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The Wrong Time to Bluff

Bluffing is synonymous with poker. Even non-players associate the game with acts of guile and courage when the stakes are high. A good bluff is the quintessential outwitting of wits.

As the saying goes, if you don’t ever get caught bluffing, you are not bluffing enough. At the crux of this is how many people don’t want to get caught bluffing so they tend to avoid doing it. I suppose they will feel embarrassed or that they are lying.

These are fair emotional reactions to deploying deception. There is a part of us that might just wrestles with the dissonance of trying to trick someone out of their money. However, if you don’t try it on your opponents, your opponents will try it on you.

Hopefully, you do not bluff so often that it has created a leak in your game. I could probably use to bluff more often, something I’ve been thinking about as an area to improve myself. As a result, I’ve been paying more attention to my most successful bluffs and doing some extra research on the topic. So let’s look at five poor situations to try and pull off one of the most invigorating moves of any game.

1) Bluffing a calling station

When you attempt to bluff a calling station with little more than 10 high, you are asking for trouble. Calling stations call the most over any type of player. They need the least reason to call your check raise or your “all-in” on the turn. If you are trying to pull off a stone-cold bluff holding squadoosh, they will burn you. Bluffing is much more effective against the tighter players than the looser ones.

2) Bluffing with a non-threatening board

If the community cards do not pose a threat to your opponent, you are going to get called more often by the decent players. By threatening, I mean flush, straight, or full house possibilities. Of course, you might be crushed as your villain could hold a massive hand but the point is whether he or she give you credit for something massiv-er. The easiest bluff to catch is one that has the least possible hands available to represent. The chances are the more your opponent has to think about, the harder it is for them to catch your bluff.

3) Bluffing a non-thinking player

This is really an extension of number 2. It is hard to pull off a bluff who isn’t considering what you are holding. If they are, it can be done. If not, they are happy to call with beatable hands. So don’t bluff the fishy ones.


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4) Bluffing when your opponent is pot committed

We’ve all been there. You’ve poured so many chips into the pot that you feel “might as well” and call a check raise or another strong move. So, if your opponent has committed most of his stack, your bluff will only beat another bluff as most players will say “what the heck” and throw the rest in.

5) Bluffing multiple opponents

While this might come across as common sense, it is a lot harder to trick more than one person at a time. This means stone-cold bluffing in a multi-way hand is tricky business. On one end, your opponents may think you can’t be bluffing if you are betting into a pot with 2 or 3 other players involved. But the math dictates that one of them is likely to keep you honest. Having position will give you some extra information about your opponents holdings but it takes a deft touch to try and bluff at a pot out of position against several other players. I would wait for a better situation than this.

Have another bluffing tip? Share it with the rest of us.

Kelly Doell, PhD is a mental performance consultant. Learn more about how his work can help your performance at www.KellyDoell.com



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