Wednesday, December 3, 2008

When should I Bluff in No Limit Hold em Poker?

Bluffing in poker is actually a tool, as such if you use a tool improperly it will not have as well an effect, or you may break the tool. If you use a tool for other than it’s intended purpose you risk damaging the tool, or worse damaging the article you are working on.

For example, a pipe wrench is good for loosening and tightening pipes and large nuts. Although it looks strong enough to use as a hammer, you risk breaking the head of the pipe wrench (or the teeth) if you use it to hammer something. What good is a damaged pipe wrench if it can no longer perform its job?

In no limit hold em poker, the same goes for bluffing, it is a tool, and if you know how to properly use the tool it effectively accomplishes the job without damage.

The intended purpose of bluffing in poker, is to take a pot when you are SURE that your opponent will fold. That is the tool’s purpose. Too many times people ‘take a stab’ at a pot without considering what their opponent may do. If your opponent does not fold when you bluff and ends up making his hand, you have caused a lot of damage to yourself by improperly using the tool of bluffing.

Let us assess your damage, first and foremost you have cost yourself unnecessary chip damage, your opponent now has your poker chips, secondly and probably as equally important is you have caused image damage. You have unnecessarily tarnished your image at the poker table to your opponents. If opponents know you are willing to bluff, they may make this assumption more often of you, and if they know you are willing to bluff a calling station, they will know something else about you, You are not very smart! Your image and your chip stack will suffer when you improperly bluff.

Now, you must recognize the proper usage of your tool (bluffing).

When is the time to bluff?

  • When you are positive your opponent will fold. If you are not at least 80% certain your opponent will fold, then do not attempt to try a steal. A key indicator your opponent will call is if he is a calling station and there is a draw or undercards on the board.

  • When the likelihood of you making a hand is higher than a mere chance. If you have a greater than 60% chance to make your hand, a bluff (which may actually be a semi-bluff) is the right move. For instance, if you hold top pair with a straight draw, this is actually a semi bluff and you have a minimum of 10 possible cards to better your hand. Your hand 10/(52-21) < > = X/(52-31) Your opponent’s hand

  • When you have enough chips to recover should your bluff fail. This is an important aspect. If your bluff fails and your stack is crippled, you will not be able to protect yourself if you get a strong hand.

All too often, an amateur poker player will use the BLUFF as a means to gain chips. However, soon enough your opponent will notice your aggressive style and likely may call you down, especially when you have a decent hand, ultimately resulting in disaster. Therefore, use the poker bluff sparingly and only when you know you can win the pot.

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