The art of poker deception

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Jeffrey | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy

Submitted by Rakewell, this article belongs to the Poker Strategy series.

I recently read this post on Rakewell’s PokerGrump blog where he continues along the track of learning poker from things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with poker.

A friend had free tickets for any Regal Cinema feature, so we hit the one at Fiesta Henderson to see “Slumdog Millionaire” today, curious as to why such an apparently unlikely movie racked up 10 Oscar nominations. Well, the reason becomes obvious after seeing it–it’s simply magnificent. It’s completely original, moving, well written, well acted, well edited.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much about the most salient poker-y scene without spoiling a key plot point. Here’s what I can tell you without ruining things: At one crucial juncture, our hero (shown above on the left) has to decide whether somebody is telling him the truth or lying–and everything rides on getting it right. There is some suggestion that he picks up physical tells, but we are led to suspect that his main tool is consideration of the other person’s motivations. When he does that, it leads him to the right answer.

Back in December, 2007, I told this story:

I was on the bad end of another skillful bit of deceptive revealing by an
opponent a couple of months ago. I started with a strong hand (can’t remember
exactly what it was), but hated seeing three hearts on the flop, when I had
none. The turn brought a fourth heart to the board. I bet, my tricky opponent
took a long time to decide what to do. While thinking, he turned over the 7 of
hearts. He finally called. The river was a blank. I decided that with just a
7-high flush, he must be worried that I had a higher flush, so I moved all-in.
He insta-called with the look on his face of the cat that caught the canary (as,
indeed, he had). His other card was the king of hearts. He had flopped the
king-high flush, and his showing the lower card tricked me into thinking exactly
what he wanted me to think: that he just had a low flush and was in a difficult
spot, when really he had the second nuts. Well played, sir–you lured me in
perfectly.

I made a mistake by not considering his motivation. I assumed he was trying to get a read on my reaction to his shown card, and I frankly didn’t even entertain the possibility that he might have some other purpose in his evil little heart. But I learned from that encounter, and now when an opponent does something out of the ordinary, I try to remember to explicitly consider the possibility that what appears straightforward may be deliberate deception.

It’s a useful thing to keep in mind in poker.

Check out Rakewell’s Poker Grump blog

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2 Comments to The art of poker deception

The Good Poker Sites
February 20, 2009

Interesting. I am from the school of Jeet Kune Poker so I approve. Opponents can only present images. Break the images and you will find their true motivation.

Conrad T. Gates
March 11, 2009

First, slumdog millionaire is indeed both unexpected and magnificient. I mostly like the scenes at an early age. The script’s originality is marvelous.
For deception, life is deception. To use a common image in poker, there is a fish called anglerfish. Indeed there are anglerfish at the poker table. Be careful they are the most deceptive opponents.

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