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Bluffing When Playing Poker

Bluffing, is the fillet mignon of poker. The perfect bluff takes hours of manipulation, table image and study of your opponent to set up. Everyone is familiar with the “pure bluff”, sticking your chips in the middle of your table and watch your opponent to lay his cards. But there are a number of different types and categories of bluffs which I’ll introduce and outline in this article.

  • Pure Bluff
    The most recognised “pure bluff” is when you’ve missed your draw on the turn or river and throw your chips in the middle of the table as a massive overbet hoping to fold your opponent and avoid a showdown. The risk is massive: you’re dedicating an awful lot of chips and it’s probably obvious to your opponent that you’re holding nothing. For example, we have Jh-5h and have been calling every street to catch our flush and missed (2h-Ad-7h-Qs-Qd). Our opponent with 2d-Ah checks the river, we shove all-in and he folds.

I rarely recommend utilising the pure bluff especially among new players because it’s too transparent and risky. You need the right fold equity, your story needs to add up but the most important factor is that your opponent is capable of folding. Hence, pure bluffs are worthless against calling stations and new players.

  • Semi Bluff
    You’re on a drawing hand but you’ve also caught something that has show down potential such as a mid-pair on a 4h-Kd-Js flop. Deciding to raise when you’re not sure if you’re infront is tricky to master. In the end comes down to equity and value. You need to ask yourself; by raising here am I more likely to make money in the long-run, and what are the chances of my opponent folding? The risks in semi-bluffs are far smaller than pure bluffs because you only have to raise 50% – 75% of the pot. Remember that a typical semi-bluff on the river is around 2/3 – ¾ of the pot.
  • Continuation Bet
    The continuation bet is by far the most common bluff in poker and one you will be acclimated to. This happens when players raise pre-flop, miss the flop but raise 50%- 75% of the pot to keep the initiative in the hand. Cbets are most profitable against tight-passive players. Remember that a half-pot cbet only has to work 1/3 times to break even. Bluffing the turn after a cbet is known as “double-barreling” and “triple barrelling” is making 3 bluffs in a row.
  • Check-Raise Bluff
    More of a trappy move, check-raising (i.e. checking a strong hand and re-raising your opponent’s raise) is the best way to exploit loose-aggressive players and extract maximum value from these guys. By feigning a weak hand out of position, you encourage other players in the hand to bluff the pot, after which you move over the top of them to extract more value than you would have if you had raised first to act. A good re-raise size if about 1.5x the original raise.

Example of check-raising: 3betting (re-raising) a player in LP who tries blind stealing the pot pre-flop with a marginal hand.

  • Post-Oak Bluff
    The most impressive and imaginative of all, the post-oak bluff is when you thin value the river with a tiny bet making it look as though you have an incredibly strong hand and want your opponent to call. A surprising number of times your opponent will fold.