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Art of Poker

All warfare is based on deception

Many stop at taking steps to deceive the enemy thinking this is enough. But to take this statement fully into account, you also must learn how the enemy is deceiving you.

Deceiving Your Enemy

For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.

Where We Intend To Fight Must Not Be Made Known

The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points.

Choosing Your Battlefield

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.

Setting Up An Ambush

By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him.

You Can't Lose

Sun Tzu said: The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.

Compare Your Opponents Style With Your Own

Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient.

Using Direct and Indirect Methods

To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken - this is effected by maneuvers direct and indirect.

This portion of Sun Tzu's text in chapter five, entitled Energy, is not the easiest concept to grasp. However, it has proven extremely useful in military history.

Sun Tzu advocates the use of both direct methods and indirect methods, or cheng (direct) and ch'i (indirect) methods. Cheng can be described as an orthodox, expected, or distracting move. Generally these maneuvers are designed to give your opponent what they expect hiding your true purpose. Ch'i moves on the other hand are unexpected, unorthodox, and generally decisive moves. Cheng is designed to pin your enemies attention on a certain point, while the ch'i maneuver involves coming from an unexpected angle confusing the opponent as to your true intentions. If your opponent suspects that your direct maneuver contains some secret design it immediately becomes ch'i. Just like cheng maneuvers can become ch'i maneuvers, if your opponent sees your ch'i attack as being secretly designed then it becomes cheng.

Applying this concept to poker is not easy. In a sense though, any decent player already does apply it on a fairly regular basis. However, until you understand how you are applying it, you will not be making full use of the concepts capabilities.

The best way to perfect these concepts is to try to learn how you apply them in your game. Before making a bet always make sure you are clear on what message you are sending with your bet. What does this bet, or check, say to your opponent. Do they see it as a ch'i (secretly designed) maneuver or do they see the true purpose of it. If you bet half of an opponents stack, do they feel that you are bluffing, or that you have a good hand. If they guess right, then that maneuver can be considered a direct attack, while if they guess wrong you've successfully applied an indirect maneuver.

Apply these terms on a long-term basis. The concepts of cheng and ch'i are extremely effective at misleading opponents over the long run. Your opponent has opinions of you from hand #1. Each hand thereafter you have built up perceptions which you can attack using indirect methods. If your opponent has noticed that you fold to big bets they will view a big bet from you as cheng, a direct attack. If you had been bluffing, your ch'i move was successful, as you have just won a battle using an unexpected maneuver.

The best thing you can learn by practicing these concepts is how to judge whether your opponent will see your move for its true purpose or not. If you make your best estimate every time you can stay one step ahead of your opponent at every step of the game. You will effectively raise the percentage of time that your opponent is wrong about the true purpose of your actions.

In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.

In No Limit Hold'em you have the chance to attack directly and indirectly in the same hand. For example, you check on the flop with a good hand (indirect attack) telling your opponent that you have nothing worth betting on. Then you re-raise on the river telling your opponent you have a good hand (a direct attack). The direct attack on the river will be more effective if you can have your opponent think that your attack is a bluff (a secretly designed attack). This means that your opponent will think that your direct attack is a rouse and will attack you where you are strong. The more attention you pay to this, the more you can make your opponent guess wrong as to your true purpose.

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