Monday, December 10, 2007

The slightly useful skill of tell misdirection

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers for the film Casino Royale, but lets face it, if you haven't seen it yet, you're not going to.

Let's catch you up to speed to the scene in question: Bond, James Bond steals the wrong villain's girl and finds himself in an ultra-high-stakes hold'em game with Felix Lighter and a guy who cries blood. All things being equal, Bond is the best card player in the room, just as he is with everything else. Not everything is equal, however, as he is attacked by African crime lords and poisoned at the table. Bond prevails on both counts.

This movie draws from the popularity of hold'em in today's culture and highlights it as the premiere casino game of skill. Which makes us look even better when we are able to profit from it. Bond explains the importance of tells to his espionage entourage and points out the major tell of his main competitor at the table. Bond is betrayed and the tell comes to the attention of said competitor who uses it to his advantage. He purposely uses the tell, which Bond had determined signaled a bluff, when he had a monster hand. Bond called him and was knocked out of the game.

As an aside, Bond nearly lives out the morbid fantasy of stabbing the culprit with a butter knife, but thinks better of it, obtains the cash for a re-buy and eventually wins the tournament. Predictable.

The lesson here is to attend games with spys in the audience who can steal information to provide you the win...just kidding. The lesson here is this: the safest way to play poker is to be devoid of tells—the perfect poker face. However, there is something to be said for the misdirection of poker tells. If you can purposely repeat an action that you know you wouldn't normally for the small bluffs that you are willing to be called on, you can also use it for a big, made hand and be misread as a bluff.

Disclaimer: I recommend this only while playing opponents at or below your own skill level, pros will mostly likely see through you.

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