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  There are no hard and fast rules regarding when to bluff and when not to, but there are some pretty good general guidelines to go by and thee are a few specific situations that occur often enough to mention.  Here they are, in approximately the order in which they occur in the play of the hand:

  • Because of the Pot Odds

It is correct to attempt a bluff more often when the pot is big, especially against only one or two poker basics players.  In other words, the bigger the pot is, the more you should consider betting as a bluff if you missed your hand.  As it was explained earlier, you do not need as big a chance of winning as when the pot is smaller.

As an extreme example, assume that you have 5♥4♥ and the board is K ♠ T ♥ 7♥ 6♣ 2♠.  You flopped a flush draw and picked up an open-end straight draw on the turn and missed both draws on the river.  There is $240 in the pot and your sole opponent checks to you.  Obviously, if you check also, you lose.  So you bet $ 8, knowing that you’re getting 30 to 1 on your money ($ 8 x $240) and therefore need only a 3.2% chance of not being called.  In other words, if your opponent calls 96.8% of the time, you break even in the long run.  If he calls less that 96.8% of the time, you break even in the long run.  If he calls less that 96.8% of the time, you make money in the long run.

  • Against Good Players

Good players are easier to bluff than poor players or your typical low limit Hold’em player.  They’re capable of putting you  on a hand and giving you credit for it.  Bad players will call you even when they know they’re beat because they want to see one more card, or if there are no more cards to come, they’ll call you because they can beat a bluff and nothing else.

  • When You have  A♦ K

And you’ve raised before the flop and bet it out on the flop when you missed, you will often actually have the best hand at that point.
  If you have Big Slick (A K unsuited ) and miss on the flop, your success in stealing the pot without making a hand depends mostly on how many players you’re facing and how much respect you have at the table.  One opponent and a lot of respect … you win just by reaching for your chips.  Six opponents and no respect … you re just giving your easy gaming money away if you bet.

  • When Your Strength Can’t Be Read

You’re the only one who knows for a fact at this point that you’re bluffing.  This gives you an incredible edge, because in the minds of the other players, you could theoretically have any one of 169 different hands, even though they may have you narrowed down to 10 or 20 different hands.  Since you will usually have the correct pot odds to bluff on the end, you have given your opponents another opportunity to make a mistake.  Namely, you have given them an opportunity to make a mistake that will cost them the pot if they fold.

  • At Higher Stakes Games

Even though the actual stakes that you are playing for do not affect the pot odds, it seems that the higher the stakes are, the more successful an attempted bluff will be on the river.  This is because as the stakes get higher, players fold progressively stronger hands without calling that final bet.  A player who suspects you have A♣ K♥ and missed will usually call you on the river with 2♥ 2♠ when you bet $ 8.  But he will fold more often when you bet $20 (in a $10-$20game )and he has that same 2♥ 2♠.

  • Against Just One Opponent

You can usually run a cold bluff from beginning to end when you’re up against a sole opponent who checks and calls all the way down.  If you can give the impression that you have A♣ A♠ , K♥ K♦, Q♦ Q♥ or A ♣ K ♣, you’ll often catch a player who flopped a draw and will fold on the river when he misses.  This works even when you “tell” him you have a big pair or he just “knows” it.  Most average low limit players will knowingly take the worst of the odds just because they “know” what it is that they have to poker bad beat.

  • When an Opponent Is Not Bluffing

And he is certain you will call because of the pot odds or your position, he is usually not bluffing.  These instances occur when the pot is huge, there are many players, or the bettor knows that it takes only one card to beat him.  This is one time when you have to consider the action from the bettor’s point of view.  If he’s first to bet into a $150 pot with five players, then he probably expects to be called and, he therefore, is not bluffing.  On the other hand, if there’s $20 in the pot and you are his only opposition, and you check and he bets, there is a greater than average chance that he’s bluffing.

