“When In Doubt, Send Out a Scout” by Al Spath Before poker, it was pinochle, especially for those who were in the military like me. Double-deck games, anywhere from $ .25 to $1 a point would go all night, all week-end, or three days if we were coming off shifts, or when lucky enough to have an extra holiday off. Long time partners could read one another’s mind. There literally were signals for passing information including aces held, sequence bidding meanings, even the way meld was displayed (laying cards on the table so your opponents could view and validate) had meanings. This was a wide open - take no prisoners game, with one exception. You were required to follow the suit played (if you had one), and with a card higher (if you had one), than the highest card played on the board. If you intentionally or unintentionally did otherwise you were guilty of a renege and suffered harsh penalty points. There were times in these games that you lead out with a series of cards, mostly aces and trump cards to establish your dominance, scoring points from your partner and your opponents, as you attempted to dominate the hand. It was your task to win a significant portion of the hands played, and to keep your opponents from making a minimum score that would allow them to validate and keep their personal combined meld. Following your first assault and with a weakening hand you could reach a point (if you are not sure how to get the lead over to your partner), that you must *PUNT! At this point you might have doubts as to which card to lead with, so you must make a play referred to as: “sending out a scout.” In reality it’s sending a non-scoring card (a queen), forcing your opponent to play a higher card, either a king, ten or and ace. This is to force the action, create a scenario for your partner to pick up the pot and take the lead. In poker, as in pinochle, we are faced with situations that we are unsure of and we too “send out a scout.” Although much like that of pinochle this is not a defensive or passive action. The “probing bet” can be an info gathering action or done precisely at the right time, in the right situation, and with the correct bet size, a very profitable offensive weapon. In “Harrington on Hold’em, Volume II,” Dan describes it this way: “A probe bet is a cross between a bluff and an informational bet. It’s a lead-out bet of somewhere between one-quarter and one-third the pot.” He goes on to say, “mostly the probe bet has an informational function. It’s a way of asking two questions": Please tell me a little something about your hand? Wouldn’t it be nice if the two of us could just see the next card cheaply? (Can’t we all just get along?)” Harrington consistently suggests a half-pot bet when making a probe bet. His position is that the response to your probe bet will net you either the desired winning result, or result in providing you valuable information about the potential strength of your opponents’ hand. Many players do not follow his recommendation and they commit more chips with “pot bets,” while other players’ take a passive stance and either check or bet the minimum. The consequences of both plays may create a problem for you and allow your opponents to put undo pressure upon you, instead of you forcing them to make a critical decision, or to elicit vital information about their hand strength. The next time you need to “send out a scout,” make a probe bet that can manipulate your opponents into making a miscue or to provide you the information needed to continue on to a winning hand. One thing to keep in mind as you make this play: your opponents may send back a resounding message that trumps your scout move. Be able to detect when it’s time to cut your losses, and then do it! *Punt: a term relating to American football, when out of options, time to punt (and turnover the offense), to your competitors.