Bluff in poker
Bluff is nothing but a cheating. However, this concept has a broader meaning in poker.
What is bluff?
Bluff in poker is a special technique which aims to convince the opponent that you have a stronger combination than it really is. It is expressed in a specific behavior and player’s bets, which force the opponents to fold their cards.
In other words, bluff means betting and raising of the player in hand, but he doesn’t have a worth hand or it is pretty weak in reality. This is done in order to knock opponents out of the game and win the pot before reaching the showdown.
When bluffing, it isn’t profitable for the player to play until the end of hand and show his cards, as it will be able to bring him a victory in very rare cases (when the opponent or opponents also bluffed or they didn’t get outs during the semi-bluffing); when the opponents see his open cards they will understand that he bluffed, and they wouldn’t believe him next time.
The main weapons of bluff: bets, tells, poker face.
In general, two main types of bluffs can be identified: pure bluff and semi-bluff.
“Pure” bluff is usually called a bluff that has almost no chances of winning. Pure bluff is a situation when you demonstrate a strong hand, but in reality you have neither pair, nor gutshot or other draw.
Example of pure bluff:
In this situation, you have neither ready-made combination, nor straight or flush draw, and even if 6 or 4 comes at the table and you will hit a pair, it will be very weak on this board.
Pure bluff is used very rarely, even by the famous professional players.
Semi bluff is a situation in which you play with hand that has a chance of winning, for example – weak combination or draw. In this situation, you can win hand by means of bluffing the opponent and knocking him out of the game, and finding yourself with a stronger hand at showdown (i.e. if the opponent also bluffed) or getting the necessary outs to win.
Semi bluff is more popular than a pure one, as it leaves the player a chance to win. It is often used when a player hits a straight draw or flush draw.
Example of semi-bluff:
You don’t have any combination on the flop, but you can completely hit a flush draw of spades on the turn or river, and you also have a little chance that 3 and 5 will come on the board and you will hit a straight.
In poker, there is such a thing as bluff catcher. It can be said that a bluff catcher is such a bluff (most often it is pure bluff) in which the player can win only if his opponent bluffs. You should be able not only to bluff, but also to understand when your opponent is bluffing.
In general, there are many more types of bluff, than semi bluff and pure one.
Types of bluff depending on situation
Bluff can be divided into several types depending on the situation in which you decide to apply it:
- steal is a bluffing at the late position on preflop for the purpose of stealing the blinds;
- re-steal is a raise in response to the steal of the opponents (blind protection);
- squeeze is a type of bluff according to which the player make a raise in response to someone else's raise and someone else's call. For example, if the player “A” made a raise on preflop, the player “B” called and the player “C” raised, then it can be said that the player “C” squeezed. In this situation, the player “A” is trapped, not knowing what the player “B” will do.
- bluff-3bet and higher – preflop-bluff, which is expressed by the third (or more) raise at the table. For example: the player “A” made a raise (made 1bet), the player “B” re-raised (2bet), and the player “C” bluffed and made 3bet (or someone, in turn, makes 4bet, 5bet bluffing). It is a risky trick, as there is a high probability that the players in front of a bluffing poker player have a good card.
- Cbet is a continuation of raising. That is, a bet from the player who performed an active play on the previous street (s). For example, cbet is a situation in which the preflop aggressor makes a bet on the flop. With a proper bluffing, it’s important to “follow your own way” for as long as it makes sense. If you feel that your opponent may have a strong hand, there is no sense to make a cbet.
- float is a calling of bet in order to knock the opponent out of the game in the following betting rounds. It is usually done by the player in position.
Best bluffing situations
The opinion that you can bluff in any hand is wrong, and many newbies make the same mistakes. If you bluff too often, there is a great chance that someone will figure you out, but if you don’t bluff at all and play only with good cards – you lose the chance to earn a lot of money. Therefore, you should find a bluff balance in order to use it as efficiently and profitably as possible.
Some math: bluff has a positive EV only if the probability of opponents’ folding and your winning in hand is higher than the pot odds.
Bluff will work better under the following circumstances:
- There are few players in the game (the more players are engaged in the hand, the bigger chance for someone to hit a good combination. And the fewer players are at the table, it is easier to knock them out of the game);
- The cards on the table have outs for strong combinations, and you can “demonstrate” them;
- The opponents can consider your action before bluffing as a game with strong cards;
- The opponents have low pot odds;
- The tight player (players) who is able to fold the cards of a medium-strength is playing against you.
When and why it is worth bluffing
You should never bluff for nothing. This is very dangerous and usually it’s disadvantageous. The art of appropriate bluffing is very important. You should develop your own strategy for applying this technique and use it only in specific situations.
The main tasks of bluffing, depending on the aims pursued:
Bluff for the sake of winning: when you realize that your hand won’t be the strongest one on the showdown and you just need to knock the opponents out of the game, by convincing them that you have a stronger hand.
Bluffing with the purpose to confuse the opponents: remember, that opponents are watching your game and if you bluff rarely, it will complicate the decision-making process for them in a hand against you. At the same time, if you are caught bluffing, it is not always bad. The opponents will see that you can play with bad hand and they will pay off your winning hands in the hope of catching you in bluff.
Bluffing as a way of pressure: the players should often make difficult decisions in poker, and your bluff will put your opponent in uncomfortable situation. He will have to guess what cards you have, and if the player yields to pressure, he will most likely fold even fairly strong cards.
How to bluff?
You should bluff correctly. Remember at least three basic rules for effective bluffing:
- Demonstrate a specific hand. In order for bluff to be successful and the opponent believes you, you should clearly imagine the specific strong hand that could be completed in this hand in the case of receiving other pocket cards. So, you should use such a strategy line that would be applied as if you have such cards in reality. If a straight draw looms on the board – you can pretend that you hit a straight. If there are three cards of the same suit – demonstrate that you hit a flash. With an ace on the table, you can force your opponent to believe that you have a pocket aces and so on.
- Choose the weak opponents and watch the game of your opponents. Even if you didn’t plan to bluff and noticed an uncertain bet or call from the opponent on the flop, you can knock him out of the game by putting the necessary pressure. The statistics collected by poker soft can help in this matter.
- It's better to bluff against one player, than against many ones. As it was mentioned above, it is easier to bluff one player than several ones. The more poker players are in hand, the more difficult it will be for you to convince them in strength of your hand and force them to fold. Moreover, there will be more chances that one of the opponents will hit a good combination. In addition, don’t forget that bluff is more effective against the tight players, and don’t try to bluff the “calling stations”.
The synonyms of the word "bluff": fraud, lie.