Poker is made up of several key elements, and one of the biggest is the psychological component. Indeed, there are many aspects of poker that are directly applicable to bridge. With so many concepts and strategies common to both, it is easy to see why top class bridge players have become equally skilled at poker....and vice versa. Therefore it is not surprising to see poker-type tactics skilfully employed at the bridge table.
Poker players know their odds, the probabilities, and have that ability to think and judge what is the best action to take in any given situation. By weighing up the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents, they can often hit upon the optimum strategy. They will take calculated risks and make occasional speculative moves, departing from their normal game plan. These decisions may be seen as inspired when they come off, or acts of temporary madness if they don't......but top class players always look beyond any single negative result. They speculate to accumulate.
In bridge, Mark argues, one needs to speculate heavily when the odds are on your side, and where you can win by employing a strategy that provides several different winning possibilities. Thus, it is not really gambling....it is more like sound and sensible investment.
One section of his book I found most interesting was on bluffing. He considers occasional psyches as a valuable and effective weapon in the reserve arsenals of most experts. These bids were used to" create an illusion of strength " or to " conceal weakness "......not to mention alerting partner towards a defensive lead that could be hugely beneficial. Many other types of bluff involve bids that are made later on in the auctions promising stops and/or controls which didn't exist. Gratuitous and lead inhibiting bids came into this category. The tactics of course are the same : to confuse the opponents into making incorrect choices, or to steer them away from finding the winning lines of play.
As for opening bids or overcalls Mike considers that a shrewd player will restrict these bluffs ( psyches ) to situations where in 3rd position, two passes have already hit the table. The second requirement is that the hand should have less than 8 HCPs.....thus the opponents are well placed to have game on, or at least have an easy part-score. Finally, he should also have an Ace or a King to three in suit bid. Therefore, if partner raises the bid the contract should be somewhat playable, an if partner leads this suit, at least he has one decent card there. Psyching on singletons and voids do not make good sense.
Mike does go on to admit that after one incident when an opponent screamed for the director bitterly complaining " This man overcalled on a 3 card suit " , the TD politely warned him that he should put " occasional psyches " on his convention card. Mike however was very quick and keen to point out the comment was already there.
The book itself is a joy to read and the bidding problems that readers are asked to ponder over are excellent. Moreover, many of the hands that are illustrated come with excellent analysis, insight and advice....clearly flagging up where poker tactics can be cleverly and gainfully employed by the bridge player.