On Showing Bluffs
By Bob Garcia
If you ever show me a bluff, what you’re really telling me is that you do not bluff enough.
Whenever I see a guy show a bluff in a live tournament, I inwardly laugh my ass off.
A guy who shows a bluff is a lot like a guy who brags about getting laid. He’s pretty much telling everyone this is a rare event for him.
If you pull off a number of bluffs in any tournament, then you are unlikely to want to show anyone that you do so.
That’s like Coca-Cola giving away the recipe.
I still think I have a ton to learn when it comes to poker. But I also have my trick pitches.
I know how to get a fold when I need one. It doesn’t always work, but I get enough bluff bets through to build stacks consistently and keep my journeyman career afloat.
I’m not nearly as good at bluffing as many of my more talented colleagues. Nine times out of ten, I have the hand. I started this game as a nit, and deep down I am still a nut peddler.
That said, even I don’t show bluffs. The reason for that is I’m likely picking on a specific player or situation. I don’t want anyone to know I have an expanded bluffing range in that spot.
My friends who are a hundred times the player I am? The ones who own three homes and take their wives to the opera every Thursday night? I’ve never seen them show a bluff. Not once. They bluff people left and right, but they don’t want anyone knowing it.
Even after the tournament, when the opposing player catches up with them, they still won’t say they had a bluff. They’ll go, "I had middle set mate, you made a good fold."
You know why they do that? Because no matter how nice of a private school their kids are in, deep down they’re still cold-hearted hustlers.
Pool sharks never let a mark know how good they are. The idea is to always say, "oh, I guess that game got away from you huh?" You don’t rub a guy’s face in his mistakes.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, like there are exceptions to every poker rule.
The last time I can remember showing a big bluff was in a Sunday major tournament. First place was $400,000+ (yeah I know, these were the good ol’ days). I had a guy two to my left who was normally a tight player, but he started playing back at me. It turned out, he was really good at this poker game!
I got a little pissed off and decided to see if the kid had a big call in him. I triple barrel bluffed…a 6-2o.
I know, I know. It was reckless. Extremely stupid even. This was back when I cared more about my ego than the money.
Anyway, he folded his hand and I showed. To my knowledge, that’s the only major bluff I’ve shown since I was 22. I am 30 now.
I felt stupid after I showed the hand, but looking back, I think that’s the only time you should show. He was in a prime position to play back at me. After I showed him I could bluff, he went back to his nit shell, and left me alone. Every time I continuation bet after that he asked himself, "can I call three streets?" and when the answer was no, he would fold.
Other than that, 99% of the time you want guys to think you have the hand. It’s best to look a little mournful as you toss your cards into the muck. If someone asks what you had just say, "good fold." Don’t say it loud, and don’t say another word.
Then, you’re a real hustler. You want people thinking the deck is just hitting you over the head. You don’t want them thinking you have game.
Poker players are much better now than they were back when I was 22. If you show a bluff today, people are going to be trying to pick you off left and right!
Just always pretend like you had something. Pretend to be bumbling with second pairs. Don’t act like you have any idea what "turning your hand into a bluff" is.
This applies to when you get caught bluffing. If someone raises you all-in and you have nothing, take your time. At least a few seconds. Ask if a second or top pair type of hand is good. Put it in their mind you’ll raise one pair. Then, they’ll have no idea what the hell you have whenever your raise. Your range will include anything.
Sometimes, if you take 30 seconds or more, you’ll get them to show a bluff. And then you have a treasure trove of information. Such as their timing tells. Their comfort level. Their sizing preferences.
Finally, if anyone ever catches you in a big bluff, make it the greatest day of the guy’s life.
I have bluffed out of two live event majors in the past eight years. I don’t normally get caught on the river, but on these two occasions I did.
When I got caught, I turned my hand over right away, shook the guy’s hand, and clapped him on the back. "Very good call," I said.
We have to remember that, at the end of the day, poker is entertainment. If we’re making a living off of this, we have to keep the game fun for others.
And if we’re really that good at bluffing, it doesn’t cost us anything to be gracious the few times we’re caught.
Good luck to all of you.