What is a bluff?
A bluff in poker is representing a strong hand in order to get your opponents to throw away their hands.
For some players, successfully completing a big bluff gets the heart racing and is the best feeling. Some prefer this than winning a big pot with a legitimate hand. Bluffing in poker is a big part of the game. You are telling a story that you think your opponent will believe. If you can convince your opponent of your story, you steal the pot.
There are all sorts of bluffs you can do in poker. Some are good and some are bad. What’s easy to get confused is thinking the bluffs that fail are bad and the bluffs that succeed are good. This is called being results oriented. When you fire off a good bluff, the result is not important. You already know that this bluff works at a high enough percent of the time, it doesn’t matter if your opponent calls or folds in this instance.
The best situations to bluff
There are so many different factors that can determine whether a bluff is good or not. Here are some of what I think are the best situations to bluff.
This is going to be one of the best ways to pull off a successful bluff. When you have additional information on your opponent’s hand range, you will be able to calculate what percent of their range will continue and what percent will fold. You can acquire information on your opponent’s hand range by how they have played their previous hands.
Another great opportunity to bluff is when you are holding blockers. Blockers are exactly what they sound like, they are cards that block certain hands. They can be hands that block the nuts or just block certain combos of hands you are trying to fold. Let’s have a look at an example of a blocker bluff:
There are 3 spades on a non-paired board and you are holding the Ace of spades. You are on the river, but your other card is not a spade. You only have Ace high and your opponent checks. Because you hold the Ace of spades, it’s not possible for your opponent to have the nuts, but you certainly can. A big bet or even going all-in is going to put your opponent in a very difficult spot, especially if they aren’t holding any blockers to the flush!
How to bluff catch effectively?
Bluff catching is quite different to a bluff. A bluff catch is where you have a hand that doesn’t beat any of your opponent’s value range and it only beats a bluff. You are essentially putting your opponent on a bluff and flicking in the call. The best time to bluff catch will be exactly the same reasons for the best time to bluff.
Past history and blockers. You want some extra information of their previous play to make your bluff catch in these spots more profitable in the long run. You also want cards that block nut or strong hands. This will reduce the likelihood of it being possible for them to have a strong hand. Lastly, you don’t want to hold cards that block some of their bluffs!
Recommendations for bluffing offline and online poker
Offline and online will follow the same principals talked about earlier, except offline you have more information. How well can you remember your opponent’s face and body language when they played their previous hands? This has the potential for additional edges at the table. If you have a good eye for detail, you can pick up on some subtle things that you cannot pick up online. Commonly known as tells.
For online games you don’t have physical tells, but you do still have sizing and timing tells. Some opponents are not very good and will bet or call very fast when they have a strong or weak hand. Some sizing tells could be that they bet small when they don’t have a good hand and bet big when they have a good hand, and vice versa. This is something you will need to find out with experience and playing with different opponents.
Test your own bluffing skills out
Want to try out some bluffing and bluff catching online? Come join us at PKC, there’s always cash games running with all sorts of crazy action! Bluffing and bluff catching is a big part of poker, so why not test your skill at PKC?