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Esther Fayla Epstein has appeared on TV and in several poker publications (GamingToday is the third) to explain the Esther Bluff. (It’s powerful!)

Now in the eighth grade at Pacific Hills School (How could anyone expect deception from this young lady?), Esther spends her free time working at the new Whimsic Alley, the Harry Potter-themed marketplace located on the famed Miracle Mile section of Wilshire in Los Angeles.

Created by Hollywood set decorators, it’s like walking into a Harry Potter movie with shops specializing in wizard robes, sweaters, scarves and ties that appear to be right out of the Potter films, old-fashioned writing quills and journals reminiscent of a romance era, witch and wizard hats, and more Harry Potter-branded merchandise than you could shake a wand at.

Esther’s favorite shops are the Phoenix Wands shop and the Twilight shop. The Twilight series of books and movies is Esther’s latest passion. She thoroughly enjoys working with customers in the wand shop, saying she feels like Ms. Ollivander helping people select the wand that best suits their character or, as she often reminds them, “the wand chooses the wizard.”

Experiencing Whimsic Alley is like bluffing in poker – the fantasy, imagination and excitement of a well-executed bluff! It’s the same psychological lift.

A Magic Wand for Poker

Esther convinced me (who could deny that charmer) to get a magic wand to use at the poker table. I hope no one objects when I wave it over my hole cards and recite a spell to turn the 2-7 off-suit into pocket aces. (Hey, why not!)

Esther also wrote a magic spell that makes you a fly on the wall so you can spy on your opponents’ hands. (It was published in the Whimsic Alley Book of Spells by Stan Goldin, the Master Wizard of Whimsic Alley.)

Who else but a Harry Potter fan could create the Esther Bluff?

Bluffing is one of the most thrilling – and potentially rewarding – strategies in poker. The idea is to bet (or raise) so that your opponents fold their hole-cards, leaving the pot to you. Successful bluffing requires pretending, imagination and creativity – just like the world of Harry Potter.

Several years ago, I was teaching Esther to play hold’em. We played for chips (no money). Esther was incredibly lucky, winning hand after hand – perhaps applying some of her acquired Harry Potter magic! But after a while, I realized she did a lot of bluffing! Once I knew this, her bluffs no longer were effective.

Lesson: Don’t bluff too often. Change gears occasionally.

How the Esther Bluff Works

I pondered why Esther’s bluffs had been so successful. Eureka: When Esther bluffed, she bet exactly as she would with a monster hand – as if certain that she held the best hand.

She bet with self-confidence; she knew that her hand was the best. Her actions and body language underlined the message that flew across the table at the speed of light, merging into my brainwaves. (The magic of Harry Potter!) Convinced, I folded my hand.

You don’t need a magic wand to implement the Esther Bluff. It’s a powerful tactic. Certainly it won’t work every time you try to bluff; sometimes your opponent has a big hand. And don’t make the mistake of trying to bluff a Calling Station.

For me, the Esther Bluff works fabulously – 60% to 70% of the time. That’s more than double the break-even for bluffing. I wonder if my new magic wand from Whimsic Alley will further improve those great results… Wow!

Comments? George “The Engineer” Epstein can be contacted at: [email protected]

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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