Knowing When Not to Bluff
“To bluff or not to bluff, that is the question.” No, Shakespeare did not include that into one of his greatest works, but had Texas Hold’em been the game of Kings at the time, it just might have been. In fact many would argue that “tis’ nobler to have bluffed and lost than to not bluff at all.” Bluffing is a key strategy in the game of poker. No poker player can be consistently successful without having mastered this important playing strategy. Many poker players, however, carry their bluffing strategy too far, and end up bluffing far too often. Some players try to bluff nearly every hand, and this is not an effective strategy. A player does not want to develop a reputation of being a “chicken little” with a claim that the sky if falling or “the little boy that cried wolf.” In order to be effective, bluffing should be used only sparingly, in addition to semi-bluffing and it is important that the player know when to bluff, and just as importantly when not to bluff.
Successful Bluffing: The best bluff is to never let anyone realize you are bluffing. Astute poker players know how to look for body language, attitude and a few other items as listed below. The best bluff is a bluff that never appears to be a bluff.
- Know your opponents - choose which of your opponents that you are going to go after and bluff against. Although you will impact the whole table it is important to identify which one of your worthy opponents has the most to lose, is the most vulnerable and possibly has the one hand that is better than yours. Then go in for the bluff. It is kind of like fishing. You know there are a lot of fish swimming around your boat, but when you find that one fish that seems to be nipping at your line, and then chances are you will get him to bite hard.
- Identify importance of your seating position - There are no absolutes in poker. Because of this believing that you are in the last position at the table that somehow you are guaranteed a superior position will possibly set you up for failure. Knowing how to work the bluff and position to your advantage is the name of the game. If you are in an early position it is important to see how the other players are reacting prior to determining what bluff strategy you will use. Ask yourself if the opponent that you are going after appears to be a savvy player? If so it may be to your advantage to get him to fold a superior hand to yours by betting in an early position. Your reputation - self-identification
- Strength of your hand - All of the bluffs in the world will not promote a really bad hand. You may get away with it once but the likelihood of it happening again is slim. Choose your hands and bluffs wisely. Nothing worse than establishing a bad autobiography with onlookers determining the ending of your story. Each hand leads to the next and cannot be isolated in the long run. Let your story be one of great mystery where your opponent never really knows for sure.
- Size of your bet and stack - If you are running low and your stack is waning, then making sudden bold moves may indicate to your opponents that you are desperate and possibly on the bluff. Additionally, if you have been bluffing and suddenly become squeamish that may also signal that you are an easy target. If your end game is to get the other guy to fold, then you may want to bet a little easier, that is if you are more interested in the win, than pushing up the size of the pot. But, if you want to up the ante and improve your cash win then you may want to push the limits and drive them to fold that way. Again, know your opponents and what you have done thus far.
Knowing when NOT to bluff:
- When it is obvious that you would be bluffing. If the other players know you and know your style of play, they may be able to tell when you are bluffing. If you bluff in this situation you may end up losing a lot of money.
- When you have been bluffing and got caught at it. If you have been previously caught bluffing in a poker site it is important to let the other players forget their impression of you as a poor bluffer before you try the bluffing strategy again.
- When faced with a dangerous flop. It is important to look closely at the flop. If the flop contains an Ace, it is important to consider that someone else in the game may already hold a pair of Aces. When Aces make it past the pre-flop the player will usually stay with them, and more than likely that player will play them. It is also important not to bluff against cards that could make a straight, cards like Queens, Jacks, or Eights. Chances are good one of the other players has the cards needed to make the straight.
- When playing against a lot of players. Bluffing generally works best when playing a game with few players. The more players in the game, the better the chances that one of the other players will have something in his or her hand, and that they will stay with the cards in their hands. If you bluff in this situation that player will win, and you could end up losing a lot more money.
- When you are playing against bad or inexperienced players. Bad poker players do not understand the great opportunity bluffing represents. These bad players prefer to keep their play honest, and they do not fear good hands. Bluffing is only an effective strategy when it is coupled with fear of losing the hand or fear of losing money.
- When you are on a losing streak. Players on a losing streak are often upset and vulnerable, and the other players may take advantage of that fact by calling you no matter what. In this case the bluffing strategy would be a losing proposition.
- When you are in one of the blind position. Those in the blind position are generally expected to hold a bad hand, and since they are already in the blind bid they are expected to continue, and to bluff even if the hand is bad. In this situation, the other players will expect you to bluff, and they will call you.