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Rugby: Why bluffing can drive you mentor; PLAY YOUR CARDS.

Byline: By Peter SHARKEY

WOULDN'T it be great to have an invisible mini-mentor sitting on your shoulder to advise when to take a specific action?

"See that mistake you're about to make," your mentor would whisper just before you plunged into some disastrous situation, "I made the same one back in 1925. Let me show you how to avoid it..."

Unfortunately life isn't like that. We must learn from our errors although judging by the questions I've been asked since this column first appeared there is definitely room for a little extra help.

The advice I'm asked for most often concerns bluffing - or rather, when to do it. There is no correct answer although my rule is to bluff sparingly, mainly because you can push your luck too far and bluffing is only successful when you get away with it.

Many poker players bluff out of desperation, especially if they're on a bad run or on "tilt" as it is known.

It's a classic poker/gambling reaction: "Right, I may have just lost a shed load of money but now I'll show 'em."

In such a situation your mentor would be urging you to leave the table sharpish because opponents who recognise you're on tilt will call you at every opportunity.

Not only is it foolish to bluff when opponents expect you to but, statistically, bluffing can be a mug's game, a fact known to the poker mentor for more than 80 years.

Back in 1925 Ethel Riddle wrote a PhD thesis titled Aggressive Behaviour in a Small Social Group, published by Colombia University in New York.

It was a short psychological study designed to measure the effectiveness of bluffing but its results hold true to this day.

Riddle wired six poker players up to lie detectors during a protracted series of five card stud games and studied their reactions when they examined their cards and those eventually revealed by opponents.

She found that in general poker players are poor judges of the bluff. Most overestimate the attempts at bluffing by infrequent bluffers and underestimate the attempts of the frequent bluffer.

Riddle concluded poker players will be most effective, and richer, if they bluff exactly six per cent of the time, or once every 17 hands in which they participate.

So if you play 200 hands during an average session you probably shouldn't bluff in many more than 12. Any poker mentor, invisible or otherwise, would tell you that.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 15, 2006
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