Showing Your Hand
It’s down to the two of you. You bet, he raises, you think. You fold. He rakes in the chips, smiles, and turns over a lousy, losing hand. He’s gloating, showing you what a bluff he pulled off. You’re kicking yourself.
I’ve thought about the psychological ramifications of this move a lot. The Bluffer, by showing his cards, is doing what exactly? Proving that you’re a wimp and he knows it. Perhaps hoping to throw you into tilt mode. Announcing to the table that he has the advantage because he can read people’s play. Laying the groundwork to be called on another big bet when he actually has the nuts. It makes sense.
Or does it? Not in my book of mental psych-outs. Yes, he may subsequently get a call when he has the best hand. But what if he gets dealt bad cards for a long spell after this unnecessary showing-off? He can’t bluff again, he can’t steal any pots; he has boxed himself into a corner in that one moment of silly pride.
Rewind that tape. It’s down to the two of you. You bet, he raises, you think. You fold. He rakes in the chips, smiles, and turns over the winning hand. He’s kindly showing you that you made a good fold. You’re congratulating yourself. This is the scenario where card-showing actually works.
He has, in that one moment of seeming generosity, established himself as the Guy With The Good Cards, at the same time as reinforcing the idea around the table that folding is a wise move, not a wimpy one. The best psychological gambit would then be to keep his cards to himself for a long stint and not show them again, even if he has the opportunity, until he really needs another shot of The Guy With The Good Cards image.
In this way, he can mix up his play, pull some bluffs, and still be considered a Rock. I respect someone who sometimes shows his winning hand when he doesn’t have to; to me, he is a better mental player than the ones who never show anything. If I’m in a hand with the Occasional Winning Hand Shower, fold to him and then am proved I was right to fold, I can’t help it – I relax a little. I’m grateful to him for letting me off the hook of wondering whether I’d made a bad decision – and gratitude is not what I should be feeling towards anyone.
I’ve been tempted, sure, to show a good bluff of my own. But I step on that desire to gloat. It might come back and slap me in the face. Pride comes before the unwanted call.