Monday, April 8, 2013

The Rest of the Story (Bluffing, part 2)

I’ve been gone from the “Internets” for the last couple of weeks, as the ice cream store has been open daily during Spring Break, and what a break it was – great weather, sold lots of ice cream, and never had time to play poker, let alone time to write about it.  So let’s get back on track…

In a way, selling ice cream is like playing poker.  It’s easy to make lots of money selling ice cream when the weather is nice; but when it’s cold and rainy, money is hard to come by.  In poker, it’s easy to know how to play your hand when you’re dealt a monster, but you can’t only play pocket Kings and Aces…you get your share of “rainy weather” too in the form of 8-3 offsuit.

So we bluff on occasion to keep the flow of money coming on the poker table (I haven’t figured out a way to do that in the ice cream biz – no way to bluff a milkshake, I guess).  And when we bluff, we want to be successful, and to do so, we need to be convincing about our hand.  Players fold when they think they’re beat, and the way you play and bet “tells” them they’re beat.  That’s why you raise instead of just limp – you’re sending a message about your hand – it’s “really good” (OK, grammar trolls, I know it’s supposed to be “very good,” but the dolts across from you on the virtual felt talk like that, so go with the flow, please).  When they call, see the flop of A-K-7 rainbow, and check, you bet like you own the pot (more on this in a moment).  What else could they conclude but you’ve got at least a pair of Kings, maybe Aces, hell, maybe two pair, and unless they got lucky and flopped trips, they’ll fold faster than cheap cardboard.  Story over, you win.  Simple.

When you “bet like you own the pot,” I mean a bet of half to two-thirds of the pot.  Remember, you’re telling a story, and the reality is you have nothing but air.  He might get lucky and have trips, or two pair, or even a low pair or four to a straight.  He might want to “take a flyer” and see one more card, and if he either gets lucky (again) or feels like taking a big chance, it’s doubtful any story you tell might discourage him from staying around to the end.  Especially at the lower levels, firing three blanks to bluff your way to success is risky for you, as some players will call you down if they catch ANY part of the board.  And some players like to trap.  Proceed with caution.

Last post I left you with a “story problem” (see the post below).  Two posters commented on the story (see comments), and both offer good advice.

The 80/20 rule here is similar to my thinking at first.  That is, given no prior history with the all-in player, I’ll give him credit for having what he says he has the first time unless I’m pretty sure I can beat him (I’d say 90%, not 80%).  I’d watch him carefully to see how often he “has it.”  Or claims he does, then, adjust accordingly.

And that’s the better advice given in the second comment.  One story does not a novel make, and in playing poker (especially tournament poker), you’re in it for the long haul.  You need to take time to understand your opponents.  They don’t call it a “read” for nothing – “read” other players to understand their tendencies (watch especially when you’re not involved in the hand…you can be more observant if you’re a bystander).

In making bluffs and reacting to other players, make sure that the story is consistent, believable, and told in a convincing matter.  Or I’ll blow your full house down.

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