Poker Lessons: Bluff Gone Wrong


My favorite moment in a poker game is what I call “The Speech”.  That’s when a player knows he is about to do something completely stupid, but he is going to do it anyway.  These moments normally happen after someone makes a bluff at the pot, to which they get a response from another of player of “All-In.” 

Oops, you’ve been caught.  But before they fold their junk to the reraise, they decide that they simply can’t be bullied around.  So instead of properly folding junk, they want to show their bravery and call.  And just in case someone might criticize their call of an all-in with 2-8 offsuit, they give a little speech about how they know they’re behind, but they are priced in; or some other insane reasoning for making the call.

For example, the other night a player raised my big blind time after time from the button.  Each time he would either make some comment when I folded, or even better, he would show his bluff.  I patiently waited for the right moment, and then when I looked down at A-10 of diamonds, I knew it was time to fight back.  So I announced a raise that was more than enough to put him all in.

He sat for about two minutes considering his options, and finally announced “Oh well, I want to go play the cash game anyway.  I call.”  In other words, he had been sitting there not considering the value of his cards, but rather trying to come up with a good excuse for making the call. Once he had formulated something in his mind that made sense, he announced it and then said he would call the bet for all his chips.

One of the more amazing aspects of his decision is that we were on the money bubble of the tournament, and he was willing to just throw it all away to go play cash.  And even if he had folded to my bet, he would still have not been the short stack and was in still good position to make the money.

Suffice it to say that his two crappy cards were not good enough, and he in fact did get sent to the cash table.  But even after he got over there, he was still telling everyone how he wanted to play cash anyway, so he gave his chips away so that he could.  Yep, still trying to justify his terrible action.

This moment of “The Speech” is one of my favorite parts of the game.  You will see it time after time; game after game.  It is a face saving technique.  If you announce that you are making a bad call, before you make the bad call, then you feel like you have cleared the way for the bad decision.  And then if you get lucky and suck out a win on the hand, you can remind everyone that you knew it was bad, but that you had a feeling.  You know….something told you that there were 2 three’s coming on the flop so your call with 10-3 made sense.

Here are two better ideas.

  1.  Play better.  Stop making dumb calls.  Then you won’t have to make up reasons to make those dumb calls.
  2. Tell the truth.  Instead of announcing how stupid you are, but with some insane justification, try just telling the truth.  “I call because I am just too ignorant to fold junk.”  Then if you do hit and win, you don’t need to give anyone any justifications.  They knew the truth already.

So when you hear “The Speech”, just know that a call is coming.  And know that you really have nothing to fear with the call.  People don’t give speeches before calling with the best hand.  They give speeches when they’re about to do something dumb.  While speeches are boring, they are also very good for your bankroll.


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