The Art of Bluffing

In this article, we will go over some of the unique and challenging situations that players may find themselves in when trying to bluff their opponents. Covered are the right spots to bluff, types of bluffs, and our targets for bluffing. Breaking down each situation and having a plan for each action your opponent may take is key to pulling off successful bluffs.

Make your bluff believable

One of the most crucial things to consider when attempting a bluff is, “does this make sense?” Often times, players will panic after missing a draw and bet big on the river, only to be called. They will react in disgust thinking how they could have been called by an opponent with a marginal or poor hand. It is simply because they did not plan their bluff attempt, and reacted on impulse without thinking if their action was believable.

Say the flop is, 5c6c9d, it is a heads up no limit hand. One player is out of position and has called a pot sized flop bet from his opponent, the turn is a Jack of diamonds making a 5c6c9dJd board. Again, the UTG player checks and the late position player bets half the pot, and again another quick call. The river is a blank, 2 of spades. The UTG player bets out the full pot size into his opponent. His opponent thinks and then calls with Q9, taking down the pot. What did our UTG player have? A7s of clubs, a huge hand on the flop. Unfortunately, he played it extremely passive, fired a bluff on the river when no draws hit, when he had been showing no aggression all hand. Our friend with the flush draw was not believable. The bet made did not make sense and acted without realizing that his bluff attempt was hardly credible.

Bluffing is trying to induce a fold of an opponent who has a better hand. Many players simply can not get off even marginal hands or are well enough experienced to pick off a bluff attempt. We’ll need to plan our bluffs, take our situation into account, and consider how our opponent perceives our play.

Types of bluffs

Semi bluffing: Semi bluffing is extremely common amongst intermediate to advanced players. A semi bluff is when you have the potential to have the best hand (or may already have the best hand) by the river. When semi bluffing with larger draws, such as open ended straight flush draws, you may actually be ahead of your opponent a large number of time. Semi bluffing comes with two benefits, you have a strong hand and may hit your draw to win the pot or you can make your opponent fold by raising or betting into him. Flush and straight draws are excellent options for semi bluffing.

Floating: Floating involves calling your opponent’s continutation bet at the flop and then betting if he checks the turn to try and take down the pot. Normally, this involves playing from position or last to act. Floating is especially effective because of the large amount of continuation bets players make. Also, many players will immediately give up on the turn, if you call and they have missed. You can easily fire out a small bet and take the pot down.

Pure bluff: A pure bluff is when you have little or no chance to win the hand and most likely will not improve. Of course, the only way to win with a pure bluff is to make all your opponents fold.

Types of players to target

For bluffing purposes, there are two types of players, those who can fold a marginal or semi decent hand and those who can not. Of course, everyone seems to realize bluffing a maniac or a calling station will only lose you a lot of money. In fact, you should probably only try and bluff somewhat decent players. They can comprehend what you might have or the implications of your bets. Whereas, poor players seem to wildly throw money into the pot, regardless of the situation.

Other bluffing tips and situations

Being in position is massively valuable, as well. Especially for floating your opponent, it is almost never worth it otherwise. Bluffing will always be easier in position as it gives you a lot more options.

Limiting your stone cold bluffs is also a smart idea. Even a gutshot gives you a much better chance to win the hand versus when you have totally nothing. A high odd draw, such as runners for a flush or an inside straight draw are still better than not having anything at all. Try and give yourself a chance to win, even if it is slight.

Raising the river is an immensely powerful play that not many players use. It shows extreme strength and many players feel helpless when they have even a medium strength hand. In recent years, this has become the go to bluffing spot for many of poker’s top pros, including the poker stars. The turn check raise is obviously still effective, but a river raise is a real power move, and can be used to show the illusion of some monster strength.

Plan your bluffs

It is indispensable to have a plan of what you want to do each hand. It is all about thinking ahead, telling yourself when you start a hand if my opponent does this, I will combat him with this and this. Of course, some situations are self explanatory, such as raising with the nuts. However, you should always have a plan for each hand and be aware of the circumstances, do not just bluff because you are desperate. Have a compelling reason, do some basic pot odds calculations, and get the most of your bluffs by choosing your spots wisely.