The highest hand does not always win

By Edwin Osorio.  A translation from the Spanish

It is not that easy to make a big bet without a good hand to back it up, but since discovering poker, I’ve been tempted to make a risky bluff when I’ve been in control. Though this may seem like a contradiction in terms, it is one of the resources of a good card player.

Anyone can bet with a good hand, but you need to have a special ability to raise with an inferior hand.

If we analyze it from the opposite view-point, this is when opponents play erratically with good hands and lose the initial advantage the better cards gave.

I remember an anecdote that may serve as an analogy:

There was a gigolo who was very attractive to women, with piercing eyes, perfect features and an athletic figure. A wealthy but down-to-earth woman approached him and said, “You are a very attractive man.”

“Tell me something that I don’t already know,” he replied.

“Try and use it to your advantage,” she retorted.

I’ll never forget that dialogue, and I think he won’t either, as the next day he found out that she was fabulously wealthy and could have provided for his every need.

I must confess that my first approaches to poker had me nicknamed ‘the rock’ – for those who are not used to the language of the game, this means that the vast majority of the time I was folding my cards and bet just when I had a good hand. Perhaps that was the reason one of my main goals was to learn to bluff. So I’d remember Sun Tzu and his masterful teachings, especially the precept that you should act as if you had no shape, because that which has a shape can be defined, and that which can be defined can be overcome.

Ready for battle, I chose a suitable battlefield, which was a table with very low bets and players who didn’t know me or my game, for applying the oriental master’s teachings. I admit that at first I wasn’t even aware of how I was playing:  I must even confess that I played stupidly, occasionally getting lucky.

It was an economist who said that only smart moves can be predicted, and that afternoon I finished with a negative balance in my account, but the lesson was already learned. I remember another of the sayings of the Chinese sage was “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”

This I already experienced so I next played like a maniac with the original players, and there is no better tactic to employ for someone whose nickname was once the “rock”. So the next time I played against this group everything was easier still: thanks to my new reputation as a “maniac” I managed to hook them with the kind of bets they would have refused if I had still been the “rock”.

I am pleased to say that my gains were substantial. They could have been higher, but to keep my reputation of being an erratic player, I had to bet with some poor hands.

In fact, poker is the same as acting, if you want to succeed, do not let them typecast or pigeonhole you.

[1] Tzu, S., 2004. El arte de la guerra. Buenos Aires. Recuperado del link

Image ‘World War II toy soldier falling on battlefield’ by Horia Varlan

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