This IS a poker post, all about bluffs and what (not) to do.
This time of year we get lots of different birds at our two feeders in the backyard. Right now we host Chickadees, two types of Blue Jays, Juncos, Doves, Flickers, and Thrashers (though not all at the same time). There is a (pardon the pun) “pecking order” as the littler birds wait their turn if there’s a crowd.
The Western Scrub Jay is pretty polite, but his cousin, the Steller’s Jay, barges in whenever he feels like it. What a jerk. When he comes swooping in, everyone scatters, especially the little Chickadees. They then go over to the grape arbor and wait (we call it the “staging area”).
Sometimes, one of the little Chickadees makes a bluff.
You see, what scares the other birds isn’t a fight, but a FEAR of a fight with a bigger bird. Hence, when the Jay comes a callin’, everyone takes flight, ‘cause here comes a BIG BIRD. I’ve seen the Chickadee bluff more than once, and it’s quite effective.
One of the little guys takes off from the grape arbor, and then is careful how he approaches the bird feeder where Mr. Steller’s Jay is busy eating. With the sun at his back (in the eyes of the Jay), he comes in with wings WIDE open, flapping. Essentially, he’s saying “WATCH OUT FOR THE BIG BIRD.”
And these birds relate to bluffs in this manner…a bluff is a story. When you make a bluff, you’re trying to represent is a good, believable story. The Chickadee’s story is believable because with the sun in his eyes, the Jay can’t really tell HOW big the bird coming at him really is...all he knows is that it looks like a BIG BIRD and he takes off.
At the poker table I too often see bluffs on the river where there really has been no good reason to believe my opponent holds what he’s representing to hold. The board is tepid, with no possible straight, flushes, or big hands. If he hasn’t made any bets so far, and then comes out with a bet…just what is he supposed to have? Usually these bluffers are just taking a stab at a pot that no one has indicated desire for, and they’re just tossing something out there in hopes you’ve already clicked your FOLD button (don’t do that, by the way).
Sometimes they overbet, playing little bird with the sun in your eyes. They’re saying, “No one wants this pot, and I’ve made a huge bet to take it, so WATCH OUT.” If you’ve been watching this player in other hands, you know whether or not they usually have the goods.
This type of player likes to steal pots like the Chickadee steals bird seed. Don’t let the sun get in your eyes – know your opponents, and only play hands you can defend against types like these.
Any other strategy is for the birds.