Whether you play poker live or online, tournament or cash formats, for fun or for thousands of dollars – bluffing is a vitally important part of a balanced strategy. Look at it this way, if you never bluff, then it will be obvious to your opponents that a bet means you have a strong hand. If you always bluff you will find observant opponents calling you down ‘light’ and taking your chips away very quickly.
This article covers 5 great ways you can implement now to improve the success rate of your bluffs.
#1 – Avoid Buffing The Calling Stations
It is a fact of life in poker that some players just hate to fold. They call with anything pre-flop, with any hand or draw on the flop… and build big pots with hands which seem far too weak to play at all! If you are constantly trying to push one of these players out of the pot with bets, you are not actually bluffing – you are just giving chips away. Now, some of these players will fold the flop if they completely miss… however if you meet any resistance at all then stop bluffing – you can always wait for a hand and value-bet these players instead!
#2 – Make Sure You Are Not Obviously Playing ‘Backwards’.
Some players go ‘backwards’ with their play to an extreme and very obvious degree. By betting big and bold when you are weak and betting small or checking (perhaps trying for a check-raise) when you are strong, you give the advantage to any opponent who sees what you are up to. After all, in Poker Online you want to get the chips in when you are ahead. Varying your play is important, however those players who always check when strong will find their big bluffs snapped off too often for them to be profitable.
#3 – Bluffing The Right Flop Texture
When a flop comes down with suited or connected cards, several of your opponents may call with draws to the various flushes and straights possible by the end. If you bet as a bluff and are called, you will often not know whether your opponents have a hand or a draw… making your next move unclear. Flops with a ‘dry’ texture are far better for bluffing, for example 2-7-Queen has only 1 high card and no 1-card straights – making it less likely someone will stick around if they missed the flop completely.
#4 – Make Sure Your Bluff Tells A Story
If it looks like you are drawing to a flush, which does not come in by the river, your bluff to try and save the hand will often get called. Since your play early in the hand, calling pre-flop and checking the flop / turn and your river bet did not match – your opponents are suspicious. This is just one example of your bets telling a consistent story, a key factor in successful bluffing. For example if you always raise with your ace-x hands pre-flop, it is hard to convince your opponents you hit the ace high flop those times you just checked or called!
#5 – Make Sure The Stacks Are The Right Sizes
Bluffing will often backfire when you play against very big or very small stacks in a tournament situation. The small stack might call out of sheer desperation, while the big stack might look you up with a variety of holdings – since the damage to their chances is limited if they are wrong. One more situation to watch for is when you raise a smaller stack (12 times the blind is a classic example) and someone re-raises all in. If you are getting odds of 2-to-1 or better then you can profitably call with many hands. This means you need to avoid bluffing in situations where this might happen when your stack is relatively small – fold or shove all in instead!