Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2010) in Poker Player newspaper.
If you want to win big money at poker, you’ve got to know how to tease. It’s an important concept that isn’t fully understood by most players. We’ll deal with it in today’s self-interview.
Question 1: What do you mean by teasing in poker?
There are two types of teases. One is semi-flirtatious, but not in a sexual way. I use that to create a personality that opponents like playing against. The strange thing is, I feel comfortable doing this, because I genuinely enjoy my opponents’ company while I’m in a game.
Nobody has one single personality. All of us adapt to the circumstances and the people that surround us.
I’m comfortable with my lively and bizarre poker personality. That’s who I am while I’m sitting in a game, but I would never use it in a real-life business meeting.
We are all chameleons. And if that weren’t true, we’d never be able to adjust to changing social situations. If we had just one personality and it never changed, nobody would get along, at least not very often. We need to be flexible and evolve as our surroundings change.
So, yes, I tease at poker. It simply means I present myself as someone who’s fun to play against, someone opponents will reward with extra calls.
The second type of tease is more strategic. When I have a huge hand, I’ll tend to tease it along by checking or making small bets, hoping opponents will pounce. Be sure to ask me a question about that.
Question 2: I will, but first: Why would opponents call you more often than other players? If they’re loose, they’ll call anyone, right?
I’ve often heard it said that you’re wasting your time going out of your way to get loose players to call. They’ll call anyway. That is just so very, very wrong! Often they’ll call anyway, but sometimes they won’t.
Each player has a spectrum of hands he or she is likely to play and a spectrum of situations that trigger calls. This spectrum fluctuates for most players, depending on their moods, whether they’re winning, how the stakes they’re playing for affect their bankroll, and more.
Still there is a spectrum. At the extreme high end are hands that will always be played no matter what. At the extreme low are hands that are borderline and will sometimes be played.
Here’s the secret. Most of your profit comes from the hands loose opponents play at the low end of their spectrum. That should be obvious, because those are their weakest hands.
But listen! The money they invest at the low end, with their weakest hands, is discretionary. They can decide at whim to play or not play. And guess what? They’re usually going to play low-end, discretionary hands against opponents who make them feel the most comfortable, not against opponents who are apt to belittle them for their weak hands.
The secret gets even more powerful, because if you can tease players into wanting to play against you, they’ll actually extend their spectrum downward into still weaker territory – especially for you! Remember, these are the weakest and most profitable hands you’re going to play against.
And if you get to play against them much more than anyone else, you win a lot more money. So, isn’t it worth teasing opponents into liking you?
Question 3: I’m sold, but how do I tease players into liking me?
The best psychological tease in poker is to never be critical of an opponent’s play. When you tell an opponent he made a mistake, particularly if you’re sarcastic or mean-spirited, you’re making him uncomfortable.
Then he’s unlikely to do the same thing again against you. You’ve made him play better, for fear of being ridiculed.
But you’ve done something far worse. You’ve cut yourself off from your main stream of profit – the discretionary hands at the low end of that opponent’s selection spectrum. This means lots less money for you and lots more money for those who are fun to play against.
The second best psychological tease in poker is to play weak hands. If you play hands that are just a little weaker than usual, that’s bad advertising. Opponents will merely yawn, because they play the same slightly substandard hands. The trick is to play really outrageous hands and then giggle.
This makes weak opponents comfortable and inspires them to play even worse. You’ll lose money on your advertising, of course. Advertising costs money
But if you do it effectively, it’s worthwhile and opponents will laugh along and talk about ridiculous hands you played. Don’t be surprised if some of those stories are about hands that never happened.
People hear things, repeat things, and exaggerate on your behalf. You get a free PR campaign, so you don’t need to advertise often.
Question 4: Okay, you wanted me to ask about the second form of teasing – the kind you do strategically. So, I’m asking.
Strategic teasing should usually be reserved for stronger opponents. They need to be sophisticated enough to be teased.
The simplest example is checking super-strong hands and letting opponents bet. I like to check-call, check-call again, and then check-raise on the river.
Even if your early betting round attempt turns out to be check-check, it’s often advantageous to check again on the next round. Sophisticated, aggressive foes can’t stand to leave a pot without a wager. They become more and more likely to bet the more times you check, so don’t give up if the first check fails to tease a bet.
Tease again. On the second try, you’re even more likely to succeed than you were the first time.
In no-limit games, I tease strong opponents with small bets when I hold powerful hands. This tactic works better than any other, if you don’t use it so often that it becomes transparent.
A small bet is like choosing the right fishing lure. It’s not right against loose opponents who will call, but it’s perfect for aggressive opponents whose raising instincts are irrationally triggered.
So, you need to learn to tease at poker. It’s an art form that will generate a great share of your profit. — MC
Next self-interview: Pending