Although I’ve been accused by co-workers of having a poker face, I’m not a poker player. As a result, this follow-up to yesterday’s post on bluffing is based on secondary research, not real-life poker experience. These rules, adapted from poker bluffing maxims, are helpful in deciding when and how to use a bluffing strategy in business situations:

  • Be attuned to details in others’ behaviors. Study good bluffers and identify why they’re effective.
  • Don’t make it a general practice to bluff. Use the strategy only when necessary and avoid pure bluffs (i.e., you have limited means to deal with the downside of losing) at nearly all costs.
  • It’s dangerous to bluff against careless or inexperienced parties. They’ll tend to miss or incorrectly perceive situations and react unpredictably.
  • Fully understand your position in any situation where you’re considering a bluffing strategy.
  • Make sure the risks aren’t too high when you elect to bluff.
  • When bluffing, do so in a way that’s consistent with what the other person suspects is accurate and true about the situation (i.e., they think you have all the necessary information in a situation, so you act as if you do).
  • Don't bluff someone you suspect has a stronger position (i.e., more information, flexibility, risk tolerance, etc.).

When to bluff? Here are a few situations where it may be appropriate:

  • A situation is familiar and you need to appear strong and in command even when you don’t have all the information you’d like or a full grasp of this particular situation.
  • You have some negative near-term information that can be corrected more readily if you don’t have to disclose it to the other party.
  • You’re bargaining with someone in a low-importance situation and are indifferent to winning or losing.

Consider incorporating bluffing into your strategy repertoire if you haven’t before.

And given how good interviewees are about Googling interviewers, these last two posts might be enough of a nudge to pave the way for reintroducing my bluffing question with the possibility of getting some decent answers.

Thanks for playing along during Sports Strategy Lesson week. Did you enjoy these strategy lessons? Let me know!