Don’t bluff people worse than you

Okay, okay, the title isn’t strictly true, but we’ve put it up there in headline bold to make a point and have you think about it. Bluffing people worse than you are, especially if they’re considerably worse than you are, doesn’t always work the way you want it to.

You’re more likely to run across these types of people early in your Poker career. For some reason, they don’t seem to end up playing the game for years on end. In the following sections, we tell you why not to bluff them.

Some people might call anyway

The killing phrase you want to listen for at a Poker table is, “I just called to keep you honest.” If you ever hear someone say that at a table, and you’re convinced it’s not a bigger part of some general Poker ruse, that’s a player you don’t want to bluff. Essentially what he’s saying is, “You know what? I’m a bonehead. I’m so stupid I’ll actually call you with a hand that can’t beat what you’re representing, and yes, I do believe you have it. I’m just going to give my money away to you.” And instead, he beats you.

If you run across a player like that, you can beat him, sure. But the way to do it is to bet when you have a good hand, not a bad one.

Some people don’t understand what “lucky” means

Many beginning players don’t have a basic understanding of the mathematics behind Poker, and may call simply because they don’t understand what’s at stake.

For example, let’s say the board shows a rainbow K-K-8-2 and the only hands you’ve shown all night have had kings in them. You’re sitting with A- Q in a No-Limit game and decide to push all-in to feign a set of kings. To your dismay, your opponent says, “I know you have three kings, but I’ve got pocket rockets here, and I’m going to call and hope for that ace.”

You’ve gone from having a person not understand what it means to draw to only two outs to a much larger problem of drawing dead for all the marbles.

Assuming the river card wasn’t an ace, if you had waited to make this all-in bluff, you would have fared much better.

Now it’s true that you may not have any idea just how far gone some of your “lesser” opponents may be, but if you’re patient and let the game ride for a while, you’ll get some idea.

For opponents who seem too dull (or just too weird) to successfully bluff, you’re better off not relying on bluffing and instead taking advantage of other types of errors they may make — like playing too many hands or misjudging the relative strength of their hands to the rest of the table.

Making your bluff count

You only want to bluff where it matters, not where it doesn’t.

To look at an extreme example, if you’re sitting in the small blind with 4-2 off-suit in a No-Limit ring game and bet all-in to gobble up the big blind, what have you proven?

If that player passes, you’ve won a single bet on the table by risking your entire stack. That’s the upside.

The downside is that you’ve mildly aggravated the player with the big blind and, worse, you’ve drawn the attention of the table to you. Everyone saw the play; everyone has marked you as a potential bluffer. Slow-players love to eat players alive who do that kind of stuff.

And if the player does call (slightly more likely than usual because everyone else at the table has folded), you’re going to be behind in the race.

You’re better off bluffing in situations in which

There are more chips in the pot (you actually get something if you’re right).

The bluff could make a difference in your tournament position/standing. You have a reason to establish a stronger table image.

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