written by: John
With all the poker coverage that is on TV, it really makes sense that there are so many misconceptions when it comes to poker. All that is ever really shown on TV is what looks good and entertaining to those watching such as fancy slow plays or check raises to what seems to be absolutely crazy bluffs.
Now, there really isn't anything wrong with what is shown on TV unless you are the type of player that likes to mimic everything they see. Then you are sure to go broke sooner than later, especially if you like to bluff like they do on TV.
This isn't to say that you should not bluff or bluff in a similar fashion, just that like any other poker strategy there is a time and a place to do it, or better put, a right and a wrong time to bluff.
What we have done below is highlight a few of the things to consider before making a bluff so that when you do, you know that it was the right time and place to do so.
Bluffing in Hold'em
One of the first things to consider before attempting a bluff is whom you're bluffing against. Meaning, what kind of image does your opponent seem to display?
For example, if your opponent seems to act like a calling station, calling all bets regardless of size, board texture and opponent, then this would be a bad player to try to bluff. The whole idea is to push them off a hand and a calling station isn't going anywhere. Don't try to bluff these guys.
Maniacs are going to be similar. These guys like action and they like big pots so you are playing their type of game by building the pot in hopes to get them to fold. These types of guys may require you to fire off a second barrel or third barrel to get them off their hand, if it's at all possible. Before bluffing these guys, be sure to observe them for a bit first to see if they can fold.
Now, tight players are going to be the kind of player that you want to bluff because they are smart enough to fold and are in many cases are scared to play anything shy of the nuts. The only thing you will want to concern yourself with is the amount of money it takes for them to fold. This is because you want to risk as little as possible in case they play back at you.
Lastly, be sure to consider your table image as well. If you are a tight aggressive player, your opponent is going to figure you have something. On the other hand, if you are a maniacal player who plays any two cards, your raises are going to be less respected and called more often.
Board texture is important to consider because it makes no sense to risk chips bluffing an opponent when it is likely that they caught a piece of the flop.
For example, it is highly likely that an opponent would have connected with a board such as Ah-Kh-10d and will not plan to go much of anywhere. On the other hand, a board such as K-7-5 would be an ideal board as well as something such as 5-7-2 or similar. The idea here is to bluff on the driest board possible.
With that in mind, it should be noted that you should keep in mind your opponent's range as well as your own in mind when considering board texture. If your opponent knows you don't play many mediocre hands, then bluffing on a board such as 4-6-9 really will not make much sense to them. Be sure to consider if your opponent is the type to play hands that would connect with something like this as well.
Tell a Story
Every hand that you play, you are telling a story at the same time. If the flop is K-9-2 and you both check-check, the turn a 3 and you both check-check and the river a 6 and you declare 'all-in,' what story are you trying to tell? You checked the flop and the turn which means you aren't too interested in the king or anything else for that matter, but the 6 somehow completed your hand? A bluff like that doesn't make any sense and if your bluff doesn't make sense, it will often be picked off.
The idea behind a story is to represent a hand that can potentially be stronger than your opponent's hand. If the board is draw heavy or highly coordinated and your opponent seems scared or lacks interest, this can be a good time for a small bluff.
I realize this contradicts what has been said above in the board texture section. However, all of these elements need to be in place for a bluff to work. So, if your read on your opponent says he's weak, then by all means make a bluff. If he or she plays back at you, fold your hand. Bluffing is purely situational.
In short, you need to make your opponent believe you have a hand that beats theirs.
Chip stacks are important to consider because chip stacks can often determine a player's hand range and what they are willing to call a raise with.
For example, a player who is short stacked will be more willing to call a bluff because in many cases they figure they are coin flipping at worst. So they will call with almost any Ace, any two face cards or any pocket pair. Obviously, this is the opposite of what you want so it is best to avoid these players.
Player's to focus on are players who can have substantial damage to their stack done should they call you. These players will be afraid to risk their stack unless they have a solid hand to call with.
Number of Opponents in the Hand
Simply put, the more players involved in a hand, the more likely it is that someone has caught a piece of the flop. You really should focus on bluffing only 1 other player, 2 max if you wish to be highly successful in your bluff attempts.
Bluffing in Hold'em Tips
Hopefully it is apparent by now that bluffing isn't something you do 'just because.' This type of thinking will more than likely leave you broke. No, bluffing is similar to any other strategy where a player must first evaluate the current situation to see if the play they'd like to make stands a chance in succeeding. If all the factors seem to make sense, attempt the bluff. If not, then your bluff will be no different then just giving your money away.