Online Poker Strategy: Bluffing

poker bluffBluffing is one part of poker that truly separates the seasoned pro from the inexperienced novice. Anyone can bluff, but knowing when a bluff is your best play can be the difference between a winning and losing session. Below are a few basic rules to bluffing in poker. By applying one or more of these principles you will greatly increase your odds of a successful poker bluff.

  1. Sometimes a busted bluff is not a bad thing. You don’t have to win every bluff to make it worthwhile. Think of bluffing as risk vs. reward. In most cases, your risk in a bluff is one bet to win several. So a single successful bluff makes up for one or two unsuccessful attempts.  Even when you do get caught, it may get you a few extra callers the next time you really do have a strong hand.
  2. Be aware of how many people have to fold. If you are thinking of bluffing with four or more people still in the hand, think again. Unless you’re trying to scare out a few players and protect your hand, you should limit the majority of your bluffs to hands involving three or fewer players. You may be able to drive out one or two, but any more than that and you’ll usually get an “I’ll keep you honest call,” which are words you never want to hear when bluffing.
  3. Know who you can and cannot bluff at the table. You should have a good idea of the types of players you’re up against before attempting to bluff. Keep your bluffs aimed at mediocre players. If they are subpar players they’ll call no matter what. If they are solid player they are more likely to call for future reference (to get a read on how you play).
  4. Be sure you’re in a position to bluff. Texas Hold’em is a game of position. If your opponent has already checked, you are in a much better position to bluff. Keep in mind that you need to watch out for a trap, or re-raise if a strong player checks to you. There’s nothing worse than trying to bluff and getting check-raised. Once again, remember rule number 3.
  5. A semi-bluff is always better then a total bluff. Consider bluffing with a draw or mediocre hand. That way, if your bluff does not drive out your opponent you still have a chance to make your hand and win the pot. Most of your bluffs should not be true bluffs, but semi-bluffs.

Last and most importantly, use bluffing sparingly and only when the situation warrants. No matter how loose or tight the game, if you try to bluff too often you will never claim another free pot again. People who over bluff get calls they normally wouldn’t. This is fine if you have the best hand, but in cases when you’re just barely ahead or someone is on a draw, being labeled a frequent bluffer will only give other players an excuse to call and draw out on hands they would normally lay down.