The Art of Bluffing
The art of bluffing is a valuable concept to master when playing online poker. Not only can it help you win hands that you otherwise may not have, but it can also make your betting actions difficult to read.
It is also important to understand the art of bluffing to identify when other players are trying to bluff you. By correctly identifying a bluff, you can collect valuable pots and dissuade players from trying to bluff you again.
This article looks at the three most common types of bluffing – the quick bluff, the semi-bluff and the stone-cold bluff. As strategy in online poker evolves, so does the art of bluffing. By remaining observant at the poker tables, you will be able to see these changes as they appear.
The Quick Bluff
The quick bluff is the most commonly used bluff in online poker. It involves a small bet made from position that convinces your opponents that you have strong hand and forces them to fold. Here is an example:
There are three players in the hand – the Big Blind, a player in the hijack seat and you. You have the button and are holding A♦ 7♠. After little pre-flop action, the flop of Q♣ Q♠ 8♥ is dealt. Both the Big Blind and the player in the hijack seat check.
There are two possible scenarios here. Either one of your opponents is slow-playing trip Queens, or neither of your opponents has a Queen and they are ready to fold against any action.
The likelihood is that neither player has been dealt a Queen. A small bet should take down the pot from this position as the size of the pot is relatively small, and the pot odds for either of your opponents do not make it worthwhile for them to make a hero call.
The semi-bluff involves bluffing when you have a genuine chance of making a drawing hand. In fact, there are various points of view that suggest a semi-bluff is a valid bet in certain circumstances. Again here is an example:
You are in a hand with two other players. As the third player to act, you are holding A♣ Q♣ and the flop of K♣ 7♣ 4♠ is dealt. At this point you have nothing better than Ace-high, but you are drawing to a club flush. The first player to act raises by half the pot.
With the odds of completing your flush draw at around 6/4, it would make sense to simply call if the second player to act calls the initial raise. This is because you would be getting pot odds of 2/1 on a 6/4 chance.
However, the second player folds and now the odds are no longer in your favor. The correct course of action here is to fold or raise. Folding when you are likely up against a pair of Kings may appear to be the sensible thing to do but, by raising, you imply that you have a stronger hand than a pair of Kings (a set of Sevens maybe).
Even if your opponent has a pair of Kings, he or she is likely to fold against your post-flop raise. If they don´t (maybe they have a set of Sevens), the possibility exists that you will make a winning flush draw on the Turn or River.
The Stone Cold Bluff
The stone-cold bluff usually occurs towards the end of a hand and involves a player implying by their betting action that they have made the nut hand on the Turn or River. It can be a dangerous strategy to employ – particularly if your opponent has actually got the nut hand – but, played sparingly, there are certain advantages even when the bluff fails.
Unlike the post-flop quick bluff or semi-bluff, if you put money into the pot at the end of a hand with absolutely nothing, you are relying on the fact that other players will fold. This strategy is most often going to work if you have developed a suitable table persona and been observed as playing tight, aggressive poker.
If the strategy does not work – i.e. your bluff is called – it is not the end of the world. Although you will have suffered a temporary loss in one hand, your table opponents will have identified you as a player prepared to bluff. This will help you to attract more action on your premium hands and make more money in the long run.
Many online poker schools advise new players not to attempt the stone cold bluff while they are still learning the basics of the game. I tend to agree with this advice, and would suggest that the stone cold bluff is a strategy you should introduce gradually into your game when circumstances allow. It is also worth noting that many players at “recreational” stake levels will not be paying too close attention to the betting actions of their opponents.
Used with an appropriate balance, bluffing is a valuable piece of equipment in your strategy arsenal. However, you should avoid using it too often. Although there are benefits to getting caught bluffing, players whose bluffs get called too frequently risk seeing their bankrolls disintegrate!