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Physical control during bluffs

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  • Physical control during bluffs

    A lot of my bluffs get through. I've gotten people to lay down some big hands. So I know I don't always give off tells and can remain pretty calm and stoic. However, sometimes, I make a bluff and I can feel my pulse start to race, my breathing get a bit deeper. Once it gets going it's difficult to stop it because you're sitting there trying to keep everything normal but your heart is pounding and you're forced to breathe a bit deeper. Maybe your face or ears even turn a bit redder from the increased blood flow. I take enough time before I make my bets to prepare myself, so it's not that I'm rushing into it off-guard. So, like I said, most of the time I bluff I'm fine, but how do you deal with and recover from those times your body betrays you, or consistently prevent it from doing so in the first place?

  • #2
    Our natural response to bluffing is basically our fight or flight response kicking in. This process has evolved over thousands of years and as such, it is not something that is easy to quickly switch off.

    I've recommended this video on the forum before but Creating an Unbeatable Mindset with Dr Tricia Cardner discusses this in quite some depth. Granted, she doesn't necessarily provide a one size fits all solution, but by understanding the situation and what is happening inside out own brains, this can help us deal with the repercussions.

    [EDIT: aside from that it's just the usual advice that you will have no doubt heard hundreds of times before. Wear sunglasses to hide pupil dilation, wear a thin scarf or high necked jumper to hide the very visible pulse in your neck (think about how Phil Hellmuth often covers his neck with his hands when making a large bet), make a conscious effort to breathe more deeply when not bluffing if you are unable to breathe shallower when you are bluffing, wear foundation/blusher on your face to hide rosey cheeks (joking?)]
    Last edited by LondonImp; 03-29-2019, 05:40 AM.


    • reeeeeeper
      reeeeeeper commented
      Editing a comment
      I guess I really need to watch that video.

      Also, yes I've heard those things. And sometimes I "dress the part" and sometimes I don't. Now that I think about it actually, I do better with body control when I'm not dressed up. Maybe because I'm forced to act more casual instead of hiding in my shell. (hiding = flight?) I'll have to think about this, maybe I'll try not dressing to protect as the norm and see how it goes.

  • #3
    Stop caring about the results.

    If you know this is the right play in the right moment based on the math that is all that matters. Whether he calls or not is irrelevant. If he is folding 80% of his range, it doesn't matter than he has the top 20% this time. (Unless he gave an obvious tell that you missed, but that is a different error) The results don't matter. The soundness of the decision is what matters.

    If I go a whole session without ever getting caught in a bluff, I did not bluff often enough. I am unsatisfied when I go home and I never got caught. I want to get caught some % of the time, because that means I am doing it right.

    This is where bankroll management is important. If you are properly bankrolled, you can afford to not care about the results of each single event.
    Last edited by jjpregler; 03-29-2019, 06:51 AM.


    • reeeeeeper
      reeeeeeper commented
      Editing a comment
      This is fair. I probably should move down a limit. I do play within my bankroll, but maybe I should play _more_ within my bankroll so it feels like less. Also, I don't mind being caught bluffing generally, but it's the big pots where I seem to be picked off the most. The ones where the power of the bluff is putting the other guy all in. These situations I suppose both would make you inherently more worked up and make the opponent more likely to pick you off due to the amount of money out there. And maybe I am caring about the results too much lately. I've been studying so much and actually been getting worse results than when I was not. Maybe I have an expectation issue. Maybe I'm misapplying concepts, or the sheer act.of bluffing in spots where I think I should based on what I've studied but normally wouldn't makes me feel uncomfortable. I dunno, maybe I need to just step away for a while and regroup.

    • jjpregler
      jjpregler commented
      Editing a comment
      I'm not saying it is easier to lie. But it is easier is you don't care about the result. Lying itself is its own stress. Adding a second stress of caring about the results exponentially increases to a point you are no longer in control.

      Think about it, how many times have you tossed in a c-bet when you missed without showing anything. Because in your mind the bet is small. You only have to overcome the stress of lying. Once you put "value" on the bet to pressure yourself that you must win this, you are now adding a second stress.

