Bluffing in Poker

Bluffing is an integral part of playing poker to win. However, like most things in life, if you do it too much, or too little, you will have become too predictable. The “Tight” players, who never bluff, rarely get much action when they do make a hand.

The loose/aggressive players, that bluff all the time, get a lot of action and although their bluffs are called more often, they make a lot more money on the hands that they do make. The best solution is to find a balance and vary your play so that your opponents, at the poker table, will not be able to accurately predict your actions. David Sklansky wrote about finding an optimal bluffing frequency.

There are 2 primary kinds of bluffs:

  • An Outright Bluff – This kind of bluff is also known as a stone cold, or pure, bluff. A situation like betting a busted draw would fit in to this category. A stone cold bluff is made when you believe that you can only win if all of your opponents fold.
  • A Semi-Bluff – A semi-bluff is when you have a hand that would probably not win in a show down but could improve on a future street, or draw. Depending on the strength of your draw, your bet could be considered a value bet instead of a semi-bluff. For example, if you have an open ended, 4 card straight flush on the flop then your draw is so good that your bet would be considered a value bet.

In order to bluff successfully the attempt should be well thought out rather than something you decide to try on the river, just because you missed your draw. Many factors should be considered before attempting a bluff. Some of these factors include:

Table Image – Bluffing is one of the forms of deception involved in basic poker strategy. Not only do you need to pick up on the table images of the other players at the table, but you need to have an idea of the table image that you represent to the rest of the table.  

Pot Size and Chip Stacks – As you participate in a poker hand you should always know how much money is in the pot. Knowing the pot size enables you to calculate pot equity, pot odds, implied odds, fold equity, and more. It is also very important to constantly be aware of the chip stacks belonging to the other players in the hand.

Position – Your position at the table, when attempting to bluff a pot, is extremely important. Bluffing in late, or last, position is one of the more common plays and because of this value bets made in last position will usually get paid off a higher percentage of the time.

Cards on the Board – Before attempting a bluff you should be able to put the other players, in the hand, on a range. You do this by reviewing the players actions on each street and adding that information to the table image that you have of the other players.

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