We talk a lot about “advertising” in poker. Before you read it, you need to know that it probably is not an approach that you should adopt.
In order to make it work for you, you need to do much more than just put on a show. You need to fully understand your opponents and all of the strategic options available to you. You need to have mastered almost every aspect of the form of poker that you're playing. You need to be vastly superior to the particular field of opponents that surrounds you right now. And, even then, this approach may just cost you money. So, you've been warned.
Today's Word is ‘Control'
OK, suppose that I'm about to sit in a poker game. Imagine it. Look, quick! There's the Mad Genius about to take the No. 6 seat in a $50-$100 jacks-or-better game.
Wanna know what's going on in my mind? Am I thinking, “Gee, how can I present my most professional image?” No. Am I reviewing odds, statistics, and secret strategy? Nope. Am I giving myself a spirited lecture on poker discipline? Not me. Stop guessing; I'm going to tell you exactly what I'm thinking.
It is this: How can I give away $500 to $1,000 in the first 20 minutes? As you know, sometimes it isn't easy to unload so much money against unsuspecting opponents in such a short time. Once in a while, good cards will land your way and it's hard to keep yourself from winning. That's when giving away one or two buy-ins takes a special talent. I have it. Throwing off this money isn't just a minor objective, it is my major mission, and for the next 15 hands, little else matters.
There's a science involved here. You see, since I'm bound and determined to get rid of that much money, it's essential that I realize the biggest possible advantage for every dollar spent. Yes, it's advertising, but making sure that it goes to the right people, that it gets the right responses, and that it establishes the right image is an art form.
Just a loan. There's one thing that you should know right now — that $500 to $1,000, all of it, probably is coming right back to me. I'm not really giving it away. I'm only lending it temporarily, spreading it to the spots at the table where it will do the most good. Unless the cards are very unfavorable over the next few hours, I will be able to call it back in anytime I feel like it — with interest!
This method must not be used by anyone except very advanced poker students. And it shouldn't be used for every game, only some games, sometimes when the chemistry is right. It isn't my intention to explain the theory or the techniques today. Instead, I want you to be aware of these important concepts:
1. Get your opponents' attention as soon as possible after you enter a game. Attention allows you to control your opponents. When you are the one force to be reckoned with at your table, players will make weak calls, allowing you to profitably bet hands that you could not have otherwise bet. And because your image is confusing, your opponents will become less aggressive and thereby will stop getting maximum value out of their own hands. Once this happens, you can win almost at will. You can establish this image in several ways. Advertising is only one of them.
2. There are times when you never should advertise. One is if the game may break up shortly or if you don't intend to play long. That would be like buying a full-page ad in a national magazine and closing your business before it hits the newsstands. Another time that you shouldn't advertise is when your table is short of players. Wait for a full audience. Also, don't advertise while players are focusing on something unrelated to poker. If an argument is in progress, you aren't getting full attention.
These are advanced concepts. If they seem bewildering, file them away for future reference. Goodbye.
A weird psychological lecture. At about the same time that column appeared, I wrote this one. It may have value to your bankroll, and it may not. Nevertheless, deep inside of my mind, it strikes me as being important. But, then, deep inside of my mind is not necessarily a place that you want to visit. Here it is:
Raise your hand if you have ever felt out of character in a poker game — 76, 77, 78, and three in the back row. That's 81, unless I missed somebody. OK, how many have always felt completely comfortable playing poker? Hmm, only six of you.
Does this tell us anything important? Sure. First of all, it accents something that I contributed to Doyle Brunson's book Super System — A Course in Power Poker many years ago.
Most people are prevented from living life as they want. In childhood, they're required to do chores that they hate. They grow up having to conform at school. As adults, they must shake hands that they don't want to shake, socialize with people whom they dislike, pretend that they're feeling “fine” when they're feeling miserable, and “act” in control of situations in which, in truth, they feel frightened and unsure. These people — the majority of the folks you meet every day — are actors. Deep within themselves, they know that they are not the same persons they pretend to be.
The need to act. The point is simple and powerful. Most players know that they must act in order to disguise the true strength of their poker hands. On a primitive level, they have only one method of misleading you: They pretend to be weak when strong, and they pretend to be strong when weak. That's the central concept behind the science of tells, the art of reading your opponents. When you apply that proven magic, you get to spend their money and they don't get to spend yours. For instance, you'll save bets simply by knowing that players who sigh, shrug, or bet with sad voices actually are holding powerful hands.
But that isn't really what I wanted to say to you today. Instead, let's deal with this: Often when you feel out of character, it's because you're roping off a room where no walls exist. This is not some trivial truth that can wait till winter. It's a major Mad Genius truth, and I want you to know it now. Some people think, “This is me and I go from here to here, but never there, and if I ventured beyond these limits, well, that just wouldn't be me anymore.”
Well, trust me, nobody's really in character or out of character — not ever. It's always you, wherever you go, whatever you do. It's you! Winning in life and in poker requires the ability to adapt and still feel like yourself, and to recognize when others feel unnatural. We all bring our boundaries with us wherever we go, but broad borders work best.
The secret. Guess what? You're not the same person with your Uncle Fred as you are with your friend Tom. And you're not the same with Tom as you are with Martin. You must understand that they're not the same, either. If personalities aren't flexible, they can't interact. We're chameleons, all of us, and we couldn't be otherwise.
Anytime you feel out of character, you've got potentially more than poker problems. You need to learn the secret. The secret is stepping beyond where you thought you stopped and still knowing that you're you.