Bad Strategy Advice #4: Just Call

5 min read

Are you being bluffed too much? My students often come to me with worries that they’re being bluffed too much. The good news is, this is one of the easiest problems to solve. And, in this installment of Bad Strategy Advice, I’ll be covering exactly that. If you follow my simple instructions, you’ll be bluff-proof in no time. 

bad strategy advice
Or maybe you should? Maybe it’s brilliant! (Image: Chris Wallace/CardsChat)

Let’s start off by talking about why this is so important. As a pro poker player, I make half my money from bluffing. And if all of my buffs failed, I would actually be a losing player because I bluff quite often. If you take that part of the game away from me, I’m crippled. If I were to adjust my strategy, which I rarely do, my only option would be to stop bluffing entirely. And that strategy is easily countered by bluffing me. It’s a vicious circle that has no end until my bankroll is gone. 

How do you stop me from bluffing you? 

I learned this technique from my old poker buddy Mark. We used to call him Two Cent because he always had to get his two cents in. Mark saw me look at my watch one time because I was using it to randomize my bluffs and calls.

This isn’t an uncommon technique. If a pro knows they should be calling half the time, they can just look at their watch and, if the second hand is on the right side, they call; if it’s on the left side, they fold. 

Pro Tip – Do not use a watch to randomize your bluffs and calls if it does not have a sweeping second hand. I wore the wrong watch once and the minute hand was the fastest moving thing on it, so I had to call everything for half an hour and then fold everything for half an hour. I got destroyed once my opponents figured out the pattern. 

Anyway, Mark asked me about the strategy and I explained it to him. He’s always looking to work on his poker skills, so I did my best to help him understand, but the concept didn’t really sink in. He started looking at his watch when facing a big bet, but then he would say “Nine-thirty? Well that’s no time to fold!” and toss his chips in. I bet into him all night, trying to figure out what time was the right time to fold in his mind, but it must be sometime during the day, because he called every time for the rest of the night.  

He called me at 9:30, 9:50, 10:01, 10:08, 10:46, 11:15, 11:17, 11:21, 12:03, 1:12, 1:09, and 1:44. By that time I was broke, having bluffed off all my chips trying to get a feel for when he would start folding. The good news is, I got a ton of information. Now I know that he doesn’t fold at any of those times. I’ll be using that knowledge to make money against him forever. That’s why I’m a pro and he’s an amateur. 

And that leads me to another important reason that you shouldn’t let people bluff you. When you call a big river bet, you find out what they have. Knowledge is power, my friend. 

And if you’re like me, you’ve been tilted for hours wondering if you made the right fold in a big spot. But you never have to wonder if you made the right call because you always find out if it was correct or not. So, calling more often — or all the time– means that you never have to be tilted by wondering if you should have called.  

What else do we learn from Mark’s failure to adapt my randomization strategy? That calling all the time can be a very successful strategy. Especially against an aggressive pro like me. 

How to apply this to your game

All you have to do is call more often. You’ll never be bluffed, you won’t tilt as much, and you’ll gather lots of information about your opponents. 

When you combine this with aggression and bluffing against opponents who will fold, you have a strategy that is mathematically proven to win* 

If you never fold, then you win every hand that you can. If no one ever folded, it’s basic game theory that everyone would break even because the cards would eventually run equal for everyone. 

And, if you’re also successful with your bluffs sometimes, it’s pure profit because you’re winning extra pots beyond what you are supposed to win. So, you’re winning more than your share of the pots and your opponents are winning less than their fair share. That’s a guaranteed winning strategy. You can’t argue with math.** 

So, now you have a randomization strategy that’s balanced, and you’re unbluffable. Just look at your watch. Then, no matter where the second hand is, call anyway. It’s basically GTO that is unexploitable, and it’s a lot easier than spending a bunch of time studying with a computer and poring over spreadsheets and equity calculators. That stuff is too complicated anyway and it makes my head hurt. 

*Editor’s Note – This strategy is not proven to win. We’re not sure why we hired this guy, and we never asked him to write bad strategy articles. We thought he was kidding when he suggested the idea. Don’t do this, it’s a really terrible idea and he’s wrong about everything.  

**Editor’s Note – Again, please don’t do this. It is not guaranteed. In fact, this is the dumbest thing we’ve ever posted on CardsChat.

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