This is a blog about strategies and tactics I have learned, mostly from my experience of playing 3D fighting games and reading classic strategy books. Oh... and Java.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Art of Sandbagging

Sandbagging in poker is the opposite of a bluff: You try to make yourself look weaker than you really are. This post will explain when and where to use this strategy and follow up with some personal examples of how to win with it.

Lets assume your long term goal is to win an upcoming tournament and you have an opportunity to play against the toughest competitor beforehand. You can use this time to make your opponent think they know how to beat you. You do this by intentionally playing worse than you really will in the tournament.

When you play that person, they will come into the fight with a strategy based on the way you pretended to play. When nothing he planned works, it will be completely demoralizing and surprising to him. Generally, a tournament match doesn't last long enough to recover from this shock.

Here are some real examples I've used in the past: A very important Tekken 4 tournament was coming up and the night before, I played against the person I was most worried about. Every time he threw me or jabbed me (you beat these by ducking) I let it damage me. I intentionally picked these moves because my character had very damaging moves that go under attacks. Naturally, when we played in the tournament, he ended up using the exact opposite strategy against me that he should have, and lost.

The night before a big Soul Calibur 3 tournament, I played some of the people I was most concerned about. My character happened to have very annoying pokes that were hard to interrupt. During these sessions, I played super aggressively and used these pokes whenever possible. Here you can see my goal wasn't to look worse than I was, just that 1) my character has really annoying pokes 2) the pokes are very effective. I believe these people spent the rest of their time trying to figure out how to beat the combinations I was using.

But, during the matches that mattered, these people were trying to beat an exchange that was never coming. I switched my strategy to one of "wait and interrupt". They kept on trying to bait me into poking them and I kept on backing up and keeping them out. After the tournament, this person wanted to play me again to prove to himself (and others that watched) that he figured out how to beat me.

Although he didn't win the tournament, he believed that if he played me again, things would go very differently. Of course, he had no idea that I sandbagged after the tournament, too. :)

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