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Calling on the Basis of What Your Opponent Thinks

There is a very important principle based on thinking about what your opponent thinks you have, and it is this: When an opponent bets in a situation where he is sure you are going to call, he is not bluffing. This point is obvious, yet many players overlook it. What it means is if you create the impression - by the way you have played your hand, by the look of your board, by the action you have put in the pot, or even by artificial means - that you are going to call a bet, an opponent who bets is betting for value. He figures to have you beat because he knows you are going to call. Therefore, you should fold if he bets unless your hand warrants a call on the value of the hand. You should certainly fold a mediocre hand that can beat only a bluff; clearly no one but an idiot would bluff when he is sure he's going to get called.

A prime example of such a situation arises when you bet on the end and a player raises you. It is very rare to find an opponent who is capable of raising on the end as a bluff. It is even rarer to find an opponent who would raise on a bluff when you have been betting all the way and have, therefore, given every indication of paying off a raise. So against all but very tough players capable of such a bluff raise, you should fold a routine hand because your opponent wouldn't raise without a good hand. Similarly, if you raise on the end and your opponent reraises, you should usually fold unless your hand can beat some of the legitimate hands with which he might be reraising." In sum, when deciding whether to call a bet or a raise, it is important to think about what your opponent thinks you're going to do. An opponent who is sure you're going to call will not be bluffing when he bets or raises.

A corollary to this principle is if your opponent bets when there appears to be a good chance you will fold, that opponent may very well be bluffing. What this means in practice is that if your opponent bets in a situation where he thinks he might be able to get away with a bluff, you have to give more consideration to calling him even with a mediocre hand.

Astute readers will have noticed that this principle and corollary are the bases of stopping and inducing bluffs, which were discussed in page Twenty. When you show strength, especially more strength than you really have, to stop a bluff, you must be prepared to fold when your opponent bets into you because that opponent is expecting you to call; therefore he has a hand. Conversely, when you have shown more weakness than you really have, you must automatically call a player who bets on the end because you have induced a bluff: That player may be betting because he thinks you will fold.

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