This is the part where we look at the
different questions you have to ask yourself
before you instigate a bluff to make sure
your opponents will have absolutely no idea
that you are lying through your teeth!
Lets think about the different
circumstances that might allow you to make a
successful bluff or catch an unconvincing
one. There are many questions to ask, and
success often involves making a split second
appraisal of all the information and
deciding on a course of action, which is why
poker is so much fun.
The following are the most important
questions in poker:
What does your opponent have and what
do they think you have?
If you were able to answer these
questions, you would be unbeatable. However,
aspiration is the best you can do, so
remember from the outset that successful
poker (and successful bluffing) revolves
around you reading your opponent's hand and
disguising your own.
What type of game is it and how many
players are there?
The fewer players there are in a game or
hand, the more bluffing becomes an option.
Similarly, if you can make big bets as in
no-limit hold'em, bluffing is much more
likely to succeed than in limit hold'em. If
you want to get a real feel for this aspect
of the game, log on to one of the many on
line sites that offer heads-up [that is,
one-on-one) no-limit hold'em tournaments and
play a few. You'll soon find that waiting
for a great hand and anteing away your chips
is no fun, whereas raising, bluffing or
calling with almost any two cards is a great
way of sharpening your instincts as well as
giving you a real thrill.
What positions do your opponents
If you're in position, of course,
bluffing is a potent weapon, as you hold all
the power in the hand. If you're not in
position though, your play should be more
defensive unless you're sure of exactly what
is going on or you have a great hand.
What is your table image?
While you have been watching and
assessing all the other players in the game,
it is most likely that they have been doing
exactly the same to you. So if you have a
tight-cautious image, you're much more
likely to be able to bluff successfully (and
be the targets of bluffs) whereas if you
have been playing fast and loose, or have
been caught bluffing recently, the opposite
Is the bluff convincing?
Against weak, bluffable opponents, the
chances are you won't have to bet much or
with great thought to win a hand with
nothing. However, against good players, who
understand the game and who are often
fearless, you need to make a bluff
convincing and think it out incisively,
representing a specific hand and playing
exactly as you would if you were actually
holding it. This could mean sticking your
neck out with a large all-in or facing a
hand you suspect might be a bluff for big
money. There really is little margin for
error here! At this point, there is usually
a lot to consider. All it comes down to
really is whether you believe the player who
is putting you to the test, and if not, have
the heart to follow your instincts and make
a great call, or whether from the other side
of the issue you believe you can put a move
on an opponent.
Am I getting in too deep?
Remember that what you think may be a
great move may be about to land you in
someone else's trap. Always think about how
much damage it may do you, if you get it
wrong and play into someone else's hands or
bottle it along the way and make your
actions transparent. For this reason,
check-raising with marginal hands, making
big bluffs on the end etc aren't recommended
for poker beginners. Similarly you should be
trying to condition the other players to get
out of line in these ways when you do have a
How big is the bet?
Whether bluffing or facing a potential
bluff in no limit hold'em, this is one of
the key pieces of information to consider.
If you bet too little in relation to the
size of the pot, you are more likely to get
called, while if you over-bet, the odds you
give the opposition are so slight that they
are likely to fold all but the best hands.
However, skilful players know this and often
reverse or randomise the bet size to add an
element of confusion to the proceedings, and
many great players are capable of putting in
enormous bets and being equally likely to
have the nuts or nothing.
What are the stack sizes?
Stack sizes are particularly important in
a tournament when considering a bluff.
Tournament chips change value throughout the
event-if you win all the chips, you'll
likely only get about 30 - 50% of the money,
but if you lose your £100 buy-in, then the
chips cost that plus your entry fee. As
such, big stacks can bluff and call bluffs
easily but short stacks can't, and you
should play accordingly. Remember though,
that some very short stacked players may
call out in desperation, and that if you
have a lot of chips in reserve and aren't
afraid to use them, you can still bully your
way to winning a lot of pots even against
moderate or big stacks.
What's the texture of the board?
It is sometimes difficult to bluff
successfully when there are lots of draws on
the flop or when you raise pre-flop and the
flop comes all small cards. In the first
instance you might get called by a draw or a
made hand; in the second, your opponent
might stay with you unless they are
convinced you have a big pair. By contrast,
scare cards can be a great chance to bluff -
if your opponent seems to really hate the
Ace that came on the flop, the chances are
that you can successfully represent it, and
the same is true if the turn or river card
looks to have completed a flush or straight
Is it a bluff or a value bet?
This is particularly important on the
river, when there are no more cards to come.
It is essential to your success that you
learn to get a high percentage of these
calls correct, and make the right decision
if you have the option to bet. Again there
is no other easy way of doing this, only by
experience, but this is a great aspect of
your game on which to work, as you'll always
be considering the play of a complete hand
and have all the info that goes with it, as
well as being able to rule out the
possibility of semi bluffs.