The Bluff

January 26, 2010 |

The term ‘bluff’ is one of the most popular poker terms that we have in our glossary. Though it is a word that when mentioned you immediately think poker; yet the bluff can be one of the toughest plays for players to pull off. A player has to have the guts to make the play in the first place, but more importantly the bluff has to make sense. If the ’bluff bet’ doesn’t make sense then your opponent will have a hard time believing you are holding the better hand and often times you will get picked off (much like Favre did, my apologies Vikings fans). I am going to explain a couple situations where a missed bet may cost you in a hand and how telling the correct story will can ultimately lead to a successful bluff.

When you are tying to operate a successful bluff it’s very important to know your opponents tendencies at the poker table. If a particular player is a ‘calling station’ then it may be in your best interest to shy away from pulling a bluff on this player. If they are a calling station they will call your bet regardless of what their hand is, and if you are in fact bluffing then they will scoop the pot even if they have bottom pair. If there is a tight player at the table then it may be more appropriate to make a play at this individual, because they will have a tough time making the call if they play relatively tight. Knowing how your opponents play comes in handy in every aspect of the poker game. Study up on your table to pull off the successful bluff.

Pulling off the bluff isn’t the easiest thing to do so let me give you an example. Let’s say you are holding AK and you make a standard raise pre-flop. One player calls and for the time being we’ll name him George. The flop comes 10 9 2. George checks to you and holding AK you decide to check as well. Checking on the flop ’usually’ shows weakness from the player who initially made the pre-flop raise, but there are some occasions where they will be slow playing. The turn for this hand comes as another 9 and once again both players proceed to check the hand. Re-cap:

Us: AK Opponent: ??
Board: 9 10 2 9

Both players have checked to the river and the river brings us a 3. Now your opponents knows that the 3 didn’t help improve your hand unless you raising with 33 which would be highly unlikely. Let’s say George checks to you and you decide to make a bet on the river with ace high. George thinks about it for a second, but eventually makes the call with 55 and takes the pot. The reason this didn’t work is because the bet didn’t make any sense. Your checks on the flop and turn showed weakness. Unless were holding 10s or 33 our bet on the river doesn’t make sense, so it’s an easy call for your opponent. The 3 couldn’t have helped your hand so your bet seemed to fishy. Let’s now change it up a little bit. We’re still holding AK, our opponent still has 55, and the board still comes 9 10 2.

By raising pre-flop you are telling your table that you have a quality hand. Once George checks to you on the flop this is where you have to take advantage of the situation. Good players will make the continuation bet on the flop the majority of the time, because 88% of the time players will fold on the flop (not an exact percentage J). We won’t know he is holding 55, but if you put in a bet on the flop (it’s essentially a bluff) then you are telling your opponent your hand is still strong even after the flop. With George holding 55 it will be tough for him to continue in the hand, because unless he hit’s 5 in later streets he is putting himself in harms way. Just remember to tell the right story when you are performing a bluff otherwise you will get caught almost every time. Good luck at the tables my friends.

Craig Fleck

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