Poker Bluffing Tips For Advanced Poker Players

by PokerFanatic | posted in Poker articles

Poker Bluffing

If you want to become a winning poker player then bluffing needs to be incorporated into your game because it’s unrealistic to expect to always be getting good cards.

Bluffing is for advanced poker players only and should not be a big part of your game at the low stakes cash games because it is not generally an effective strategy against weak players, or low limit games. If you are learning NL hold em and playing micro stakes cash games then bluffing should be the exception rather then the rule.

When you bluff in low limit games, you will often get looked up because they can not let go of their middle pair. In order to have a good bluffing strategy you must be playing against players who are solid enough to lay down medium strength holdings if they give you credit for having a better hand.

Follow these poker bluffing tips and you will increase your bluffing success rate.

Semi-bluffing

This is a profitable bluffing strategy because you win when your opponent folds a better hand and you win when you improve your hand and they happen to call. As the name suggests, semi-bluffing is done when you have outs which can improve your hand. It’s commonly done with strong draws like flush and open ended straight draws but can be used successfully in other spots. For example, say you are in position and float a cbet expecting villain to have a medium pair type hand. The turn card now gives you more outs with a potential flush draw. It doesn’t hit one of your over cards but its a scare card for them. If they check the turn you can make a semi-bluff bet because your equity for the hand has improved.

When there are few players in the pot

With fewer players in the game, the chances are better that no one has a very good hand. This is why the squeeze play works so well against fish who call too much pre flop. Isolating the limpers will allow you to get heads up against a weak player and a continuation bet even when you don’t hit the flop will often take down the pot. When using this bluff, you should know your opponents tendencies. Some players will call on the flop with nothing or a weak holding just because they may think that you’re bluffing.

When you’re playing against tight players

Tight players tend to play fit or fold poker, meaning they will fold if they don’t have anything. This is really exploitable when playing against good players who can sense weakness.

The more experienced players are usually much more aggressive, but much tighter. It is easier to bluff a tough aggressive player then a weak passive player (calling station) because they are capable of laying down good hands when they feel they are beat. It may seem strange saying it’s easier to bluff tough opponents but is absolutely true.

A weak player will get attached to their medium strength hands and will call your river bet a lot more to keep you honest. They won’t see a check-raise on the river when the flush hits as a danger sign, they will probably think you are just trying to bluff. If a weak player has invested a significant portion of their stack to the pot, don’t try and bluff them.

Bluffing in position

If you’re in late position and it gets checked around to you on the flop it can be a good opportunity to bluff. Good players will suspect you are using position to bluff at pots so you should use this play sparingly. This play works well when there are few players involved in the pot and you suspect the flop didn’t hit anyone. For example, if the flop is all low cards, it’s a good chance that it didn’t hit your opponent’s range. It’s best to make use of this play when you have some outs to improve your hand. You are not bluffing but more semi-bluffing if you have a hand like AK on a low card flop. So even if you get called on the flop if one of your high cards come on the turn or river, your opponents probably will not put you on top pair considering you bet the flop and you will have a good opportunity to win a big pot. Another good example is when you are heads up against a player who raised pre flop and they don’t make a continuation bet. Often times they are giving up when they check so it makes sense to bet the flop.

Forget the river bluff

It rarely makes sense to try and bluff the river, unless you can sense weakness and feel your opponent can get away from a medium strength hand. When the pot is big most players will feel pot committed and will not fold. You should be most aggressive with bluffs on the flop and turn and tone down the bluffing frequency if you get called on the turn with air, because it’s likely your opponent likes their hand enough to call a river bet. A common scenario will be when you call a flop bet in position when you are drawing to a better hand. The turn and river is checked but you miss the draw. Should you bet the river? It depends. If you think they have top pair with a bad kicker then probably not, because most players will not fold top pair.

Bluff raising

Although it can be a risky play because you are building a pot with nothing, it can be an effective bluffing strategy. For example, if you know your opponent is cbetting 100% of the time, then you can assume they are betting the flop with nothing a lot of the time. If they are cbetting and giving up on the turn when you call on the flop, then it can make sense to raise the flop to fight back against their constant cbets. You can also check raise as a bluff when playing out of position. This strategy can work well when you don’t think the flop hit your opponents, it lets them know that when you check it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have anything.

3 betting light as a bluff

3betting refers to re-raising pre flop, and is not only done for value with premium hands to build a pot before the flop, but can also be used as a bluff to win the dead money without even seeing a flop. The stat you want to look at closely is fold to 3bet. If your opponent’s fold to 3bet % is high then it’s likely that 3betting light will be profitable because they can find the fold button. A good pre flop bluffing strategy is 3betting light in the blinds against players who are trying to steal in the CO and BTN. Most players open up their raising range in late position, and so good players will exploit this tendency. The 3betting light strategy works so well because you tend to get paid off when you 3bet your premium hands, because your opponent’s won’t be giving you credit for a big hand because you have been 3betting so often.

Betting a scare card

Another common strategy for bluffing is betting any scare cards. In order to use this strategy successfully you need to put your opponent on a range of hands. Apart from draws which hit the most common scare cards is a A/K. For example, let’s say you raised pre flop and continuation bet a low card flop and get called. If you think your opponent is calling the flop with an overpair, then if a A/K comes on the turn you want to fire again on the turn as a bluff, because you know that card probably didn’t help them. You always want to have a plan for betting a scare card though. Some players will call your turn bet with a medium pair type hand, so you need to fire a river bet to win the pot which takes experience.

 

Analyze bet sizing

 

Another way to recognize if a player is bluffing is through analyzing bet sizing. This is player dependent but most players will be value betting their strong hands because they want a call, so when you see a player make an unusually large size bet on the flop and turn you have to consider if they might be bluffing because the bet sizing doesn’t look like they want a call. For example, let’s say you are involved in a 3bet pot with TT in the SB. The BB 3bets pre flop and you know they have been 3betting light. The flop is KK3 and they continuation bet and you call. The turn card is a 7 which doesn’t change much and they make a turn bet for more then 2/3 pot. If they really have the K in this spot would they really be making such a large bet? Probably not, so TT is more then likely still the best hand. The overbet bluff is also another common bet sizing read. Some players will only overbet the pot with the nuts, however many bad players will also use this play when overplaying top pair etc so you need to look out for this.

Knowing when you should be bluffing and how to recognize bluffs takes practice and experience. Identifying the quality of your opponents, and how they have played previous hands goes a long way in deciding whether to bluff at a pot or to give up. Bluffing is key to a winning poker strategy. And remember, if your bluffs are never getting looked up, then you are probably not bluffing enough.

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