By Jason King
Since the rise of Texas Hold'em and it's subsequent fame and exposure on the national television level; It's becoming ever more apparent to the general public just how large a tool bluffing is in regular play. And what a great tool it is. I mean who hasn't dreamed of taking down trips with that ever so powerful 3 8 off suit, right? But as much as I love the bluff, I can't help notice the fundamentally poor use of it by novice and not so novice players. Yes, betting is important to the successful bluff. As is disguising tells, table image, etc. But I believe the most overlooked, fundamental rule of bluffing, is knowing what you're bluffing with.
Years ago, when I was at Florida School of the Arts studying to be an actor, we learned an important trick to memorizing lines. In a script often there is a cut off line, a line where another character is suppose to interrupt your sentence and the sentence trails off like this
"Stella, you have to get out of here before."
The . is the spot where Stella jumps in over your line and tells you she loves you more than anything. But what if Stella forgets to jump in, what if she's looking off into space or forgets her line, you can't just stop talking half way through your sentence, or the audience will sense that something's not quite right on stage. So instead, what you do is make up an end to that sentence in your head, a line that's not really in the play that you can just keep on rambling off until she realizes it's her turn to speak.
The same goes in poker, you never want your audience to know if there's something wrong on stage. Even if everything is a train wreck, you want them to think that it's going along peachy keen.
It works like this. When your bluffing, your essentially lying to the other players and telling them your holding gold when your actually holding rags. But if you don't know what gold your "suppose" to be holding, it's a lot easier to get tripped up in your lie. So, don't draw attention to yourself, know what your projecting to be holding and don't change it up. To pull off this performance correctly and get paid for your Oscar worthy job, you need to bet, call, check, talk, gesture, and whatever else you need to do like you are actually holding that hand.
EXAMPLE: Your holding rags, and the flop falls
You get a feeling of weakness off your opponent. You feel he's holding nothing so you want to take a shot at picking this one up. SO you're going to bluff. But, what FICTIONAL hand are you holding. 69s ? Then your opponent will wonder why you would be in the hand in the first place. So you have to play your cards smartly, like your playing a hand that was worth going in on in the first place. AKs sounds better to me, but it's not that cut and dry. You have to take all of the game into consideration. What have you gone in on in the past? What has he seen you go in on? Have you played this guy often? Do you normally play rags anyway? What is he holding? It's hard to bluff the As when he has the As on his side of the table. All of this information has to be calculated in providing your image to your opponent. Make the most logical decision of what cards you're representing and then.
STICK TO THEM
If the turn comes and now there would be better cards for you to be representing, you still stick with your original cards. It'll lend more continuity to your hand. The audience won't see that something's going wrong on stage. And in the end you'll wind up with more credibility in your opponents eyes. And more of a chance for him to lay his big monster down. Which is why we climbed up on the stage in the first place. Right?
In my experience. Knowing what your representing has sharpened my bluff up considerably, and put more money in my pocket. Which is a good thing. Use the force wisely and it can be a powerful ally.
And one more thing, the show doesn't have to go on. One of the most important things in bluffing is knowing when to come off of the damn hand. Things change. Traps get set. If you get caught, dump your hand. If the turn comes and some of the gold that's suppose to be in your hand is now out on the board, dumping your hand could be the best idea. Feel it out, sometimes you can still but your way through the hand. With others you might just need to push your cards to the center of the table and go back into rehearsal for your next big performance.
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