Poker Bluff – When Should I Bluff?

January 4, 2017 Posted in How to play poker by No Comments

Once you familiarized yourself with the basic poker rules and a few articles on how to play poker it’s time to get a little more in depth with different poker strategy concepts. By definition, a poker bluff is a raise or a bet made when holding a hand which is not thought to be the best hand of the round.

The main objective of bluffing is to get at least one of your poker opponents to fold their cards. If that particular opponent has better cards than the bluffer or if the fold takes place during the second or third round of betting, the bluff can be considered profitable. Keep in mind that you should keep your bluffing to a minimum when playing at popular poker sites – it can get risky.
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There are two main types of poker bluff, each with its own objectives, purposes and associated risks:

  • A cold poker bluff, also known as a pure bluff
  • A semi-bluff

The Pure Poker Bluff – Cold Bluff

When you have one of the many mediocre poker stating hands and you make a bet or a raise when that particular hand has very little or no chance of improving it’s called a pure bluff. This type of poker bluff is the riskiest since you’ll only win the pot if all the other players fold. A pure poker bluff can be profitable only when the probability of getting a call on your bluff is lower than the pot’s odds for your cold bluff. Making a pure poker bluff pre-flop increases the chances for success since the opponents are not yet committed to the pot – they haven’t made any bets yet.

Pure Bluff Example:

A Texas Holdem game with 3 players begins. Players one and two have mediocre hands and player three has the worst hand at the table. Player two is the small blind and player three is the big blind. If player three decides to bluff with a bet at least 3 to 5 times his big blind, the likelihood of success is higher since the dealer is not invested in the hand and player two invested only the small blind. In the end player 3 is able to make a small profit even with a lousy starting hand.

Poker Semi Bluff

A poker semi bluff is defined as a bet or raise made when holding an inferior hand which might improve in later poker rounds. Players opting for a poker semi bluff can win the pot by either getting a better hand when more community cards are revealed or by forcing their opponents to fold immediately after the bet or raise. The success of a poker semi bluff depends on your starting poker hand odds, the size of the bet and the size of the pot.

Poker Semi Bluff Example:

The example above can be used for a poker semi bluff as well the only difference being that player 3 holds some of the lower suited connectors while the other two players can have better hands such as lower pairs. If player 3 has a 3-6 and the first community cards are 4, 5 and A while the other players have pairs of 4 and 5s, respectively, it is called a semi bluff. The chance of success for this bluff is quite high since players 1 and 2 will assume player 3 holds a straight, even though pairs of 4s and 5s have a higher chance of winning the pot.

When Should I Bluff?

Bluffing is not an effective poker strategy which can yield constant results. In fact, the more you bluff the less effective it will be. Here is a list of aspects which can increase the probability of a successful bluff:

  • A scare card such as an A among the community cards (see example above)
  • The player generally has an aggressive betting pattern when holding better cards
  • Opponents having weaker hands with less betting or raising
  • The pot is not worth calling the bluff
  • Fewer opponents at the table
  • Opponents are not highly invested or committed to the pot

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