Bluffing in Poker

Bluffing is an important part of poker and is a valuable tool for players who are looking to have a complete range of skills. Bluffing enables you to mix up your game, as it allows you to act deceptively and create uncertainty in the minds of your opponents. In the right circumstances, bluffing can help you win pots that you would not have won otherwise. Although bluffing is a must-have skill in poker, it is often overused by most players and ends up costing them bets as opposed to making them money. There are two major types of bluffs, the stone cold bluff and the semi-bluff, and knowing which one of them to employ and when will be critical to your success as a poker player.

 

The Stone Cold Bluff

A stone cold bluff is when you have completely missed with your hand and have no probable way of winning at showdown based on the strength of your holdings. In these situations, bluffing is probably your only way to win the hand, which makes it worth attempting in the right circumstances. There are, however, a number of situations where bluffing is often unprofitable and should be avoided because the probability of its success is too low to even consider wasting another bet.

One such classic bluffing error is when a player tries to bluff at a pot where there are three or more players. What will often occur is that one or two players will fold and the remaining players will call or even raise. You will be much more successful at bluffing when you do so against fewer opponents, as bluffing will often not succeed against a larger number of opponents. It is much easier to convince one person to fold than it is to convince three or four to fold.

You should also avoid trying to bluff players that will not fold. Some players, often named "calling stations," are not interested in playing tight poker and will often call bettors down even with the most marginal of holdings. There is virtually no point in bluffing these players, because it will take the best hand at showdown to win the pot. The good news about calling stations is that they will rarely ever bluff you out of a pot.

Another common situation in which a stone cold bluff will not succeed is when a player has shown down some unsuccessful bluffs. It is important not to bluff too much as other players will catch on to the fact that you are betting and raising with absolutely nothing and start to punish you by either not releasing weak made hands, or aggressively playing back at you with stronger made hands. The fewer bluffs you make the more likely they are to succeed.

 

The Semi-Bluff

A semi-bluff is when you bet a hand that needs to improve to win, such as a draw or two over cards, as your hand has a very good chance of being the best hand should you make it. The semi-bluff is an extremely powerful concept to add to your poker toolbox, because it accomplishes a number of different things at the same time.

The semi-bluff can succeed in two different ways. When you bet on a semi-bluff you may get another player to fold a better hand and take down the pot right away. If you are called then you still have outs that may allow you to end up with the winning hand.

The most common mistake players make when using the semi-bluff is not properly weighing the strengths of their outs. In these cases, the hand the semi-bluff player is hoping to make might not even be the eventual best hand at the table. When this occurs, players not only lose bets when they miss, but lose even more bets when they hit their draw but find out that it is still not the best hand. It is an important consideration to make sure that your hand will be the nuts, or near nuts, should your semi-bluff work.

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