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Bluffing in Poker

Tips and Strategies for Bluffing Successfully in Any Game of Poker

There is probably very little, if anything at all, that compares to the feeling of pulling a successful bluff while playing poker. You pull the trigger and make a substantial raise, and while your opponent is deliberating, you try to maintain a poker face although you are feeling nervous and slightly flustered. Not to mention the fact that while your opponent is deciding on what to do you are just praying to the poker gods, "please fold, please fold, just this one time." But what can beat the great feeling of running a successful bluff? That one time that your opponent decides to call picking off your bluff, making you feel very embarrassed. What could have gone wrong?

Well, a number of things could have gone wrong. What many players do not understand is that there are factors that need to be considered before running a successful bluff. If one of these factors fails to meet the grade, the bluff will more often than not be picked off.

To try to shed some light on the art of running a successful bluff, we have listed the factors that need to be considered below.

Factors to Take Into Consideration Before Bluffing a Hand in Poker

Tell a Story: When a player has a hand, they are trying to tell a story when they call, raise, or check raise hands. They are saying, "I have something and I think it is good in comparison to yours."

When trying to run a bluff, the idea is to project the idea that you have a hand that is worth betting. But this is where many players may go wrong. For example, if you have a flop of A-10-Q and both you and your opponent check the flop only to have a 3 come on the turn, this would be a bad spot to try to steal the pot. Why is that? Well, betting on the 3 on the turn would seem a bit odd. Of course, it is possible to slow play a big hand on the flop, but it seems as if there would be too many draws to try and slow play anything besides the nuts.

The whole idea is to try to represent a hand and get your opponent to fold in fear that you have that hand and they cannot beat it.

Flop Texture: We will use the same example as above. If the flop brings A-10-Q, what is the likelihood that the flop caught a piece of your opponent's hand? It more than likely caught your opponent's hand making it an absolute waste to try to push them off it. Flops that are good to try to make a bluff on are uncoordinated flops that more than likely did not catch a piece of your opponent. A few good examples would be 2-6-10 or J-5-3 and so forth. You will not want to try to make a bluff if there is straight and flush draws on the board.

Table Images: What sense would it make to try to bluff a calling station? Well, it wouldn't. If they were going to just call you down no matter what you will want to have a hand that has showdown value. This is something to consider when want to bluff someone.

Ideal players to run bluffs against are tight players or tight aggressive players as both are smart enough to fold, if not scared, and are capable of making good lay downs.

Aside from calling stations, maniacs are possible to bluff but may be more costly to do so as they are more likely to call a bet on the turn just to see a river card.

Your table image is important as well. If you come off as a super tight player that only players premium hands, you are sure to get away with your fair share or more in successful bluffs. On the other hand, if you lose, your aggressive bluffs may not work as well as many players will try to pick you off whether they have a strong hand or not, just for the sake of picking you off.

Number of Opponents in the Hand: The more players that you have in a hand, the more likely it is that they caught a piece of the flop. Another thing to keep in mind is that you will have to bet more to be able to apply enough pressure to get that many players to fold. Situations like these should be easy folds.

Chip Stacks: This should be pretty easy to understand. If you do not have enough chips to bet to apply pressure to your opponents, how can you expect them to fold? It is important to have enough chips to apply pressure on the flop, turn and river should you feel the need, as you will not want to give off the slightest notation that you are not willing to put it all your chips in the middle.

On the other hand, you do not want to try to bluff a player that is an extreme short stack because many times their shoving hand ranges will be much wider and there is a good chance they caught something and are willing to go all the way with it. If your not sure of this tip, please see our article on why it's important to understand chip stack sizes. It will also provide you with a few tips on what to do when your chip leader or shortstack.

Conclusion to Bluffing in Poker

Poker bluffing is really an art because it takes a lot of understanding of factors such as flop texture, table images, and chip stacks to be able to run a bluff successfully. Many players make the mistake of bluffing because they bricked the flop, turn, and river and feel as if they cannot fold and give no thought to any of the factors we listed above. This often results in a player losing much, if not all, of their stack and potentially going on tilt.

Once a player has a solid understanding of how to bluff using the factors above, they can then expand their knowledge into much trickier bluff attempts from strategies such as the float play and check raising. Once you get a hang of bluffing in holdem you can also try putting your skills to the test and bluffing in omaha poker as well.