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Poker Strategy With Gavin Griffin: Looking Like An Idiot

Griffin Explains Why You Shouldn't Be Embarrassed By Your Misfires At The Table


Gavin GriffinI have never really been one that worries too much about how people perceive me, I mean, I had pink hair for a year, how much can I care? I’ve lost all sense of that now that I’m a father. You can often catch me at the grocery store or the mall doing a silly dance or speaking in a ridiculous voice. I’ll do any silly looking thing to keep my boys entertained and I’ll continue to feel no shame about it, no matter how many weird looks I get.

I think that quality applies well to poker also. I always wonder why some people muck their cards when they are caught bluffing. First of all, you never know when you might have the best hand or your opponent might have misread their hand. The equity from those two situations is certainly high enough for you to justify showing a losing hand most of the time. Second of all, if you muck your cards, everyone knows you’re bluffing anyways, what’s the difference if they get to see the two cards you had on that specific hand. If you’re playing well, you shouldn’t really care if they know in this particular instance.

Another area I’ve seen people be embarrassed about a hand or situation is on preflop all-ins. I know people who are otherwise logical who will decide not to move in with a hand preflop because they don’t want to be all-in with that hand even though I can prove to them mathematically that it’s correct. I’ve been immune to this for quite some time. I was one of the original proponents of jamming any two cards on the button when I have fewer than 15 BB. Believe it or not, this wasn’t a regular occurrence back in the day.

People would raise/fold hands as good as A-9 or A-8 with 15 BB from the button. No chance, then, that they would jam K-2 suited from the button with an M of 4. In fact, back then, we didn’t even know what M was. Sure, sometimes they had A-Q and called, but most of the time, they didn’t, and myself and my friends who were playing the same way made boatloads of money from exploiting this one bit of information that deviated from the norm at the time. Looking stupid to some people who don’t understand what you’re doing doesn’t feel so badly when you’re making a ton of profit off of that stupid looking play.

Finally, I’ve seen this an unfortunate amount and it is sad to see along with being borderline stealing in some instances: Lying about your hand when telling about how you busted. There have been some pretty high profile instances throughout the history of poker where people have lied about their hands when talking to their backers or, more innocently, their friends. When you lie to your friends about the hand you busted on or just one that you played that you think might have been wrong, the only person you’re hurting is yourself. Taking a critical look at how you play is the only way to get better. If you just played on without realizing that you make mistakes and that they need to be rectified, you’ll continue to be stagnant in your growth as a poker player. I would guess that a big reason that many poker players continue to play the same way after 20-to-30 years is that they either lie about the hands they play, intentionally misremember the details, or accidentally so. If you don’t have the right information about the hands you played, you can’t get accurate opinions from anybody you talk to about them.

Lying to your backers is a much more nefarious situation and could be seen as stealing from them in some ways. There have been a few instances in the recent past where people bought pieces of someone on a popular poker forum and then lied about the hands they played during the tournament. I also know from talking to my backers that this has happened to them in the past. Finally, I’ve heard on good authority from someone who used to back a very well-known pro that he would bust out with A-A versus Q-Q or K-K versus A-A an inordinate amount of the time. I consider it stealing, or perhaps more accurately fraud, because you took money that people invested in you because of your poker skills and gave them a different product than they expected. Be careful whom you deal with when getting into backing arrangements. Be sure they are someone you can trust.

In summary, this harkens back to a concept I borrowed from a friend for an article not that long ago. There is value in being uncomfortable. If you only ever showed the winning hand in order to not have to deal with people making fun of the way you played, you’d never be in those uncomfortable situations that make you evaluate how you’re going about your play, thus making it difficult to improve. Embrace your discomfort and don’t be afraid to look stupid if it makes you money at the poker table. ♠

Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG



almost 8 years ago

"People would raise/fold hands as good as A-9 or A-8 with 15 BB from the button. No chance, then, that they would jam K-2 suited from the button with an M of 4. In fact, back then, we didn’t even know what M was."

I don't even know what M to enlighten us?


almost 8 years ago

Hi Robtr3,

Some players like to count their stack relative to the big blind. For example, with a stack of 24,000 and blinds of 200-400 with a 50 ante, I have 60 big blinds to work with.

M is similar, but it takes into consideration the total cost of each orbit around the table. So, at a nine-handed table, you are going to pay the big blind once, the small blind once and the ante nine times. In the example above, my M would be just over 22, meaning I could wait 22 orbits before being blinded out of the tournament.

In Dan Harrington's books, he recommended an all in or fold strategy with any M lower than 6.