Very few things are certain in the game of poker, but one of them is this: If you want to make it in live or online poker alike, you have to master the art of deception. In other words, you have to learn how to bluff at poker. That's because poker is a game of limited information. Players base their actions not on certainty but on probability — not just the probability of connecting with the board to build the strongest hand, but also the probability of correctly calling and interpreting other players' actions and reactions to the situation playing out on the table.
It's a major advantage if you can get an opponent to perceive your hand to be something other than what it really is and bluffing is the only way to achieve this. It isn't necessarily easy to acquire this vital skill, so here are some strategic pointers to guide you on your way. Let's take a closer look.
Pure Bluffing in Poker
There are two major types of poker bluffs. The first is the pure bluff. This is when your hand has no chance of being the strongest hand, but you make a play in any case in a bid to induce an opponent to fold. The best way to achieve this is to put them under pressure until they crack, typically by raising them out of their comfort zone.
The simplest example of a pure poker bluff would be stealing the blinds. Against the right opponents, if nobody has raised pre-flop (indicating a general lack of interest in the hand) and the action checks to you, a simple raise can be enough to get the other players to fold, so you can add the blinds to your stack.
Most of the time, however, bluffing is more complicated than that. Basically, you're going to try to influence your opponents into making decisions in your favor by representing your hand in a certain way. In many cases, you'll try to represent a strong hand. The way to do this is to act in a way that's consistent with actually having a strong hand.
Say you're on the button and you raise before the flop. This action already shows confidence. Then the flop comes, you're in position, and you make a continuation bet. If your opponents aren't holding anything special, this may already be enough to make them fold. Realistically, they won't have anything most of the time. After all, they only have a one-in-three chance of flopping a pair, let alone anything more powerful. Unless they call your bluff, you'll have them where you want them.
Another pure bluff strategy that often succeeds is to double barrel (make a continuation bet) when scare cards turn up. These are any cards that are likely to make your opponents nervous. Say the flop comes 7 of diamonds, 4 of spades and 2 of hearts. This makes for a dry board that's very hard to connect with. Then the turn comes and it's the ace of clubs. This is a very scary card for any player who doesn't have an ace in the hole! So you make a c-bet to represent strength and hopefully, your opponents fold.
A similar high-pressure move is to check-raise all-in on the turn. Tight opponents who avoid showdown – unless they have strong hands – are likely to melt under this kind of heat.
Semi-Bluffing in Poker
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