Bluffing in Stud
written by: John
In my opinion, bluffing in poker has to be one of the biggest thrills and adrenaline rushes that a poker player will ever get. I mean, where else can you get the thrill of shoving your stack in the middle with nothing but 7-2 off suit, start getting nervous and sweaty only to feel the hugest of reliefs to see your opponent fold? In all honesty, I cannot think of a better rush than that. Oh, and for what it is worth, I was joking about 7-2; I would have something slightly better there.
But that greatest rush in the world can disappear in an instant when your opponent decides to actually call you, picking off your bluff, and leaving you broke and embarrassed.
Now, most situations like that can easily be avoided if you have an understanding of the game, how the table looks in terms of images and making sure that you are bluffing on safe flops or up cards. Players can even bluff in games such as 7-card Stud where all the betting is fixed making it harder to put monetary pressure on your opponents. It simply comes down to weighing a few factors before finally pulling the trigger.
Tips on Bluffing in Stud Games
Understand What Game You Are Playing
This really applies more or less to Stud and Stud Hi/Lo, but it is important to keep in mind what game you are playing because one game will be easier to bluff in then the other.
For example, bluffing successfully in Stud Hi/Lo will be highly improbable (not impossible) because there are two different hands that a player can draw to, both a high and a low. So even if you are showing dangerous up cards for a high, a player will still call you if it looks as if they have a lo hand. The worst part of this is, is that if you have little to nothing for a hand it is possible to forfeit the whole pot to the other player since it is likely they have somewhat of a Hi hand, even possibly better than yours since you are the one bluffing.
To pull a bluff in 7-card Stud Hi, all of your opponents up cards would have to be completely uncoordinated to even consider a bluff and even then, a bet into a somewhat inflated pot will more than likely be called by someone who may feel they have the odds to justify calling.
Lastly, when trying to bluff in any kind of Stud game, you are going to have plenty more success trying to bluff on 3rd or 4th street than you trying to bluff on 6th or 7th street. This is because no one necessarily has a made hand at this point making it easier to push him or her off a hand whereas if you made a bluff on 6th or 7th street it would be likely that someone made a hand.
Table images are important when trying to bluff simply because you should know if your opponent knows how to fold or if they are more than likely to call you down to 7th street. From my experience playing micro stake Stud, most times often then not you will run into the latter.
So the first thing to determine is if a player is tight, loose or passive. If a player is tight, then you know that he is only going to play strong hands. If his up cards look extremely uncoordinated say, [Kc]-5d-9s-Jh, then this may be a good time to attempt a bluff, as he is tight and will surely fold if he has junk.
Passive players are horrible to bluff regardless of the cards they have showing because passive players tend to be calling stations. They will call any kind of bet no matter what, which is the exact opposite of what you want.
Lastly, having an understanding of how your tablemates perceive you is important as well. If you have been sitting their pretty quiet for the last couple of orbits and have a decent hand showing such as [Ad]-Kd-9d-8s, it can be pretty certain that even if you bricked your flush you can still put in a bet and get your opponents to fold. On the other hand, if you were raising and capping each street then it would be much harder for your opponents to respect any raise you put in the pot, regardless of whether you had a hand or not.
Number of Opponents in the Pot
It would only make sense to assume that the more players that are involved in a hand that the more likely it is that someone has an actual hand.
When trying to bluff in Stud, players should be heads up with an opponent to increase their chances of a successful bluff. Because of the fact that Stud is an action game, this will not happen too often.
Aces in the Door
When a player has an Ace in the door, they have an opportune time to attempt a bluff. This is because all players will automatically assume that you must have a pair of aces if you raise it and will only continue if they have a strong draw.
There are two exceptions to this; one, if you have been raising every hand that has had an ace in the door, it is possible that a player will call you to keep you honest. Two, when playing at the micro stakes I have found very few players that actually respect an ace in the door. They must feel that there is no way you have a pair and/or want to draw to crack them. This can be good for you of course if you have a pair or trips, you can make them pay then.
In Razz, I have noticed that many players will respect baby cards in the door. So for example, if you have K-J-, and everyone else is showing a much higher door card, a raise definitely has a good chance in taking down the pot.
A semi bluff is when you bluff, but bluff holding a draw to a good hand. Semi bluffs will be more common than true bluffs in 7-card Stud.
These types of bluffs will also have a higher success rate if most of the cards that you need to use for your draw are facing up. For example, if you were drawing to a flush and had a board of [Kh]-Qh-9h-10h, even if all of your other cards were bricks your opponents would have a hard time calling unless they had something that could be a flush.
These types of bluffs will present themselves more frequently and be more successful than true bluffs just because it looks as if you have a hand that will more than likely win the pot.
Bluffing in Stud Poker
Although bluffing in Stud is very, very difficult to do, it can still be done as long as players keep in mind all the factors we outlined above. Just like in any poker game, bluffing is a strategy that can prove to be quite profitable at times as long as the player doing it is doing it in a situation that warrants it.