The art of the bluff in poker

For those who know the basic poker strategy, check raising, betting for free cards, etc. it is time to talk about bluffing. Bluffing is for advanced poker player only, and for higher limits only. It is not generally an effective strategy against weak players, or low limit games. If you bluff in low limit games, you will be called too often. You must be playing against opponents who are solid enough to lay down medium strength hands, if they believe you have a better hand then them.

We are going to talk about the end of the game. When all the cards are out, and you missed your hand. Whether you were going for a straight, a flush, or something else, you find yourself at the end of the game, having nothing but rags in your hand. There are several factors to look at when determining whether to give up the pot, or to try to bluff at it.

Strategy #1. Have you been betting all along?
Is your opponent calling the whole way? If this is the case, bluff often, as it is very possible that your opponents has missed his hand as well. If this is the case, he will nearly always fold. He simply can’t call you. He may occasional try to bluff-raise you, but only ultra aggressive opponents will do this. If he raises you, you can think for a few minutes, and then drop your hand, not revealing your bluff.

If, on the other hand, you have been calling all the way, the only way to win the pot is to raise your better. He may put you on a slow play, and if his hand was marginal, or he was on the come, he may drop his cards.

Strategy #2. How big is the pot?
The bigger the pot, the more often you should bluff at it. If, for example, you are playing a 5-10 poker game. If you figure your opponent to fold once every 5 times you bluff, and the pot is bigger then £50, you should take a shot at it. You need to watch your opponents very carefully to determine this. Does your opponent often call to the river, the muck his cards? Or is your opponent fairly tight, and when he gets in a pot, usually has a hand? Does your opponent bluff? Its harder to bluff a bluffer, as they tend to play a looser, more aggressive style, and will be more likely to call your bet.

Strategy #3. How good are your opponents?
Usually, but not always, the higher the stakes, the better the opponents. Harder opponents are usually much more aggressive, but much tighter. It is easier to bluff a tough opponent then a weak one. This may seem strange, but is absolutely true. A weak opponent won’t know that his hand isn’t very strong, and will call a lot more. He won’t see the straight and flush possibilities, and won’t see a check-raise as a danger sign. He’s more likely to call to ‘keep you honest’, and may just see the big pot, and figure, what the heck, I’ve already got so much invested.