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Flying under the radar by pretending to be a weak player

By Jack Clayton


It’s the middle of the summer and in Vegas the most popular games in town are betting baseball and poker tournaments. Deception is common in baseball play and in sports wagering.

On the baseball diamond, the pitcher fires to the plate with pitches that are designed to deceive the batter. A first pitch fastball for a strike might be followed by a slow curveball to throw the batter’s timing off. Or the batter might be expecting a fastball, then the pitcher throws a change-up that breaks down as it approaches the plate.

The pitcher even tries to fool the batter with the delivery, drop- ping down his sidearm at times, showing the hitter a different arm angle. In addition, the pitcher and catcher work in conjunction to try and fool the batter.

At the poker tables, similar strategies are constantly in play as well. Bluffing is the most recognized, but there are other subtle ways to fool players to gain an advantage. A fun one is turning into a don- key for one hand. I don’t mean donning a Winnie-the-Pooh Eeyore mask or costume to get laughs. A “Poker Donkey” is a novice, one who doesn’t know much about how to play the game.

Astute poker players will spot donkeys and work them over for easier paydays. However, an astute player can also make others at the table think they’re a donkey and turn the tables a while later when bigger chips are at stake. They’re also known as fish or pigeons. One distinction is that weak players who play tight and often fold are not donkeys, as they are not making foolish or stubborn moves. The real poker donkey is stubborn and brash, forcing plays with weak hands hoping to get lucky – and consistently losing.

This tactic works well at the low and middle limits where other players think they’re poker aces but aren’t. You can purposely make a bad move and even absorb a small loss for everyone to see. That way novice players believe that you don’t know what you’re doing and the better players will size you up as a donkey to be taken advantage of. “Come into my web, said the spider to the fly…” Yes, you’re setting a trap, so when you have an edge with the cards and a bigger pot is at stake, then you throw away the donkey suit and put on your real poker face.

If you’re going to try this move don’t do it all the time, use it sparingly. And it’s best to utilize it when the table is a mixed bag of good and inexperienced players. The real good ones can see what you’re doing and not get suckered in. But if you’re able to pull it off, it’s a nice ace to be holding when the pot gets bigger and you are flying under the radar in the minds of your opponents.

You might hear an experienced player announce that they’re playing badly or planning to, with something like, “I’m going to donk up the joint.” or, “Sorry, I donked.”

You can spot the loud-mouth inexperienced donkeys easily. They overplay hands that have low odds of winning, such as playing an 8-3 rather than folding as any experienced player would. They also chat too much, discussing previous hands and giving away information about their style of play. They also show their cards after a successful bluff and boast about when it works, rather than being quiet, cerebral and discreet.

In baseball and football sports wagering, there are big-time bet- tors who are known to bet the other side early to move the line in their favor. Public bettors (or “Joe’s”) will see huge moves on a number and follow, assuming that’s the sharp play of the day. The big-time bettor then comes back later, usually right before the game starts, and wagers even more on the other side.

In essence, they moved the Vegas line in their favor with the early bet to gain the advantage to the wager they really want later on with the same game. Successful bettors in sports and poker are highly skilled at doing anything to put the numbers in their favor – even pretending to be donkeys.

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