Bluffers tend to be maniacs

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There are many reasons for bluffing. The predominant motivation is to force your opponent to muck his hand, leaving the pot for you.

A maniac arrives

You can’t help but notice when a new player comes to your middle-limit hold’em table and proceeds to bet and raise almost every hand! I quickly realized he was a “maniac;” and maniacs do a lot of bluffing.

At first, he won many more than his share of the pots, as the players feared him, tending to fold more than normal. After a while, some of the others – and I – started calling him more often. I played strictly according to the Hold’em Algorithm. And, his stacks dwindled – and dwindled. It wasn’t long before he bought another rack of chips.

Then, he changed his seat at the table, moving two seats to my left. I didn’t like that at all; now, I would usually have to declare before him. Also, it seemed he had become somewhat less aggressive but he still played almost every hand and raised very often.

Beating the Bluffer

Strongly convinced that he sought every opportunity and was inclined to bluff, I looked for the right time to pounce on him. The situation had to be just right. Meanwhile, patience! Then, it happened – or so I thought.

On the blind, I was dealt A-hearts, J-hearts, a premium starting-hand, including a draw to a royal flush. As expected, Maniac raised. Three others and I called. The flop came down with two more beautiful hearts. Now, I had four to the nut flush! I decided not to bet into Maniac so his expected raise would not chase out the other players. If I made my flush, I would then build the pot by check-raising or trapping when the bets were doubled.

The Turn was the Jack of clubs. Unfortunately, it did not contribute to my flush; but it did give me top pair on the board.

My J-J may well have been the best hand at that point. Also, just in case an opponent had a higher pair (not likely, the way the betting had gone), I had two more outs to make trip-Jacks in addition to my nine outs for the big flush.

I might also count the three outs for a pair of Aces, which could yield top two-pair. I decided to bet out, hoping to thin the field and thus protect my J-J, and perhaps isolate Maniac. I was sure he would raise, and others would fold to a double big bet. And so it was on the Turn. Just the two of us: Maniac, who often bluffed, and me.

Tigers don’t change stripes: On the Turn, I made the opening bet, expecting Maniac to raise me, as he did. Almost certain he was trying to bluff me out, I decided to just call his raise, and wait for the River.

Oh, no…the River card was a bright, blazing King of spades! I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Now what? I could not even guess if he had another King in the hole. I pondered about it. I couldn’t even estimate the odds one way or the other. I looked at him; his hand was full of chips – ready to bet or raise.

He leaned forward in his seat, suggesting a strong hand. I had to check to him; and, of course, he made the bet. Certainly, I had to call – and hope my pair of Jacks was good enough. Fortunately, he didn’t disappoint me; he was indeed bluffing – although he did catch a pair of 7s on the flop.

P.S. One of the other players whispered to me that he had folded a King on the Turn. Lucky me!

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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