When To Bluff In No Limit Hold’em

Bluffed, originally uploaded by PotD.

A well timed and perfectly executed bluff in No Limit Hold’em is a relative work of art, but it is not as easy to do profitably as it may look on the television. Good poker players know that a successful bluff on the river or catching a bluffer in the act can add a lot to a winning players expected value over a players career. Picking your spots and knowing the other players at the tables tendencies (how they react based on similar situations in the past) are key skills, and bluffing is not to be attempted at low limit games with a large number of bad players.

When deciding to bluff, it helps to put your opponent on a range of hands first, starting pre-flop. This will allow you to set-up the bluff, by becoming what the player fears in a hand. I can and do successfully bluff Pocket Aces out of scary boards, but only when I deem the player good enough to be capable of folding (and this is simply not the case at low limit games for the most part). If you are confident in your play, and your read of the opponent – you can represent any hand that is possible on the board. A few tips:

Holdem Strategy: Don’t Bluff On The Turn:
Bluffing on the turn is the hardest to pull off, and I generally don’t recommend it. If a player stayed in after the flop the turn usually improves a hand or adds a draw, so players are simply more likely to call or even re-raise on a draw at the turn, because the potential to make their hand becomes great in their own eyes (straight and flush draw for example). Instead, the one time I highly recommend using this play as by semi-bluffing a big draw – that is, give yourself a lot of outs if you are bluffing on the turn, because it might just turn into a big pot. And when we are playing big pots, we want to have the maximum chance of scooping it as possible.

Holdem Strategy: Do Bluff The River
And do it often, especially versus tight/passive players. A player with pocket queens is susceptible to a river King or Ace, a flush card, or even a gutshot. Become the hand they fear most, and prey on their ability to “make a good fold”. Bluffing on the river can be risky of course, but I swear by it – it works well especially in heads up poker games. In multi-handed pots I only recommend attempting a stone cold bluff if you have position in the hand, thus ensuring you have the most information possible on what the other players might have – but in general a bluff works best in heads up poker situations.

If you haven’t been trying the occasional river bluff, you are losing a lot of pots that you don’t need to. Target players that check behind in showdown situations with hands like top pair weak kicker – just don’t over use the play as this style should fit solidly into your winning tight aggressive image to ensure the highest success rates, good luck!