Is it me, or is it easier to bluff and steal a pot when the pot is small and less is at stake? It seems like players are not quick to defend or contest when the stakes are "not worth it".

Can this be seen in markets? Do sellers dump near lows or not care to squeeze you when you are trying to trade through their midst when action has lost its edge? What are some examples where the markets let you steal a little–out of nothing more than fatigue or lack of interest?

George Coyle writes:

I think about this often but in a different way. Looking at the concept of the bluff from another perspective, the amount of capital a player has certainly influences play and outcomes in both poker and markets. The person at the table with the most chips can often “lean” on the other players without much risk. As an example, if the pot was say $25 then the person with $250 in risk capital will be exponentially more averse to attempting the bluff (or holding on to a questionable hand) than the person with $2500. In instances where you hold the majority of the chips the cost to see how things play out and/or wait for a potential reversal of fortune or increased probability of success with new cards coming out (or information/prices in markets) is worth it more often than not so long as the stakes don't get too high relative to your risk capital (unless you truly have a terrible hand then discipline is prudent). The blinds (commissions/spreads in markets) will eat away at the little guys in the meantime to the tune of a much greater % of holdings. Leads me to wonder if there are any studies to this effect showing the tipping point wherein an uneven distribution of holdings presents an inevitable conclusion in outcome (i.e. the big fish wins/the rich get richer) should the majority holder choose to play conservatively and never risk too much going “all-in” (and barring social revolution)? I would imagine Warren Buffett rarely gets margin calls and his “genius” at this point could just be by virtue of having the most chips and ultimate staying power (mindful that he did manage to get himself to his current position).

Similarly, I would imagine the player with the most chips wins hands s/he probably shouldn't (statistically speaking) by the same virtue. The film director Oliver Stone said, "Luck comes from persistence and talent. If you're talented your luck will eventually come." Perhaps this is the root cause of lots of modern success, a little well timed luck leading to a "lean" advantage which serves as a self-reinforcing phenomenon. In horse racing they use "claiming" races to account for this effect. These races have a fixed cost where the horse can be bought should anyone want to pay the cost. This keeps the $20k horses from consistently stomping the $4k horses (the owner of the $20k horse entering the $4k race would run the risk of having to lose $16k selling his horse at $4k). It would be interesting to see how markets would play out if a similarly tiered structure existed.

Scott Brooks adds:

Ken is right. When I played poker in the 80's (I played strictly 7 card stud back in the day), the size of the pot mattered. But at the same time, it also had to do with the pain associated with the final raise. Of course, the final raise wasn't the end all be all. It was the build up to the final raise……i.e. slowly suckering the guy in with a series of raises that were painful, but not so painful that he wouldn't make call the raise, or even raise the raise.

It was also helpful if earlier in the night you had the nut hand and suckered him into a sure loser hand (loser hand for him). It was key that when you suckered him into the sure loser that you not make the loss too painful. Save the pain for the big bluff to come later that night (or on another night….it might be weeks before you get cash on this set up).

One of the keys with this set up (I'm sure professional poker plays have a name for this set up, but I don't know what it's called) is that after you sucker him into calling your last raise, you show him your cards and tell him, "Fred, I'm sorry man, I stole it from you" (or some similar phrase). But it's very important that you show the cards in a humble manner, with a contrite look on your face, and say the words "Fred, I'm sorry man, I stole it from you", in the kindest most humble manner possible, looking almost ashamed. You are conveying to empathy to him.

But if you did all that right, later in the evening or even weeks later, you could sucker him into a big bluff. But you have to use this bluff wisely. You have to make sure that he's got a decent, but not great hand. You have to use your best judgment to determine that he has, at least a high straight but no more than a low full house. And you have to make sure that your hand is mystery to him, but that it doesn't appear to have the potential to be too big of a hand.

You have to slowly sucker him into matching raises or raising raises and suckering him in without him noticing the financial commitment he's made and how painful losing at this point would be. He needs to think that your bluffing again. You then hit him with a big raise, a raise large as to be painful……so painful that you can almost always see the fear on his face.

You can see the fear in his eyes as he realizes, "I've got a lot of money in this pot and losing this pot now would hurt, but I'd survive. But if I call his raise and lose, I'm gonna lose my house payment for this month".

At that point, you have them. The fear of losing this months house payment is too much and they usually fold out of fear.

You can then decide whether or not to show him your cards (since he didn't "pay to see them….i.e. he folded), either way, be gentle.

Later in the evening, make sure you're compassionate to him. For instance. If later on you have the "nut hand" and he wants to keep raising you (i.e. he thinks he can beat you), tell him, "Fred, I've got the nut hand". If you've done things right, Fred will know that you're being honest with him and fold. Show him your cards and let him know that you really did have the nut hand.

That way, Fred will have a good feeling about you (and feel less bad about his earlier losses) and will want to come back to the table, night after night after night so you can slowly bleed him of more and more capital.

That is how poker players bleed gamblers dry.

And that is why I quick playing poker. I couldn't stomach what I was doing. I loved the money, but not how I was making it. I couldn't look myself in the mirror.

If I win a trade or beat out a competing businessman I can feel good about that win. But I felt like a hustler win I took money from the "Freds" of the world.

Gains without integrity are hollow and empty….and if they're not, then you are a hollow and empty person. I was not that person. So I quit.






Speak your mind

2 Comments so far

  1. steve on July 18, 2010 8:49 pm

    In my experience, the big stack always has an advantage at the card table. If possible, in no limit games always be the big stack. buy in for the maximum rather than the minimum. It releases several psychological variables.

    One it allows you to be the table captain. You can push people around, create a table image and control the action. Cash is king. It also sends a message to the others that you are one to be reconed with. You are to be respected. It may be an illusion, a canard, but they do not need to know that.

    It also gives a message that you are a winner. Image is everything.

    Professionals always view the blinds as being vulnerable. Always watch the position, most people want to see the flop. They just do not want to put much at stake if they can look at 3 free cards.

    If allowed straddle. That is double the large blind in the dazrk. It gives you the last to act status. Very powerful in no limit to being able to act last. Plus it tends to kill the action ahead and to the left of you.

    Beware playing the last few hands of a session. In Florida card rooms close at 2Am. Players become quite reckless near the end of the evening.

    The analogies to stocks and index trading are obvious if one begins to think of it in this vernacular.

  2. steve on July 19, 2010 5:38 am

    One last thing about a bluff. In order for it to be effective there are several variables that need to be considered.

    The actual bet. How much are you going to put at risk.

    The type of bet. Was it a lead-out bet or a check raise.

    The bet with respect the cards yet to come out. This brings into the concept of implied odds. If for example you try a steal after the flop, the player may consider if he calls this bet, how much will it cost him to call the turn.

    The size of your stack. How much to you have in front of you. How much ammunition do you have at your disposal.

    The size of your opponents stack. How well capitalized is he.

    The position on the table. A big raise from early position look far more legitimate than later position. Many times that will be viewed as a steal.

    Your image. Do the other players see you as loose, aggressive, tight, rock, maniac, gunner, technical,boisterous, quiet, sheepish, smarmy.

    The other players image. It is sometimes easier to bluff a recreational player, a retired person, a woman. It is very difficult to bluff a highly competitive, certain ethnics,, an unstable, a short stack, an inexperienced person.

    How often do you actually bluff. In order for it to work you have had to done it in the past, shown it to the table, and only do it sparingly. For example if you have shown several winners in a row, it is easier to do a bluff.

    There is one last thought on a bluff, or an all in bet. It works every time except the last time.


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