Featured Poker Blog Post by BalugaWhale

Muckin Psychology

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What’s up guys,

Been a while since I offered a poker article to you guys, but I have a thought that’s been kickin around in my head so I thought I’d share it with you.  It’s probably most relevant in HU matches but is definitely still applicable in a 6m setting (possibly even full ring, but individual relationships are way more hard to develop when you’re playing with 8 others instead of 5 or 1).

If you’ve ever played HU, think about how tilting it is when your opponent is running hot.  You raise, he 3-bets, you 4-bet bluff, he shoves.  You fold.  You bet the flop, 2-barrel the turn, and then he bets the river.  You fold.  You thinly value bet the turn and he raises.  You fold.  Let’s be honest here, you’re still playing great.  But you’re kinda pissed off.  More so than if he had checked that river and won, more so than if he had just called that turn instead of raised.  In short, not seeing your opponents cards does two things– it keeps us from knowing how they play (this is common knowledge), but it also keeps us from satisfying one of our most instinctual, natural psychological necessities– knowing the intangible answer or conclusion to the hand.  Let me put it this way:  every good joke has a punchline.  If we hear a joke and then not the punchline, it frustrates us.  Every good story has an ending.  If you get left on a cliffhanger without a resolution, you get frustrated (and thusly tricked into watching LOST again the next week, but that show is so good that its okay).

The same thing happens over the course of a poker hand.

The simple idea is this– not allowing your opponent to see your cards does more than simply deprive them of valuable information they could use against you.  It is tilting.  There is a psychological edge in making your opponent muck that will manifest itself later in the match.

This means that when you have close choices (do I bet for thin-value or check?  do I make this bold, thin-bluff raise or not?  4-bet bluff or flat call?)  you should be inclined to take the more aggressive option. Even if its slightly wrong, it won’t be too wrong, and it does wonders for game flow.

Now i’ll try to think of a few examples that might elucidate:

in a HU match, you raise Q8 OTB and get a call from the blinds.  The flop is Q43 w/ a FD.  He checks, you bet, and he c/r.  You don’t really think he’s good enough to c/r a top pair hand here (maybe AQ, but he’d probably 3-bet).  So his range is either monster stuff (sets or slowplayed big stuff), but more likely draws or air.  You call.  The turn is a 9, and he fires again.  Let’s say that you know he probably only fires the turn with some kind of equity, and you think he probably c/f the river some percentage of the time when he misses.  Its a close call– raise or fold?  This is a spot where I would raise.  Call it capitalization of dead money, value, both, or whatever.  Either way, if he had the nut flush draw, or 56 for a straight draw, it is tilting to muck there.  That’s the basic idea.

Anyway, try it out, get aggressive, and check out the Aussie Millions Academy presented by DeucesCracked!


Baluga Bay

Comments for Muckin Psychology


Avatar for Mendez

810 posts
Joined 02/2008


Though one important consideration is that if we deprive our opponent a showdown we also deprive ourselves of seeing his cards. I'm thinking in particular of being on the river in position and deciding whether to thin value bet. If the value of a bet is close to neutral we might want to checkback so as to see his cards. E.g. villain checkraises the flop, we call with TPGK, the turn checks through and he checks the river. It would be good to know a) what hands villain is checkraising, and b) what board textures he gives up on. This would be a reason to checkback.

So maybe we need to balance three (or more?) factors in these kinds of situations. One, the tilt factor of depriving villain a showdown described by Baluga. Two, the value to us of seeing villain's cards. Three, the value to the villain of seeing our cards. The last two factors will vary depending with the lines that each of us has taken (e.g. if villain has taken an odd line we might want to see his cards more), and where our actual hand lies within our overall range (thinking of Cowpig's article).

Posted about 8 years ago


Avatar for AshThePro

489 posts
Joined 08/2009


Avatar for Rockhoe14er

349 posts
Joined 12/2009


Avatar for MindGuru

117 posts
Joined 03/2010

Great article Baluga Whale!!
Another important aspect here is that from a pyschological point of view, we need to create a new neural pathway, or pattern of behaviours, as the way we are hard wired in our lives outside of poker, a high percentage of the time is not condusive to optimal play.
The more you begin to understand how you behave in certain situations, and be objective whether this will help you become the best player you can be, will begin to help you plug your leaks mentally & emotionally.
This is why the component of not knowing, feeds the inquisitive section of our brain and most certainly will lead us to less than optimal plays in the future.
Accepting that a high percentage of poker is about not knowing and also staying focused on what you are in control of at all times, you begin to plug multiple leaks mentally and stopping your brain from switching into inquisitive mode will certainly be one of them.

Posted almost 8 years ago

Sounded Simple

Avatar for Sounded Simple

1009 posts
Joined 03/2008

Just stumbled across this and love it.

Also runs parallel with another concept that's becoming clearer to me is that when betting and checking are close in EV that betting is often better IF the decision we are faced with when we check (or flat call) and our opponent bets puts us in a tough spot.

Posted almost 8 years ago

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