Poker Bluffing for Beginners - Golden Rule Of Poker guide to bluffs and bluffing
It's all very well being patient and waiting for good hands - and that is the key to winning at poker (particularly online). But what do you do when the hands don't arrive? And what do you do when you get to the stage where everyone else at the table folds as soon as you reach for your chips? It is time to mix things up a bit, and confuse your opponents by throwing in a few bluffs...
So when is a good time to bluff? And when is a terrible time to bluff? Read on, and we'll open the door to the world of poker bluffing...
The first thing to get your ahead around when it comes to bluffing at poker is your position. It is much easier to get away with a bluff if there are fewer plays to act after you. For this reason, the "later" you are in terms of position (i.e. the further you are away from the first player to act), the greater the chance of your bluff working. If you are in the small blind, and there is only the big blind left to act, then you only have to bluff one player to win the pot. If you are "under the gun" i.e. first to act then you need to get everyone else to fold - and that is not easy.
Obviously, if you are "heads up", i.e. there is only you and one other player left (in a tournament for example) then you have a much better chance of bluffing and getting away with it. Bear in mind, however, that seasoned poker players will recognise when a player is in a good position to bluff, and so may call to "keep you honest". This is especially true if you raise "from the button" with only the blinds left to play - they may well "defend their blinds" by calling you and betting out at the flop no matter what cards come.
You also need to understand what sort of player you are trying to bluff. If a player has called every previous raise, then they are going to call your raise, regardless of whether your hand is good or not. This is terrible time to bluff - wait for a good hand against loose players who regularly call. Instead, bluffs work best against "tight" players who will fold easily if they don't have a good hand.
If you are playing online then watch which tables have large pot sizes - this is a sign that players are loose and willing to call more frequently. If you want to practice bluffing, pick a tight table - try pokerstars ,where the players tend to be more solid and can thus be bluffed more easily. At loose poker tables such as those found at ultimatebet you want to play tight poker, and bluff less often.
If you are playing a "fixed limit" version of poker, then you need to adjust your bluffing strategy to allow for the fact that other players will not have to pay as much to see your hand. This means that a "stone cold bluff" is a much less profitable tactic than it is at "no limit" poker games. Develop the art of "semi-bluffing" (see below) when playing fixed limit games.
Semi-bluffing : a semi-bluff is when you bet without a "made hand", but when you have some chance to improve your hand. The classic "semi bluff" is second pair with a weak draw, or bottom pair with a fairly decent draw. If your bluff is called, you still have some chances to hit the cards that will make your hand a winner. If you are totally new to bluffing, then you could do worse than to only ever semi-bluff at first. If the bluff works, great - if it doesn't you can wait and see what the next cards brings before deciding whether to continue the bluff or fold.
With these guidelines in mind, you can begin to watch out for "good spots" to bluff. These include :
When you are on the button, with only the blinds to act. This is such a classic bluff spot that good players will often "defend their blinds" against you, however.
When you are first to act on the turn, and everyone checked the flop.
When the board pairs on the turn, and previous betting on the flop did not suggest strength.
When you missed a straight draw, but the board has at least three cards of the same suit. This is called "adopting a flush" - the idea being that although you missed your draw, your opponent may think you were actually going for the flush draw.
When you missed a flush draw, but the board shows connectors that would easily make a straight. This is essentially the opposite of the above tactic - here you "adopt a straight" when in fact you were hoping for a flush.
When you are first to act against a pre-flop raiser, and the flop comes down with "rags". Betting out here puts the pre-flop raiser to the test - they may well have had a hand such as Ace King or Ace Queen that missed the flop.
It should be obvious that against more experienced players you need to find different places to bluff. Beware of bluffing too frequently against poor players - they often don't even know whether they are beaten, so will call anyway!
If you are new to poker, bluff sparingly - you will make money playing only good hands and letting others think you are bluffing. Make sure you read our page on poker rules for beginners, and you may also find our article on poker tells for beginners useful.