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Unfavorable Times to Bluff

  Just as there are times when it is correct to bluff, there are times when it is dead wrong to try it.  There aren’t that many different situations, but they occur often enough in Texas Hold’em that they are certainly worth mentioning.  Here they are:

  • Any Flop That Has an Ace in it.

Even though there may not be a pre-flop raise or a bet on the flop, it’s just too likely that someone flopped a pair of Aces and will call if you bet.  In a ten-handed Hold’em game, someone will be dealt an Ace 86.7% of the time.  That’s about 7 out of 8 times.  If an Ace comes on the flop and you can’t beat a pair of Aces, especially if you’re called, you’re usually in trouble and are playing a guessing game.  That’s not the way to Play Poker .

  • Any Flop That Has a Jack or a Ten

Especially any flop that has a Jack and a Ten in it.  Because of the fact that most players will play any two high cards, a Jack and a Ten will either give them a pair or a draw to a good hand.  And as well all know, any low limit player who has a draw to a good hand cannot be bluffed out of the hand.  Consider these two different flops: J♦T ♥ 3 ♠ and 9♠5♦2♣. If you bet, which one of these flops will enable a player to call you?

  • With a Pre-Flop Raise Only Semi-Bluff

Do not attempt to bluff if there was a pre-flop raise unless you are semi-bluffing at the nuts or there are very few players in the hand.  There are two good reasons for this: A.  The pre-flop raiser could have anything and have you beat (you’re drawing dead).  B. The pre-flop raise created a “protected” pot.
  Everyone knows that the raiser probably (statistically speaking) does not have a pair in the pocket and anyone who flopped a pair will call him down to the river.  In that case, you don’t have to beat just the raiser, you also have to beat the other caller.

  • Against Many Flop Callers

Don’t attempt to bluff if there are many callers to see the flop and you have only $2 in the hand.  Learn to let it go and get on to the next hand.
  Let’s say you decide to bluff about 10% of the time.  If every other player decides to bluff with the same frequency, then you might be facing a bluff from someone every other hand or so.  How do you decide if the other online poker player is bluffing when he bets?  You can never know for sure, but there are a few indicators that might help you figure out where you stand.  Here they are, in no particular order:

Indications That Your Opponent Is Bluffing

  • When There is no Straight or Flush Draw on the flop

If there is a bettor all through the hand in this situation, he is probably not bluffing.  He most likely has top pair on the flop with a good kicker, or an overpair.  This is especially true if there was a pre-flop raise and another caller beside yourself.  The bettor could have anything, but the caller has to have something.
  In these cases, it’s the caller you should be more fearful of than the bettor , especially if the bettor checked on the turn.  It most likely means that he tried a bluff on the flop but since he got called in two spots, he decided to give up the bluff.  The bettor could have anything since he could be bluffing, but the caller has to have something to call with.

  • When They Are Few Players in the Hand

The fewer the number of players that there are in the hand, especially on the river, the more likely the bettor is to be bluffing.  He won’t always be bluffing just because there is only the two of you in the hand, but it is more likely than usual.  This is particularly true if the river card did not fit in with the flop in any way.  It means that anyone who had a draw on the flop missed and would have to bet to have a chance to win the hand.

  • If There Is Just You and One Other Player

If there is just you and one other player on the river, and he bets, and then as you start to call he tells you that you can “save your money” or he tells you that he has the nuts, he’s usually bluffing.  If he really did, why would be bet into you?  All he would have to do is say, “Check,” and then show you his cards games.  Usually, he will have bet because he could not check and win and when it started to look like he was going to be called, he had to do something to keep that from happening. 
  Like I said, if he really wanted you to “save your money,” he’d check and /or show you his hand to save you that bet. 
  If you suspect that the player who just bet is bluffing, here’s a few tips to help you decide what to do.  He could be bluffing on the river it:

  • It only cost him one bet to try to steal the pot.
  • The pot is big.
  • He has to bluff only one player.
  • The river card did not help the possible draws that were presented on the flop.
  • The bettor raised before the flop and no Aces or face cards came on the flop.
  • Everyone checked on any round in the hand.
  • You just lost a big pot or two to the player who just now bet.

