Scott Baumstein has received rave reviews for his role as protagonist Jack in the HBO TV show Poker. On one hand, Baumstein has a perfect poker face and he has absolutely no hesitation when he takes the shots. On the other hand, he is definitely not known to do anything bad in poker.
But, can Baumstein’s poker face be seen as bluffing? Is it always good to play poker as if you are a professional gambler? Baumstein is far from being a professional gambler and a little physical contact is sometimes required.
Poker pros like to call a bluff on a beginner. To me, it seems to be a weak move by most poker pros. In fact, most novice players get bamboozled when pro poker players move to the next level of strategy.
I believe that many poker pros fall prey to a psychological trick called bluffing. Bluffing is a form of emotional immaturity and professional poker players know this very well. In reality, bluffing is a counter-intuitive psychological strategy to a calculated one. I love to use this analogy to explain the concept.
Imagine you are playing a game of chess and you are playing against an expert in the game. To be honest, you think you’re playing a hard and fast game and you’re ready to fight him to the finish.
Now, as he makes moves in the game, you find out that he is really just playing a little at the chess board. He is trying to be able to make moves at all costs. He is not willing to waste any move. As a result, you will continue to get countered as the game goes on. However, if you continue to press your advantage in the game, he will get nervous and make a move at the wrong time.
Of course, the concept works the same in poker. Poker pros are just using a little psychology as a bluffing tactic to keep you guessing. It is a counter-intuitive technique that is so counter intuitive that most poker players are oblivious to its existence.
During the filming of Poker, Baumstein was actually once hit by a ball during a high roller event. A few weeks later, while watching the pilot episode of Poker Night in America, I asked Baumstein about the incident. What I discovered is that he was completely honest about it. This is a poker player who has a complete grasp of how to maneuver the game.
When I say that Baumstein plays poker the way it should be played, that is the exact opposite of how he is perceived. This is what makes him such a good poker player. He is not afraid to call a bluff. Instead, he plays in a completely calculated way.
His constant positive demeanor and style of play make you want to get involved in poker. The patience and level of professionalism are what makes Poker a truly great television show.
To me, the biggest misconception in poker is that it is gambling. It is very hard to turn a card game into gambling. However, there is more to poker than just winning and losing and knowing how to get it right will win more money than all the poker books in the world.
Many people watch Poker for the sheer entertainment value. Baumstein’s actions on camera show that he truly understands how to perform as if he were an expert. In short, Scott Baumstein is one of the more subtle and impressive poker players on TV.