      Also, going into Mike's comment, it is possible that the big bluffs he is attempting might not even be warranted. Before you pull the trigger, do you KNOW it is the right play? Or is it a guess and you are not sure?

      Also, take some time to practice your betting method at home. You want to make sure you are cutting your chips and pushing them to the middle with the regular motion on every single bet. Then you want your arms to lay relaxed in the same posture after you bet on every single bet, then you want your eyes to focus on the same point after you bet on every single bet.

    • reeeeeeper
      reeeeeeper commented
      Editing a comment
      Yes, I do those things in your last paragraph. It's the insides of my body that sometimes cause problems.

      Here's a recent example I can think of, it seemed to pretty clearly be the right play, you tell me.

      Summary first:
      $2/3 NLHE $300 eff
      7d6d EP raise to $10
      Next player raises to $27
      MP Call
      LP Call
      Button Call
      I call
      Pot $130
      Flop AdKs5d
      Check to Button who bets $45
      I jam for $275 total
      All fold to Button
      He tank calls with AJo


      Sitting on about $300 in a $2/3 NLHE game. The table is fairly aggressive, several regs.
      I have 7d6d in EP and raise to $10. 5th hour of play, my image is tight and aggressive at this point, I've shown mostly strong hands even when not taking the pot, also shown a couple sporadic semi-bluffs or river stabs that got caught, nothing major.
      A strong young Asian reg directly to my left raises to $27. Previously he's raised to try to isolate me a bit wider than normal, seems to aim towards GTO otherwise. $600 stack.
      Player two to his left calls, young kid who is too loose and too aggressive, built up a stack on lucky catches. $600 stack.
      Player on his left calls, strong wildish chatty reg, about 50yo, tattoos, ear studs, seems to model his play after The Grinder. $400 stack.
      Button calls, decent reg, solid but aggressive and can get out of line on occasion. $400 stack.
      Back around to me and I pause for a while considering representing the EP monster but decide to just call given the incredible odds and strong players who can see through that crap, not the standard low limit players. (Maybe my main mistake was not asking for a table change earlier.)

      Pot $130
      Flop AdKs5d
      I check after a slight pause.
      Everyone else checks to the button (!?)
      Button stabs for $45.
      Seeing as he could stab here with almost anything since everyone else checked I saw this as a fine spot to jam as I could have easily smashed that flop given my position and naturally going for a check-raise since the player on my left had the lead and the chances of someone betting were high. Granted, it's a multiway pot, but I've only jammed this much in one other time in the last couple hours, everyone showed weakness in a pot worthy of winning, and his bet seems like just a small stab, probably a weak Ace. Since the Ace on the board was diamonds I wasn't too worried about a pair+flush-draw and other dominating flush draws would have trouble calling. So sure, I might get the call, but it will be tough for him and I have backup equity. So, I go all-in for the remaining $275 or so.
      Everyone folds to him.

      He has to call $230 to win the $450 in the pot. I'm not saying a call here is unreasonable by any means. What did happen though after I prepped and jammed my heart started pumping, I couldn't help but breathe a little heavier and tried to control it. I remained relaxed and still otherwise, my shoulders didn't seem tense, my hands seemed relaxed in the same position as always, staring at the same position on the table. I felt that my ears or face might have been slightly flush due to the increased heart rate but who knows. Anyway, he deliberates for about 3 minutes (it seemed, maybe less) and even says things like "You have Ace King?" and seems legitimately concerned. Eventually calls with AJo.

      I'm not faulting the call, ok, he picked me off and the run out didn't save me. I just feel like if my body didn't give me away he might have tipped the other way given the deliberation. He even said afterward I just looked like I was bluffing. :/

      So yeah.
      Last edited by reeeeeeper; 03-29-2019, 08:19 PM.

  • #4
    As someone mentioned above, this is the fight or flight response at its finest. More specifically its your Amygdala - a small portion of your brain that is basically acts like a switch.

