McHaffie: MCU lesson 147 / Successful bluffing

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Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2009.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at diane@caro.com.


Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 147: Successful bluffing

So, do you want to bluff successfully? Then don’t hesitate when doing so! That’s right, be quick, be confident. If you hesitate while attempting a bluff, you’ll instill doubt in your opponent’s mind. He won’t believe that you have a kick-butt hand. Swiftness and confidence when bluffing is important, because these traits keep opponents from becoming more suspicious than they naturally are, anyway.

Wanting the call

Now, if you wish to get a call, then by all means, wait an extra few heartbeats before betting. Hesitation is often enough to increase the chances that you will receive the call, as your opponent will be more reluctant to believe that your hand will beat his.

As Mike is known to state, players come to the casino to call, not fold. They look for excuses to call and if you hesitate before betting, you have just given them the perfect excuse. You need to keep this in mind and smoothly work your opponent.

Even online poker can produce tells — not many, granted, but some. One is the time you wait to make a decision. Say that you want your opponent to call. Wait a little longer before clicking the wager button. Your opponent may now question the strength of your hand, thinking you weren’t sure.

Even though some opponents may figure the opposite — that you’re trying to trick them into calling — overall you’ll receive desired calls more often. Mike says that even if face-to-face opponents suspect that you’re conning them, they often still call and sometimes utter, approximately, “You didn’t need to hesitate, because I would have called anyway” — even though that’s a lie. Don’t practice this strategy too often as opponents who truly are baffled could get wise. Alternate times when you make delayed bets and when you bet instantly.

It’s odd but true, Mike says, that against certain types of no-limit opponents, you can entice a call by making a larger than usual bet. That tends to make some players distrustful and they’ll often instantly call.

Don’t

Keep in mind that if you’re faced with a frequent bluffer you shouldn’t try bluffing him very often, even if he’s just checked. After checking, habitual bluffers are less likely to have a weak hand — otherwise they often would often have bluffed. They’re more likely to hold a calling or raising hand than most opponents who check. Wisely check along. Let them hang themselves with their too-numerous bluffs, but don’t make the same mistake back at them. Ah, but you do want frequent bluffers to continue behaving in this fashion, so that you can often call them with better hands and take the pot. So, occasionally allow them to win with bluffs, when your call would be only marginally profitable. That way they’ll continue their reckless behavior.

Confused

Now, if you’re in a real casino, Mike likes to put doubt into his opponent’s head, which given his image is easy to do, by musing, “I may be bluffing this time, but probably not.” Would you bite? He has just issued an invitation to his opponent — one that will often be swallowed hook, line, and sinker. If you want a call, trigger it in a way that fits your image. But don’t be overt about it; subtlety works best.

If you want to bet, but don’t want a raise, because you hand only has a small advantage, try Mike’s either/or method. “Wow, I think I just may have made a straight, well – maybe not.” Your opponent is sitting there confused. Did you make it, or didn’t you? This prevents him from raising with two pair or three of a kind. The result is that you don’t need to ponder whether to call a raise as often when, for instance, you bet a pair of aces.

You can try talking your opponent into a call by creating doubt. If you’ve made a flush, you might start chatting, such as, “Obviously, I made I flush — what else could it be?” The player’s head will reel, trying to unravel the babble — and confusion breeds calls.

Yes, it’s exciting to bluff someone successfully, but don’t try too often. It’s easy to remember the occasions that bluffing paid handsomely and forget the times that you weren’t so fortunate. Bluff wisely and rarely. — DM

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