Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2009) in Poker Player newspaper.
Last time, as we continued this series of self interviews, the word was “Something.” It meant there would be no focus to the questions I asked myself — they just needed to be about something poker. Well, I liked the way that interview went, so I decided I wanted more of it. And that’s why today’s word is “More.”
Question 1: Do you think it’s necessary to advertise at poker?
If you mean, is it necessary in order to win, then no. But if you mean is it necessary in order to make more money, then often yes. I say often, instead of always, because there are some poker games in which opponents are fairly oblivious to what you say or do and play their cards like bingo. In those games, you don’t need to spend money on advertising.
Question 2: What’s the theory behind poker advertising?
The theory is that poker is just like any other business. You want customers. I’ll define “customers,” so you know what I’m talking about. In poker, a customer is your opponent and your products are your strongest hands from which you’ll earn more profit by making extra sales or being paid higher prices. At the most skillful level, a big part of poker is the business of selling hands.
In order to get more calls (sales) and higher prices, advertising is key. But you want to advertise cheaply, enjoying the most coverage for each dollar invested. Sometimes you can make a cheap advertising play and you’ll get “word of mouth” free advertising afterward, as your opponents (your customers) talk about it and often exaggerate its significance. This happens when you choose bizarre plays, rather than expensive ones for your advertising.
Playing a hand that’s a little weak for the situation isn’t good advertising, because your opponents make weak plays like that themselves. Great poker advertising tends toward the outrageous. You need to realize that every player faces borderline decisions and can either decide to make a call or not. Even the loosest players will call even more often against some players than against others. Advertising is really a method of shouting “Play me; choose me!”
As an example, in draw poker, I sometimes call the opener with a complete garbage hand. He’ll draw three cards. I’ll stand pat, taking none. He’ll check. I’ll check and just show down my worthless hand, giggling and losing. “Why didn’t you bet?” someone invariably asks.
I reply with something like, “I didn’t think it was the best hand,” or “I wasn’t trying to bluff.” This leaves the table scratching heads and talking about the play long after it happened. That advertising play only cost me a single bet!
Another example: I’ll sometimes overcall in a “family pot” behind a string of callers, declaring the often heard words, “The pot’s too big not to call.” Then I’ll throw my hand away immediately after calling. When questioned, I’ll just say, “Everyone says you’re supposed to call, but I didn’t realize you were supposed to play the hand, too.” Some opponents will be amused, but all will notice the advertising.
In general, you’ll get more calls in the future, and you’ve spent very little on this noticeable advertisement. It may seem silly, but you’ve drawn attention to yourself — and that’s what advertising is supposed to do.
Or, yet another example, I’ll bet a missed flush on the river against a single opponent and, before the opponent decides what to do, I’ll turn my cards face up, announcing, “See, I’m bluffing.” This usually costs me a single bet — a small one, if it’s no-limit. Or, sometimes, it even turns into a profit if the opponent raises.
I’ve discovered that most opponents don’t raise in this situation when they have me beat. They just call out of amusement or compassion. When I’m raised — especially if I hold an ace — there’s a high probability of a bluff, meaning the opponent couldn’t even beat my high cards. So, I study the opponent and sometimes call. However it turns out, it’s cheap advertising, the kind opponents will remember and talk about.
Some people tell me that opponents aren’t influenced by such ploys. But that’s completely wrong. Advertising is proven to increase profit when its costs are correctly weighed against its benefits. And poker is no exception.
Question 3: Should I bet all my money with ace-king in hold ’em?
The key to remember with ace-king in no-limit hold ’em is that you can move all-in with ace-king, but you usually shouldn’t call all-in. When you move all-in, opponents holding slightly superior hands, such as a high pair like queens, jacks, or 10s, are worried that you have a higher pair. You’re likely to win the pot immediately, but even if you’re called, you’ll still have an excellent shot at winning by pairing.
But if you call all-in with ace-king, you can’t win the pot immediately. You’ve got to hope the opponent moved all-in with an ace and a weaker kicker, a bluff, or a pair that you can then outdraw. This doesn’t usually compute. Calling a large all-in raise with ace-king is almost always wrong. Moving all-in with ace-king is usually okay.
Question 4: Do you have any guidelines for value betting into the player to your left?
Yes. Tend not to do it. You really don’t want to make aggressive bets into players to your left, because they have a positional advantage by acting last on future deals. You don’t want to engage them in a war of aggression. So, it’s best not to press small advantages which might motivate them to take advantage of their superior position.
If there are just two of you in the pot and the opponent is across the table, it’s more reasonable to make an aggressive value bet. You need to play much more timidly against opponents to your left. Don’t declare war. Don’t check-raise. Don’t value bet. Don’t agitate.
No more questions, please. Let’s meet again in two weeks. — MC
Next self-interview: Mike Caro poker word is Think