  • In Semi-Bluff Situations

Bluffing when you’re certain you don’t have the best hand and before all the cards are out is called semi-bluffing.  There is a correct way to semi-bluff and there is an incorrect way to semi-bluff.
  In Hold’em the most common situation to semi-bluff is when you have AX and you pair X card.  Usually you will have something like A♦ 8♦ and the flop is Q♣ 8♠ 5♦.  You probably don’t have the best hand but you can improve to the best hand.  Another Ace or 8 will give you a winner, in your opinion.
  Your 20.4% chance of improving by the river, plus the fact that you can win by betting and not being called, all makes a bet with second or third pair and an Ace kicker a very good proposition.  You have so many ways to win the hand: you actually have the best hand, you can improve to a better hand, or you can bet and not be called.
  Of course, there’s a time when you should not attempt a semi-bluff.  It’s when there is a pre-flop raises and you flopped nothing or just a small pair.  The pre-flop raise told you two things:

  • There’s probably one or two Aces out, even though you hold one.
  • You’re a heavy underdog (herein after called “dog”) because you’re facing a premium hand.

You have to make a good draw on the flop and then hit it to win the hand.  If another player holds one of your Aces, your chances of hitting another Aces are not reduced to 1 in 50, but rather 1 in 2.  True, there are 50 other cards that you don’t hold, but there are only three other Aces, and it looks like one of them is out.  You also face the unpleasant event of hitting an Ace on the flop only to find out that someone has A♣ A ♥ in the pocket.

  • Against a Bad Flop

Let’s say that you’re in late position and you got a garbage flop and you’re sure that you have the best hand, even though it’s not that high on the scale of poker hands.  You’re sure that a bet for value will win you the pot, but if you’re called, you don’t figure to have the best hand.  It turns out that your bet was a bluff but you didn’t know it at the time.
  If you’re going to continue with the bluff, it should be only if you’re certain that the turn card did not give the caller a potential draw to call with.  In other words, he could have flopped nothing, but picked up a straight or flush draw on the turn.  This is a common situation in hold’em poker.
  Most players who have called a bet and have two cards in their hand and four on the board will have at least a straight or a flush draw if they don’t already have a pair.  If, in your opinion, it’s likely that the turn card made a draw for someone, you may not want to continue the bluff, especially if you’re against more than one player.  A good example would be if the flop had two high cards and the turn was another high card that also made two to a suit.  Be careful if you intend to bluff.

  • Flop Pairs on the Turn With No Flop Bets

Another common flop that lends itself to bluffing is when there is a flop with no bet and the highest card on the flop pairs on the turn.  Because of the fact that the top pair on the flop will be bet 95% of the time, you can usually be sure that the paired card on the turn did not make someone trips.
For example, the flop is J♠ 7♥ 3♦ and the turn is J♣.This is one of those rare times when you can bet knowing you’re beat you won’t be called.  Anyone holding a Seven or a Three will usually fold it, not wanting to risk the possibility that you have a Jack and checked it on the flop.  They will consider the possibility that you were going to check-raise if there was no bet on the flop. As funny as it sounds, you can even show your A♣ K♥ to a player holding a Seven and he’ll still throw it away, because of the pot odds.

  • Faking a Rush

After you’ve beat a certain player several times with the nuts, you can consider bluffing him on the river in the near future.  You’ve conditioned him to seeing the nuts from you and he’ll give you considerably more respect than he would the other players.  All you have to do is act like here we go again and he’ll be more likely than usual to throw his hand away.  After all, is his mind, you’re on a rush against him.  If everything’s working for you and you’re really lucky, he’ll throw away much better hands against you than he would against the other eliminate players poker.

  • Stealing in the Blind Position

If there’s not much interest in the pot and the pot is not that big for the limit you’re playing, you can often steal the pot from one of the blind positions, even though you’re in an early position.  Your strength comes from the fact that you are in an early position, and you obviously know it, and everyone else knows it, and you have chosen to bet anyway.  Because you’re in the blind, you could have anything, and that’s just what you’re representing.