    Without going into to much detail when humans are in stressful situations we evolved to either "get jacked up" and fight or run away. Without that adaptation over millions of years we would have not evolved.

    The problem is when we play poker and we are in a perceived stressful situation we can't fight (unless you want to get kicked out) and we can't run so we are forced to just sit there, which is not what we evolved to do. The other problem is when the amygdala is switched into this fight or flight mode it restricts our ability to think logically (have you ever been in a big pot and just lost the ability to think straight? Yea, thats the fight or flight response limiting your ability to think logically). And we need that logical thinking part of our brain in poker.

    The Amygdala is like the control switch. It has the ability to switch from the logical thinking part of your brain (the Frontal part of your brain) to the fight or flight part of your brain (the back part of your brain). And it does this naturally when it senses a threat or high stress (think of hearing a sound of a lion behind you, without even looking you will either take off sprinting or turn ready to defend yourself. You not going to sit there and think what to do!).

    If you practice this at home you can basically train this Amygdala to not switch to the fight or flight mode when in big spots at the table. At home just mentally practice being in a hand. Review a hand in your mind or go over a spot where you got nervous. Do you best to put yourself in that spot. Really focus on being at the table. Its pretty amazing because even just thinking about big spots that you had your heart rate speeds up and you can almost feel getting nervous and your not even at the table.

    Now go back to when the hand begins and imagine you are tickling the front part of your brain with a feather (yea, I know sounds nuts). The Amygdala is located in front of your eyes basically by your temples. This is where you want to think about that feather tickling our brain. Your basically focusing on stimulating the front portion of your mind. You should feel yourself get focused.

    I know, it sounds crazy. I thought so too. But it helps to show your mind the situation is not as stressful as it perceives.

    Then when you go to play poker live, as you are beginning to play a hand, try this again, before the big spots show up. Show your mind that there is no perceived threat and by activating the front portions of your brain with this "tickling feather" you eliminate the Amygdala wanting to switch you to a fight or flight mode.

    Don't expect immediate results, it takes some practice. But over time this will speed up the process and will help you to remain calm in big spots. The more you work on it the faster you will improve.

    I didn't make this up there is actually a book on it. Its called "The Frontal Lobes Supercharge". Im not a believer in everything the book say's, but this definitely helped me when it came to poker.

    Now with that being said, there is also another reason your mind switches to this fight or flight mode and that is because of the fear of the unknown. If you are unsure what to do in big spots, you may still get nervous. So make sure to study these spots away from the table so you are prepared and confident in them at the table thus reducing the fear of the unknown.
    Last edited by JredA; 03-31-2019, 08:22 AM.


    • reeeeeeper
      reeeeeeper commented
      Editing a comment
      This is great stuff and very helpful advice. Thank you JredA, I will try it, can't hurt. And no it doesn't sound crazy, I studied cognitive science in college and it was related to my major. I've even read scientific studies on how the "belly brain" (aka "gut feeling") can figure problems out before your conscious mind, so this all makes sense to me.

      So I went to play last night, and another thing that helped was simply playing down in stakes. I went and sat at the $100max tables and never got nervous at all, even when I was all-in on a semi-bluff (and ended up chopping of all things!). At $300max I'm still well within my bankroll but I guess it just feels like a bigger chunk of it when I lose a buyin or two so it makes me care more about the results. I actually lost a couple of buyins last night but it didn't bother me. I saw very clearly that it was due to bad luck (AQ vs T9s all-in pre, guy hitting two-pair on the river against my top pair, etc) which I might not have seen clearly if I was all "amped up" and not seeing clearly.

      Anyway, thanks again! I'll give it a go and may read that book.

    • reeeeeeper
      reeeeeeper commented
      Editing a comment
      Tried this the other night and it helped. Actually helped reduce effects of tilt as well, kept me out of my body and in my head, if that makes sense.

  • #5
    I have never tagged a post but I'm going to try and see how this works and or if it works for comments too

    Physical control during bluffs


    • #6
      It works perfectly - search physical control