Confusion to the Enemy?

Control Your Opponents

Confused Poker Players"There must be some way out of here
Said the Joker to the Thief
There's just too much confusion
I can't get no relief" -- Bob Dylan

An irony of poker is you can do the right thing (like raise on the river) for all the wrong reasons -- perhaps you think you have the best hand when in fact your raise causes a player with a better hand to fold. The results of your tactical moves often are not a useful thing to look at in dissecting the way you play the game. If you made the above raise, you sure shouldn't be pleased with your play, even though you won the pot, because you actually had no clue as to what you were doing.

Flipping this around, as a specific strategy, some players seek to keep their opponents baffled, befuddled and as confused as possible -- confusion to the enemy. While I agree it is better to have your opponents confused than to have them knowing exactly what you have, I believe this strategy is fundamentally flawed. In general, it is a bad idea to deliberately aim to have baffled, uniformed, confused opponents.

I want my opponents picking up as much clear, understandable information as possible! Of course, I want all this information to cause them to play incorrectly. If your opponents have literally no idea what to do, they can easily blunder onto the correct action. For example, if on the river an opponent has no clue whether to call or fold, if they ever do something like flipping a coin to decide, you have failed miserably as a poker player. What we want is for our opponents to do the action most profitable to us as often as we can get them to do it.

In military terms, one side in a war doesn't usually want a confused enemy. They want the enemy to confidently act on the wrong information -- right up to the very threshold of where the enemy still trusts the source of the information, even though it is consistently wrong. In World War II, the Allies went to a lot of trouble not to confuse the Germans about the invasion of Europe. They didn't want the Germans guarding the Normandy beaches by accident. The Allies wanted the Germans to deliberately fortify the port of Calais and elsewhere. If the Germans had been confused, they might have accidentally fortified Normandy.

Suppose the Klingons landed a spaceship here and challenged earth to a mano-o-mano athletic contest. Since they made the challenge, they let us choose the type of sporting competition. Now let's assume Klingons are basically like humans -- there are big ones, small ones, fast ones, strong ones, and nobody of superhuman ability. And now assume that the Klingons had to choose their athlete before we told them what the athletic competition would be. Would we want to confuse the Klingons about what sport we were going to choose? Hell no! If they had no idea of the game to be played, they would send a Jim Thorpe or Rafer Johnson all-around athlete to compete. That would be a terrible strategy for Earth to employ. It should be obvious that a better strategy is to try to persuade the Klingons to send a 400-pound weightlifter... to run a marathon, or some spindly marathoner to participate in a power-lifting contest!

I suggest building a strategy around counter-intelligence (actions and information that make opponents act like zombies or puppets) is greatly superior to one that prefers an information blackout that leaves opponents in the dark. Since there are commonly few choices to make in poker (call, raise, fold), clueless opponents (who can easily accidentally do the right thing) are much more dangerous opponents than zombie opponents.

So, be generous with your beloved opponents. Give them endless gifts of information and knowledge. Let them pick up clues. Let them be confident in their reading of you. Let them draw clear, definite conclusions.

And let them all be wrong.

More on Controlling Players not Confusing, and Playing the Other Person's Game