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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lessons from MCU
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Lesson 148: The Bluffing Urge
Mike says that most players do not bluff properly.
When faced with opponents who call too frequently, your best strategy would be vowing not to bluff unless convinced it’s the proper action.
One of the most bankroll-deflating, bluffing decisions that players often make is to decide that, “Wow, I haven’t bluffed in the last several plays so maybe it’s time to try again.” Mike calls this the “inner clock” and deems it the worst manner in which to make a bluffing decision.
Maybe the theory behind “inner clock” has some substance. It’s necessary to keep your opponents wondering about the strength of your hands, so if they haven’t observed you bluffing lately, they may convince themselves that you actually have a strong hand.
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Well, Mike states that this rationale doesn’t make a strong enough argument to attempt bluffs in this manner in most real-world games. Why? Well, for one, most opponents aren’t astute enough to know how often you’ve tried to bluff. Their decisions to call are usually based on their hand power, or a little bird sitting on their shoulder whispering in their ear that there’s something fishy about their opponent’s bet. They rarely need a good reason to call; any suspicious action will activate their calling instinct.
In most of the games you’ll be playing, the timed frequency of your bluffing rarely matters. Your opponent’s awareness as to how often or whether you’re bluffing will usually not be a large factor in their decisions, since they’re always wondering about the strength of your hand anyway. They aren’t trying to determine if it’s time for you to bluff again.
So, the mere fact that you haven’t bluffed recently should seldom be a determining factor that it’s now time to do it again. Face it, your opponents came to the casino to call and that’s what they are going to do most of the time, so choosing to bluff is a risky choice.
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Remember, if you’re letting your “inner clock” dictate your sporadic bluffing strategy, you’re going to be damaging your bankroll more often than you’ll be increasing it. It’s necessary to have a specific purpose behind your bluffing besides timing.
Best to bluff
The best opponents to bluff are those that are easily intimidated and fold often. Also opponents who were low on chips and just increased their chip pile will be easier to bluff as they are now playing more conservative. Opponents who just joined the action are going to be a good bluffing target, too. They are going to cherish their chips in an attempt to begin the day by playing correctly, resisting the temptation to call, unless of course they have a good hand.
Limit games aren’t a place that you frequently want to practice your bluffing techniques. As for no-limit games, bluffing should be practiced very prudently.
Taking the credit
So, you think that you’re bluffing has been monetarily productive? The weak hands that you’re betting are winning? Have you considered that your opponent might merely have possessed an even weaker hand and chosen not to call? So, what if you give yourself credit for a successful bluff? That would be wrong. Tsk, tsk. How do you make the calculation that you should receive credit for a bluff? Did the other player show his hand? I don’t think so. You just assumed he was intimidated by you, right?
According to Mike, some of those bluffs that you thought you had achieved successfully probably weren’t bluffs at all. You should vow never to bluff unless the situation has all the makings for success. Otherwise, simply don’t bluff. In the long run, against standard players, if you follow Mike’s advice your bankroll won’t suffer.
Control the urge
The occasional urge to bluff is usually just below the surface waiting to spout its tempting head. That urge can be damaging to your bankroll. So, beware: An urge to bluff isn’t a good motive to do so. Control the urge! — DM
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