Tuesday Sessions 05: How to advertise in poker

Index to Tuesday Sessions

The following lecture was the fifth Tuesday Session, held October 27, 1998, and later appeared in Card Player magazine.

In previous columns, I’ve taken my classroom lectures at Mike Caro University of Poker and expanded them exclusively for Card Player. We covered Tuesday Sessions one through four. Today, I’m going to do something quite different, instead.

Today, we’re going to talk about Tuesday Session number five. We’ll look at the fifth Tuesday Session, held October 27, 1999. The title was…

"How to advertise in a poker game"

  1. Opponents want to call.
    Because most opponents come to games looking for reasons to call, you should think of them as shoppers who are ready to spend their money. When you have a strong hand, think of that hand as a product that you’re seeking to sell.

    Fine. Now, here’s the secret. You will earn a lot more money in the long run if you make opponents want to call you when they are having trouble deciding whether to fold. Sure, if they have reasonable hands, they will call no matter what. That’s their nature. But if they have sub-standard hands, they may or may not call. Getting these players holding substandard hands to call you – and know they would not call other players with those same losing hands – is part of the magic of world class play. Just think how much more money you can earn if you can get two such extra calls every hour!

    No, don’t just nod. Really think about it! Experts talk about the rarest and most skillful players earning two big bets an hour in profit. Some say two small bets an hour is more reasonable. Let’s middle it and say that in a $10/$20 game, it’s $30 an hour and in a $75/$150 game, it’s $225.

    That’s an excellent achievement, and you need to be extremely capable in many facets of poker to achieve this. Additionally, you need the cooperation of weak opponents. But, listen. That $30 or $225 an hour is their target – the number that top pros strive (and often fail) to achieve after years of practice and study. And here I am flat out telling you that you can get that much, and maybe more, just in extra calls alone!

    But, you are only likely to win calls if you have established the right image and advertised correctly. Advertising in poker is simply the art of convincing opponents to call you with very weak hands because they believe you are apt to be bluffing. So the trick is to bluff a lot less often than these opponents believe you do. (This doesn’t mean you can’t ever bluff successfully, however.)

    Advertising effectively earns money. Advertising ineffectively – just for show – can actually cost you money.

  2. Make it realistic.
    Try to make opponents think you are just playing a carefree game when you advertise. If you appear to be advertising, your strategy may backfire, and if it looks out of character, you may even seem ridiculous. I see top pros try to advertise by playing squeaky tight and rarely coming down with a weak hand and making sure every one sees it. But that "did you see this?" strategy just looks phony. Few are conned by it.

    It is far better to be playful in your demeanor whether you’re in a pot or not. You should be willing to gamble frivolously with break-even hands. You should be a joy to lose to, and joyful when you lose. The attitude I strive for is, "I just don’t care." Opponents are much more willing to buy that attitude and not think that they are being conned.

  3. Be fun to lose to.
    As I’ve just said, your opponents are less likely to think you’re conning them if you’re a joy to lose to and you don’t seem to mind losing. But, beyond that, they will be much more willing to part with their money if you don’t add psychological punishment to their defeats. Be a gracious winner and loser. If they play a poor hand, you can advertise by convincing them you sometimes play the same way (and you’ve been lucky doing so).

    Instead of criticizing a hand that beats me, which is a mistake some pros make, I often say, "Wow! I didn’t think you had that. Believe it or not, I won twice with that same hand yesterday. I don’t always play it, but I’m surprised it’s winning so often. Maybe it’s the hand of the month!" Laugh and have fun. Think about how different this attitude is from one that makes your opponents uncomfortable about playing poorly. Also, think about how many extra weak calls you might win from this opponent in the future, just because you’ve shown you won’t be critical of bad play and simply because he likes you!

    That’s right! Opponents will give you extra calls with borderline hands simply because they like you! But this will only happen if they also think that you are not painful to lose to and that you gamble, too.

  4. If you continue to talk about strange plays that you made (but call them good plays), opponents tend to believe you.
    After all, they’ve already seen you make these plays.

    I get tremendous mileage out of one or two very blatant plays. I like to spread hopeless hands. I want them to be so absurd that players will remember them and giggle with me. If I just play a lot of semi-weak hands, that’s not advertising. That’s just doing what they do. And they won’t notice.

    When you master the art of being playful, you can fold and describe ridiculous hands that "almost won," and opponents will think you really had them, because they saw one or two equally silly plays with their own eyes. Mastering this technique is an art form, and you risk seeming forced and phony unless you practice. But, it’s worth the effort. At best, you can make a single advertising play and make opponents think you’re playing frivolously all the time. This means many bonus calls that build your bankroll.

  5. Don’t claim that you bluff a lot.
    Claim that you don’t bluff as much as "everyone says." This has the same effect and is more believable.

  6. Be careful when you advertise.
    Your advertising dollar may be wholly or partially wasted if: (a) not everyone is paying attention; (b) your game is temporarily short handed; (c) you’re not going to stay long; (d) your game may break; (e) the game is very loose and seems crazy enough that your advertising may not add that much extra. In these cases, I don’t bother to advertise.

  7. In tournaments:

    Don’t advertise if your table will break soon.

    Do advertise (if at all) just before the limits increase.

Advertising is creative art. You need to practice. The perfect accomplishment is to get opponents to start talking about your plays, so that you don’t have to mention them yourself. When this happens, you can profit greatly. Repeating: You should bluff and you should advertise much less often than opponents believe you do. – MC

Next Tuesday Session

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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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  1. I like to self-depreciate a bit, and it seems to help keep the table light hearted and in a good mood. When I make what appears to be a bad call or fold, I’ll show and comment about how bad I am.

    This seems to aggravate the better players, who then try to bluff me more, and it encourages the fish to gamble with me when they have ace rag.

    Either way, excellent points Mike, and happy belated birthday.

    Straight flushes!

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