in No-Limit Holdem cash games
Before trying to implement the tactics described in
this section about bluffing in poker, it is important
to understand that some of the more advanced bluffing
strategies do not suit every player, or every poker
strategy. While bluffing and deception is a quintessential
component of every successful poker strategy, especially
in No-limit Holdem, excessive bluffing can get even
the best of players into sticky situations where they
obviously would prefer not to be.
in poker is extremely difficult to master, because
there is no hard and fast rule defining when, where
or how much to bluff. Hopefully these guidelines will
give you the necessary resources to find a bluffing
strategy that suits your style of play. In order to
succeed, the skill of bluffing requires all of the
general fundamentals of poker, including having good
knowledge of your opponents at the table, knowing
the correct time to bluff, as well as having the courage
to put your money into the pot with nothing. The beauty
of bluffing is that it gives you the ability to take
down pots that you would otherwise have lost. Normally
in a session where you would have come out negative
because of a cold deck or the inability to hit any
flops, you may end up square or even slightly ahead
because of your bluffing prowess. Now if that doesn't
make you satisfied, not much else will!
Example of Bluffing
Stripping things down to the bare minimum, I have
described a situation here that illustrates the basic
concept of bluffing with its mathematical explanation.
In this example, you are at the river with one other
player and you are last to act after he checks to
you. Not concerned with the rest of the play, assume
there are 100 dollars in the pot and you are quite
certain that your opponent has the best hand if you
were to check it down. Here is where things get difficult,
when determining how much to bet so that your opponent
will not call. There is always a chance your opponent
will call, or even raise you. He may be trying to
set a trap, or checking down with a marginal hand
that he doesn't want to bet with, but is happy to
call with. All of these factors have to come into
consideration when determining your bluff. So with
100 dollars in the pot, if you think that a 25 dollar
bet will make your opponent fold a quarter of the
time, then it is a correct bet. We can see that this
is the case if we play out the hand 4 times, of which
three out of four times you are called and lose 75
dollars as a result of bluffing. However on the one
time that he folds, you pick up the 100 dollar pot.
After it all pans out, you come out 25 dollars ahead.
this we can see how the bluff only has to work some
of the time in order to justify it as a winning play.
Many players often mistakenly believe that money they
put into the pot previously is still their money when
calculating the odds. This is simply not the case.
If you had checked the river in the previous example
all four times, you would have lost the 100 dollars
in the pot each time anyway, but by betting at least
you have a chance of taking down the pot! However,
let's pursue this further. How do you determine the
exact percentage chance that a player will fold to
a certain bet? It is nigh on impossible to make this
decision spot on. So why not make a bet that you believe
will make your opponent fold 95% of the time? After
all, this is No-Limit Holdem and not Limit, so you
should use this to your advantage. This leads onto
the next section.
much should I bluff?
There is no definitive answer to this question, but
when bluffing it is advisable NOT to err on the side
of caution. You should not show any weakness in your
bet and you surely don't want to price your opponent
into the pot. If you only bet one third of the pot,
then your opponent only has to be correct one in three
times to make the call profitable. So if he thinks
there is a two in three chance that you are bluffing,
then he should call you. Most decent players will
be able to distinguish a bluffer from a non-bluffer
and hence this decision would not be a difficult one
for them. If you think about it, a 66% chance that
someone is bluffing is fairly high. Generally I would
suggest a bet that is closer to pot sized, after all,
this is the kind of bet you would make if you actually
had a hand. This bet also puts a lot more pressure
on the other player to make the correct decision.
are two sides of the coin for this argument, because
sometimes a smaller sized bluff can sometimes be deceiving.
On occasion if you make a bet that is about a third
to a half of the pot, this may look like you are begging
for a call. This play should only be used against
more advanced players who will think about your play
and what it suggests. There are also situations where
you are forced to bluff because you have nothing and
you cannot possibly win the pot without betting, but
you really have no idea if your opponents will fold
to or call your bet. What you do here genuinely defines
whether you are a risk taking, aggressive player,
or a safer, tight player. Mathematically, because
you are so unsure, it would be wrong to place a large
bet in this situation. However, I still recommend
a bet that is at least two-thirds of the pot size.
Otherwise you are better off checking and hoping for
Keeping an eye on how each opponent on your table
plays is essential for all types of poker strategies
and the same goes for bluffing. Your strategy should
change accordingly when pitted against different types
of players. First and foremost, do not attempt elaborate
bluffs on very weak players, especially calling stations!
The more advanced the bluff, the more advanced the
player that is required for the play to work. When
facing tight or timid, players, you should immediately
realize that these players will often release their
hands when forced to call a substantial bet. So it
should hit you straight away that these players are
far more susceptible to bluffs. It is also important
to acknowledge that if a tight player calls your bet,
more often than not they will have a hand and further
bluffs may be futile. On the other hand, when up against
more loose, aggressive players, bluffing too often
pre-flop or on the flop against these players may
not be the smartest play, because more often than
not you will be called. It is more reasonable to let
these players do the bluffing against you and use
this to your advantage. Well timed re-raises, even
without a hand, against these types of players will
probably make you more money in the long run than
trying to steal their blinds off them. Attempting
to bluff a bluffer is somewhat more advanced however,
as you need to be fairly sure your opponent is bluffing
and it contains a significantly higher risk.
are more than four types of players however, and sometimes
a timid player who never bets may always call you
down, or an aggressive pre-flop player may give up
his hand easily if he doesn't improve on the flop.
So keep an eye out and adapt your strategy accordingly.
When all is said and done, look for players that tend
to fold easily post-flop, these are the best targets
often should I bluff?
Players that bluff some of the time and not all of
the time, or hardly at all, are generally the better
players in the game. It is always important in poker
not to become predictable and the same goes for bluffing.
However bluffing too much is significantly worse than
not bluffing at all. So if you find yourself falling
into this pattern, be sure to pull in the reins! If
the players at your table realize that you are bluffing
most of the time, your bluffs will become ineffective
and you will get called down more often than not.
You will also be susceptible to being set-up and often
players in early positions will wait for you to bet
and check-raise you. It is much better to bluff less
often if you cannot find yourself a happy medium,
because if your opponents are of the opinion that
you do not bluff at all, then when you do bluff, at
least your bluff will
respect. The obvious downside to this is that when
you do make a hand, you will get paid off much less
often. The optimum strategy is to keep them guessing
and the keys to doing this are to keep your betting
consistent whether you are bluffing or not and not
to bluff too often, nor too infrequently, but to keep
a happy medium. When your opponents are forced to
guess whether or not you are bluffing, inevitably
they will be wrong some of the time. You will find
that when you are on song, the decision will be in
your favour more often than not.
Keep track of betting patterns
As most play is conducted online nowadays, the best
way to read a player is by keeping track of the way
your opponent bets, but this also applies to live
games. The thing to look for when you want to bluff
a player out of a pot is a bet that signifies weakness,
or is out of the ordinary. Again this is considered
an advanced strategy, because you are raising a player
believing that he has a weak or no hand at all, and
the risk is fairly high. Be careful though, because
some players like to use a weak bet to induce a bluff
and you may be playing straight into their hands!
Best Times to Bluff
Questions and Answers
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