Bluffing And Exploiting Weakness
Things you will learn:
- How and when to bluff in poker
Bluffing is perhaps the most famous and most misunderstood aspect of poker. For a start, until the river you will rarely be on a pure bluff as your hand will have at least some way to improve (so technically you will be on a semi-bluff). On the river, you will always be either betting for value or as a bluff.
Bluffing pre-flop largely consists of stealing the blinds and making re-steals against other players who have already raised. However, even the term semi-bluff is barely applicable at this stage as so much of a hand's value is defined by the flop.
Most people know that 'continuation bet' on the flop after a pre-flop raise is a mathematically sound move. This is probably the most obvious and frequent of all bluffs in modern day poker. However, while it is usually correct to do so 80%-90% of the time, certain situations are more favourable than others. For example, a flop like Q-6-2 rainbow has so little texture that it is ideal. Meanwhile, on a draw heavy flop like 10-J-Q suited, you might just want to give up against some players if you miss.
The turn is the street that average players make the most mistakes on. Errors can range from giving up on hands too easily and allowing other players to bluff them or not betting their bigger hands strongly enough. If you play the turn aggressively with your big hands, your draws and a few bluffs, you will give opponents a hard time.
Most players fail to check-raise on the turn enough and by doing this sometimes with big draws and made hands, you will prevent your opponent from knowing whether you have a hand or not when you do check. Remember, if you routinely check the turn after continuation betting the flop with no hand, you will quickly find players exploiting this flaw to win the pot.
Likewise, if you check the turn and then try to bluff the river, good players will often pick you off. In most circumstances, the range of strong hands they would do this with is very small compared to those when they might try a last-ditch bluff attempt.
There is no sure-fire method of when to bluff. As you move up the levels, you will start to encounter more tight, predictable and solid players. They will probably exhibit a few basic flaws on which you can make detailed notes and these technical errors and repetitive behaviours are what you must then aim to counter.
For example, if a player limps and folds to a raise too often, raise more to steal their money. If they are overly aggressive pre-flop, resteal by re-raising them with a wider range. If they continuation bet too little, steal the pot on the flop, or if they do it too much, raise them or call with weak holdings and 'float', hoping to steal later in the hand.
By the river, however, you are only betting for value or as a bluff. Against good players your goal at this stage is to bluff and value bet with frequencies that put your opponents in a tough spot. Assuming you play the turn well, you will often get to the river with a wide variety of hands.
You need to consider at this stage what portion of your hands you would bet for value and others that are clearly not strong enough to bluff with in a profitable ratio. A good ratio to bear in mind is for every two times you value bet you should bluff once. But remember this is an art, not a science, and always bear the individual player's tendencies in mind.
Good luck out there!