A quick guide on the often misused art-form - The Bluff
You should probably never use the word never in poker, but beginning poker players should never bluff.
Bluffing only works against players who know when to fold, who are the kinds of players who generally make good decisions. You don’t often find this scenario in low-limit poker. Play premium starting hands and employ proper strategy in low-limit and you will go far.
Bluffing rarely works in low-level games where it is very common to see inexperienced players flogging bad hands all the way up to the call.
Now you can start occasionally mixing in what is know as the "semi-bluff" or bluffing with outs. A quick example:
You hold K9s and the flop comes A 9 4 rainbow. It’s checked all the way around. Here you make a Pot-sized bet suggesting you have an Ace, in the hopes that everyone will fold, but if not you still have 99, which may win the hand for you.
However, you must pick your spots carefully. Again, as in low limit bluffing; a bad player can be a lesson in futility. Bluffs work best against good players who know when it’s best to lay down a hand.
In the scenario above a poor player with K10 may call your bluff. He hits a 10 on the river and you’re out of the pot. Watch carefully and seize the right moment, letting your instinct and experience guide you.
Doyle Brunson has this to say about bluffing, “First, it’s highly overrated, and second, it is absolutely essential to be a winning player.”
Nothing hurts worse in poker than playing great, building a big stack, then throwing half of it away on a poorly timed bluff. Yet, there is no way to dominate a game or tournament without bluffing, so it is a skill that needs to be employed artfully.
Here is one example of a good bluff. You raise to open the betting, a tight player just calls. You surmise that this player would only call with AQ, AJ, etc. You are hoping that with a pocket pair he would have re-raised you. The flop comes 468. You are sure this tight player had none of this flop. You then make a pot-sized bet that he cannot call with Ace high. He has to fold or put his stack at major risk. If he's good enough, he knows that you may have even flopped a set here, and he would be a huge underdog if he were to continue.
He has to fold.
In this instance your bluff has worked. Now if the flop had been AJ9, it would be a whole different ballgame. Here you make maybe a bet equaling two-thirds of the pot, and if called or re-raised, the hand is over for you.
He's hit a part of it, and now you’re the one who is the underdog.
Notice we never talked about what cards you held in the 2 possible hands. They didn’t matter. You were playing the other player’s cards. The fact that you were sure he missed or hit the flop is the determining factor, not what your cards were.
This is, of course, a very simplistic explanation, but this is the type of situation that you are looking to put an opposing player into, one that you control.
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