plays are more suitable for the advanced player, where a deviation is carefully planned and effected in the correct situations and occasionally, also depending on any reads, and if there is history with any of the opponents at the table. Examples of more complex moves include squeeze play and trapping loose opponents. 

According to Roger von Oech (creativity theorist), creative thinking involves, “imagining familiar things in a new light, digging below the surface to find previously undetected patterns, and finding the connections among unrelated phenomena.”  This can certainly relate to the process of coming up with a creative way of playing a hand.

Psychologists have also identified a process of different stages in creative problem solving:
1. Preparation: searching and filtering for relevant information
2. Incubation: taking in all the information and “digesting” it
3. Illumination: formulating an answer or solution – the "light-bulb" moment
4. Translation: putting insights into action!

Whilst creative thinking and problem solving can help with the decision making process, there is a danger of falling into the phenomena of fancy play syndrome. Making too many different “moves” too often will inevitably lead to FPS. Exaggerating with creative plays will result in spewing chips, alters your table image, and losing in spots where you wouldn’t normally lose if a standard approach was taken. Another aspect to consider with this is that not all players may be aware or understand a move you are trying to make. Therefore, you could encounter more difficult decisions if unknown villains fail to recognize what you are trying to achieve by deviating from the standard.

Furthermore, creative play can be advantageous when used by experienced players who can use the correct deviations against the right opponents in the right situations. However, playing creatively too often with too many different moves can turn the sophisticated concept of creative play into the losing proposition of FPS.

To conclude, whilst it may seem exciting to take a leap of imagination via creative lines, it’s best to have great knowledge and understanding of the basics first and having a solid approach to poker using the standard or “ABC” approach before expanding to more advanced or creative play.