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Translating Poker 101 to Mafia Gameplay

I’ve been playing Mafia since last summer and realized there are quite a few similarities between how I play poker and Mafia. The biggest difference is that Mafia is a team game while poker isn’t. So some strategies I use to confuse my opponents also screw my teammates, but they still work to a certain extent…

Put yourself in your other people’s shoes. I’ve said it before in Poker 101An average player will think only about the cards other people are holding. If you want to be a good player, you have to think what other players think you have. In Mafia terms, this  means to think what other people are thinking. When you have an idea of what other players are thinking (or think what your role is), you can predict their actions then act accordingly. One time I was the angel, but came out as cop on the first day and faked a guilty report on a player. Judging by his reaction, We were 95% confident he was actually innocent. After I came out as cop, the real cop revealed himself. I did that knowing everyone else would think I was jester and that accomplished a few things:

1) The real cop had two less people to check (the person I faked the guilty and myself).

2) Everyone thought I was jester so I didn’t have to fear being lynched off.

3) Since the mafia know who the real cop is and will target him, I can use my angel ability to save him during the night.

This made it much easier for the civilians to progress and lynch the mafia.

In poker, you have to protect your hand meaning don’t give your opponent a free opportunity to draw a hand (eg straight, flush etc…) and beat you. The Mafia equivalent would be to protect your role so when you come out as any role, other players will respect that and not immediately discount your claim. I’ve learned the hard way (*cough Daphne cough*) that coming out as angel when you’re something else can backfire since you’re inviting the vigilante or serial killer to kill you during the night. I’ve also learned that when you are the angel, you can come out as any role (vigilante is my favourite to come out as) since mafia will try to kill you during the night while at the same time, you’re drawing attention away from the real vigilante who is more useful late in the game. So next time when you are the real vigilante and do reveal it, mafia will have to think twice before killing you. A strategy I want to try is to come out as some vital civilian role (eg vigilante or cop) when I’m the grandma with the shotgun. The plan is to have the mafia killed when they try to kill me during the night (of course I’ll also die during the night, but sacrificing one civilian to kill one mafia is a price I’m willing to pay and besides, I don’t like roles that can’t point during the night).

Lastly, I do shamelessly take advantage of the less experienced players. You want to avoid playing pots against players with large chip stacks especially in tournaments since they can eliminate you with one bet. Instead you bully short-stacked players and force them to go all-in with a marginal hand. There’s no code of ethics with picking on weaker players in poker and it’s the same with Mafia. When I’m the cop, I fake a guilty reports on inexperienced players to see their reactions. This doesn’t work as well on experienced players who are better able to convincingly defend themselves and refute my claim.

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