More truth from old poker notes


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (1993) in Card Player magazine under the title “We continue to sift through old poker notes. And we learn plenty!”


Here comes another column where I invite you to help me sift through my faded poker notes from the past. You’ll have a good time, but please bring your own bottle.

Whenever I plan a poker seminar, like the one scheduled for August 6 at the Bicycle Club Casino, I sit and think. And the longer I sit, and the harder I think, the more likely I am to decide to read my old notes. This always gives me new insights, leads me to do fresh computer research and to discover things I was unaware of. I often use my seminars as a forum to share these new discoveries. So, let’s look at two more of these notes now.

When to bluff. In general, save your bluffs for tight or knowledgeable opponents. They enjoy folding with strong hands. Get every extra penny of value by betting marginally strong hands into loose or naive players. They enjoy calling with weak hands.

The more, the scarier. The greater the number of opponents, the less eager you should be to bluff. But suppose your opponents have no common sense, and each one calls exactly 50% of the time in a limit game. They don’t care how many players are involved in a pot — half the time they’ll call and half the time they won’t. Against a single opponent, you should always bluff for less than the size of the pot. By doing so, you’ll win half the time and your total profit will always outpace your long-range losses. If the pot is $100 large and it costs $10 to bluff, you only need to win once in eleven tries to break even. Study the chart at the end of today’s column.

You can see that against opponents who will call or not call 50 percent of the time simply on the strength of their hands, you shouldn’t attempt to bluff against more than three opponents. In practice — as poker is really played against live human beings — most of your bluffing should be reserved for a lone opponent or for situations where you can discount one of two possible callers. This applies to limit games in which you’re always betting less than the pot size and no-limit games in which you do so voluntarily. Now the chart…

Chart description: $40 in pot before action starts; you and your opponents then bet $10 each. On final round, you bluff for $10. Each opponent is 50% likely to call.

Number of Opponents Size of Pot % Called by someone Your Profit
1 $60 50 $25
2 $70 75 $10
3 $80 87.5 $1.25
4 $90 93.75 -$3.75
5 $100 96.88 -$6.56

 — MC

Published by

Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.

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