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Bluffing in Poker – The Basics to Keep in Mind

Last updated on March 4, 2018

If a dollar won is twice as sweet as a dollar earned than a hand you win with a bluff is twice as sweet as a hand you won with good cards.

There’s nothing quite like bluffing someone out of a big pot and stacking their chips while you muck your ten high. Yet, few people seem to bluff well and it seems one of the hardest skills to master for women.  At least most men seem to think so.

Some players bluff too much, and some never bluff, while others only bluff occasionally but don’t seem successful when they do. I found it difficult to master bluff strategy when I first started learning to play, and it was frustrating at times. Like anything else you need to start somewhere, and everyone can always learn new ways to improve their poker strategy.

Where to Start

I think it’s because those huge all in bluffs look so good on TV that makes them so enticing and even sexy (depending on who is going all in).  So, my advice to you is not to rely on big allin bluffs. Its not to say that you might not want to be enticing and sexy at the poker table, but its because I have found  that the successful bluffing opportunities come in smaller pots and are less dramatic.

For example, let’s say you’re in the big blind, two people call and you check. The flop now comes K-8-2 with no flush draws. You really don’t even need to look at your cards, just bet. Nobody has raised preflop, there’s only two other players and there are no straight or flush draws. Unless someone has a king, you’re probably taking the pot down as your opponents fold. It’s from this simple example that you can learn a lot: look for opportunities like this when it is unlikely the flop has hit anyone. There aren’t too many players to bluff out, nobody has shown much interest in the pot, and it is hard for someone to call a big bet. with nothing on the flop If someone is holding Q-J for example, they would be hard pressed to call your bluff because they are drawing almost dead if you have a pair of kings.

Much of the bluffing you should be doing is based on the board and the texture of the flop as well the other player’s weaknesses. If the flop was 8-7-2 with 2 hearts, there is a large variety of hands with good draws. that are possible. Also, a flop like K-Q-T contains so many high cards that if 2 people have called in, they almost have to have hit something. This makes both of these situations harder to bluff and more dependent on the weakness of players. When you are first starting out, you should do fairly easy bluffs and then slowly test the waters for more opportunities.

Bluffing Odds

Yes, odds and math are useful. Let’s say I’m playing $5/10 limit and there’s $15 in the pot. I think I might be able to bluff and win and I figure I also have nearly zero chance of winning if I’m called. If I bet on the flop, I put in $5 and win $15 if everyone folds. This means if I win one time and they call me three times, I break even. From that, you can see that you don’t need to be successful most of the time or even half the time, just 1 out of 4 in this example.

When you are thinking about bluffing, take a look at how much is in the pot, how much you have to bet, and compare that to the chances you think your bluff will work. Now, most of the time you don’t need to think about this, but it can be helpful to remember your odds. This can make you a little braver with your bluffs and less worried about getting called as much. Your goal is to make a profit in the long run and don’t worry if they catch you bluffing a couple times along the way.

Check Raising

If you have check raised a few times in the previous hands you have played, its easier to use that to bluff later. If you’re in early position and the flop gets checked around it is a good time to think about bluffing on the turn. If an innocent looking card comes on the turn you should think about taking a stab at the pot. If the top or bottom card pairs, it can be a good card for you to buy the pot with as well. Its surprising how many times I’ve bet and thought to myself that it was completely obvious I was bluffing, yet everyone has folded and I’ve taken down the hand. Sure, once in a while a player slow plays a big hand but it’s more likely that nobody had anything to bet with in the first place and that’s why they checked.

Weak Tight is Best

All bluffs work best against players who are weak and tight. Some will even fold every cent they have and let you steal all day. But there are player types who aren’t so easy to rob. Loose players simply call way too often and they can be very hard to bluff. If you know you are laying a maniac or someone who is very loose and won’t fold, just check your garbage hands and be patient. On the other hand, if you know your opponents are tight but can also be aggressive, you should still bluff them but you should be more selective with your bluffs and less obvious. Players like that know about bluffing strategy as well, and if you are predictable they will not hesitate  to raise you back.

Don’t Be Afraid

You can’t be afraid and bluff well. If you think it’s a good opportunity to bluff, do it. If you don’t bluff because you’re afraid then you’re losing out on some winning strategy. If you get caught bluffing a few times, don’t worry about it and just learn from the situation. If you pick the right situations, you will make money with your bluffs .  Its an important strategy for your game

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