Many years ago I took a class called History of the Motion Pictures. It
was one of those classes that was a real pleasure compared with the
boring classes I took for my major, which was Economics. The motion
picture class was a breeze and a very refreshing change. It would turn
out to be very useful throughout the rest of my life, enabling me to see
and understand much about movies and movie history that I otherwise
would have not been able to appreciate.
One of the early innovations or concepts in early movie making was what
they called reverse angle. What it simply meant was that the face of
someone talking was shot, and the next shot would be of the person he
or she was talking to, only with their positions reversed. As strange as it
sounds, when moviemaking first began they shot the whole movie from
only one perspective, a front view.
I have often compared this movie concept to poker strategy. It is obvious
how important it is being able to read which cards your opponent may
have, but it is also important to try to understand what he might be
thinking as he looks at you. So, it is valuable to reconstruct a hand not
only from the camera angle you have seen, but also from this theoretical
camera turned around and seen through the eyes of your opponents.
You might be thinking, “Isn’t that the same thing as me guessing what he
thinks I have?” The answer to that is a little tricky. Certainly, that is one
aspect of it, but just trying to figure out what he thinks you have is overly
simplistic. When you go into this exercise, it should go way past just
trying to get a notion of what he thinks you have. The exercise should
not only examine what you have done, like betting, checking, etc., but
also picturing in your mind's eye in what way he has seen you doing the
checking, betting or raising.
Now that the poker world has so many real movie actors playing with
success, it is not hard to see that they probably have a lot of training in
thinking out some of the plays they make using this thought of reverse
As a professional poker player, I know that some of the abilities that are
needed to be successful are not always employed by us. It is easy to
fall into a rut and get lazy about executing this strategy, that is, viewing
yourself as others might see you. This necessary tool can easily escape
even the most experienced professional.
If you are just starting out as a pro, or you are at least a serious poker
player, there are ways that you can hone in on the skill of imagining how
you are perceived. The best way, of course, is to get a video camera
and shoot some tape of you playing. You have to simulate real game
situations and try to imagine that you are playing for a lot of money. The
next step is to watch the tapes to see yourself checking, betting, raising,
etc. Once you can picture yourself, it will help when you are playing to
think how you appear to your opponents.
As you are being taped, try several ways of presenting yourself to see if
one will likely be perceived as “a worried bet,” or “a confident bet.” You
also should practice what you say, using different words for the same
situation. For instance, when you move in, there may be words you use
which are more likely to induce a call.
It reminds me of a new phrase that has recently come into existence in
poker, that is, when a player says, “I’m putting you all in.” Now,
everyone knows that one player can’t put another player all in. The first
time I heard that said to me, I became irritated. I wanted to call the bet;
the only problem was I didn’t have a hand even remotely close to calling.
The question is, if I had had a marginal hand, would that statement have
been enough to illicit an irritated call from me?
It is also important to understand how the tone of your voice may sound
in certain situations. If you video tape several ways of saying the same
thing, by changing the tone of your voice, you might discover what you
think may work better in certain situations. Do not be afraid to use them
in a real tournament or side game.
If you are a tournament player, you have much less to worry about in
regards to someone catching on to something you may be doing to get a
call, or to get someone to throw their hand away. In side action, many
times you will be at the same table with the same players for a long
session or you may be in a game that you play in regularly; in both of
these cases, you may only be able to use a word or acting ploy a couple
of times before you have to abandon them. You will have to give your
opponents credit for being able to figure out what you are doing. But all
is not lost in those cases because you will then have to opportunity be
able to figure out how you can be tricky; perhaps reversing what you
have done with players that you know are paying attention to your past
This article may not be something for the smaller-limit player, but if you
play medium to high limits, or play tournaments of any size, one play,
good or bad, may make it worth spending some time thinking about
For what it's worth …
By Vince Burgio