The Bluff

One of the most sophisticated forms of illusion in poker is for sure the bluff, that is making your opponents believe that your cards are different from what they really are.


The bluff is probably one of the most popular strategy-moves in poker. Every rookie knows that you're supposed to bluff your opponents, and that making someone fold the better hand is the ultimate victory at the green felt. This is exactly why you'll find beginners bluffing left and right and being caught red-handed time and time again by the good players. Yes, the bluff is definitely a move that should be part of your poker weapons arsenal, but you should know this about it: the bluff can be a very efficient weapon, but it is extremely volatile, and if you don't know how to handle it, it will blow up in your face. First of all, you need to know some basics facts about the bluff: there are two types of it, the pure bluff and the semi-bluff. The pure bluff is done on rags basically (you don't have a hand and you do not even stand a realistic chance to hit a good hand). The pure bluff only offers you one possibility to win the pot: by making your opponent fold. The semi-bluff is a different breed, because unlike the pure bluff, it offers you two ways to win the pot: by making your opponent fold or by hitting your hand. Obviously, semi-bluffs are not made on rags. You need a nice drawing hand to fire out a semi bluff. Semi bluffs are extremely frequent in poker, and the 4-card flush on the flop is the most common example. Every preflop raise however is also a semi-bluff, and you may have semi-bluffed already without knowing that you were actually doing that.


The pure bluff is a more delicate matter. Because it only gives you one chance to win, you'd do better to get this baby right. Otherwise, all you'll do is to blow a lot of money and become the laughing stock of your table. Let us then take a closer look at the pure bluff. The first thing you need to know about the pure bluff (and this is just as valid for the semi-bluff as well) is that position is of great importance when you decide to go for it. Though sometimes you can bluff from early position, it's always better to hold back till you hold position on your target. A bluff fired out from late position is always more intimidating than an early position one, because the target player knows if he calls he'll have to act first on the later streets, something which puts him in a delicate position later in the hand.


One type of pure bluff is the floating move. You may have heard about floating already, it is becoming more and more popular as online poker changes and evolves all the time. To float means to tag along and call your opponent on rags just to see whether or not he/she shows weakness on a later street and then to pounce on him/her for the kill. I know it sounds shrewd but then again, winning poker is supposed to be about just that. Your mission is simple. Bust your opponent's continuation bet. Most of the time, the continuation bet itself is a pure bluff (sometimes it's a semi-bluff) and by floating along, you can bust that bluff with your own bluff. It is only suited that the bluffer be beat with his very own weapon, isn't it? Call your opponent's continuation bet on the flop if you suspect the flop missed him/her and see what he/she does on the turn. Most people just don't have the heart to fire a third bullet after the first two missed their targets completely. This is the weakness you're looking to exploit. Bluff into your opponent with all your might at the sign of weakness he/she gives you on the turn (usually in the form of checking) and make him/her fold the better hand.


From the above description alone, it should be obvious for you why having position on your opponent is so important when floating. Another type of pure bluff is the probing bet. This one is done from early position and it's basically about firing a bluff blindly into your opponents. Under certain circumstances, probing bets offer nice success rates, although most people view them as way too risky and avoid them. There is a certain level of risk involved in each pure bluff that you make. There are ways to secure a long term edge though without any sort of risk involved at all. Take rakeback for instance. You can find offers of around 30% rebate on your rake, without any kind of effort needed or risk involved.



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