The bluff in poker overview
Everything you hear at a poker table is a lie. One of the most important texas holdem poker strategies there is, is called the bluff. The technical meaning of a bluff in poker is a bet or a raise made with a weaker hand than your opponent and the object of a bluff is to get your opponent to fold his or hers better hand. In short, a bluffer is lying about the strength of their hand. It’s not easy to bluff, especially against call stations, but it can be done. Just don’t go doing it on your first hand or you’ll find yourself watching a re-run of Friends on the tele faster than you can say ‘bluff’. You got to pick your spot and first learn how your opponents are playing. The size and frequency of your bluffs are very important in determining the outcome. If you bluff too often, you are bound to get caught and if you bluff with a small bet into a much larger pot, chances are that you’re going to get called, because the other player has very little to lose then after investing already so much more.
A semi-bluff is when you have the weaker hand, but have a good chance in improving as the betting and rounds continue. This bluff is usually made on the flop and a bluff like this has two ways of being profitable; your opponents can all fold or you can improve your hand by hitting your card. Sometimes you can be on a draw with odds strong enough that you are actually the favourite to win the hand. This is not really classified as a bluff even though your opponent might have a hand with better current strength when he or she folds her cards.
The stone cold bluff
A stone cold bluff is when a player bluffs with a hand that is much weaker than his opponents’ hand and has little or no chance of improving. Making a stone cold bluff is when you believe that you have absolutely no chance of winning the hand in a showdown and can only win it by making your opponents fold. A bluff’s pot odds are the ratio of the size of the bet compared to the pot. Only when the probability of getting called is lower than the pot odds, will it be profitable in the long run. For example, after the river had been dealt and all a player holds is a busted draw; the only way he can win the pot is by inducing a stone cold bluff. If he bets the size of the pot the bluff will only have a positive expectation if the probability of getting called is less than 50%. But don’t take this as a done deal, because your opponent will also be considering the pot odds in making that call.
When and when not to bluff
In some circumstances a bluff will be more effective than others. The probability of your bluff coming off will increase as the probability of getting called decreases. It will all depend on the circumstances and once you have a read on your opponents. It’s not a good idea to try and bluff more than one player at a time. You can try, but in the long run it will not be profitable. You will get called more often than not. A good spot for a bluff is when a scare card comes that increases the number of better hands you are representing and should provide less favourable pot odds for your opponent to call.
When entering a bluff and representing a much better hand than what you actually have, make sure that your betting pattern stays the same as to what you normally would bet when you really do have that good hand. If you suddenly change your pattern, it might set off the alarm bells in your opponent’s head and he might call your bluff. It also works the other way around. If your opponent changes his or hers betting pattern, it might suggest that they have a marginal hand as opposed to a very good hand or they might be on a draw. That will be the perfect spot to pull off a bluff unless they have too many outs and you make it favourable for them to call.
It’s crucial to make note and pay attention to your opponents. A better player will be more difficult to bluff. They usually pay more attention and will most likely have taken mental notes on how you are playing. Lastly you need to take into consideration your opponents’ state of mind. Outside factors can very easily play a big part in their decision making skills. But that’s more for live play.
How often should you bluff
Bluffing too infrequently or bluffing too frequently can have the same results; opponents calling your bluff. Employing occasional bluffing is a good way to disguise your hands. Not just your bluffing hand, but also legitimate hands they think that you might be bluffing with. In ‘The Theory of Poker’, David Sklansky states ‘Mathematically, the optimal bluffing strategy is to bluff in such a way that the chances against your bluffing are identical to the pot odds your opponent is getting. The best bluffs are usually the ones where your opponent has no idea if you are bluffing or not.
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See you at the tables.
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