Advertising Bluffs
  When you pull off a successful bluff, you should not show your hand if you don’t have to, and you should not give any indications that you just won a pot by bluffing.  If you’re known to be a frequent bluffer, the other players will start checking their good hands to you and calling you on the river.
  However, there are several reason why you would want to advertise the fact that you just won a pot by bluffing.  Here’s a few reasons why you’d want to advertise your bluff.

  • You Want to Be called When You Bet in the Future

This would be when you’ve decided that you’re going to tighten up and bet only for value.  You know that when you bet on the river in the future, you’ll have a hand that can stand a call, but the other players won’t be sure if you’re bluffing or not.  You’ll know that you won’t be.

  • Confusing Player

You want to unnerve a player who’s been poker bad beating up on you.  Anything you can do to confuse him, and therefore interfere with his decision making process, can only help you.

  • You’ve Played a Hand Out of Position

And you want everyone to know it.  This is so that in the future, if you need to be holding some nonstandard cards in order to have a great hand, you want everyone to realize that you could have just such a hand out of position.
A player who bets before the dealer can turn the next card is not necessarily bluffing, but it usually indicates that he has a weak hand and is trying to convey strength.  He really did see the next card before betting it right out.  It only makes sense that he would want to assess the impact of the next card before deciding what to do.  If his hand really was so good that he did not have to fear any card that could come, then he certainly would not want to give away that fact.
As obvious as it may sound, you will often be faced with having to call a bet from a player who is probably bluffing just because it is correct for him to attempt a bluff.  In other words, there are situations that arise in this game where the bettor is bluffing, you know he is bluffing, he knows that you know that he’s bluffing and he bets anyway.  If may be correct for him to bluff because of the cards on the board and the way the hand was played and everyone knows it.
Most players will tell themselves in these situations, “Well, he’s bluffing but I can’t call anyway.”  You’re right. What you should do is raise, especially if there’s just the two of you.  Believe me, it’s very, very difficult for a player who’s on a stone cold bluff to call when he’s raised on the end.  That’s why you should try it once in a while.

Chapter Summary
  This has been a particularly long chapter so I will summarize the main points for you:

Calling Before the Flop
  Whether or not you should call before the flop depends on your position, the strength of the opposition, prior bets and raises, and whether you are winning or losing

Raising Before the Flop
  The number one thing that the average player can do to immediately improve his game is to quit routinely calling pre-flop raises unless he has a genuine raising hand.
  The five major reasons to raise before the flop are

1.To eliminate players.  2.  To get value from your hand.

 3.  To gain information.    4. To bluff or semi-bluff.  5.  To get a free (cheap)card.

Calling Pre-Flop Raises
  You need a strategy for calling pre-flop raises.  This is what you should consider: 1.  who raised?  2.  What position is the raiser in?  3.  How many players have already called?  4. How many players are behind you?  5.  Who might reraise behind you?  6.  Are you on a draw?  7.  Can you beat the raiser at this point?

Checking and/or Folding on the Flop
  The flop is the time to get away from your hand if you’re going to.  You should usually check and fold if you flop nothing against several players.  When you check and call, try to convey the impression that you have something but have decided to check anyway.  Don’t check out of turn because it induces bluffs against you.

Betting on the Flop
  If you’re equally undecided between checking or betting, you should usually bet.  You should bet if you flop what you think is the best hand.  Do not slowplay a set of Aces.  The more vulnerable that you think your hand is, the more inclined you should be to bet rather than check.

Raising on the Flop
  A raise on the flop is not going to drive out a player who flopped any kind of draw at all.  All you’re going to do is build a pot.  You should usually raise if you flop top pair with an Ace kicker.  Also you should usually raise from late position if you flop a good draw, because this often buys you one, and often two, free cards.

Playing on the Turn
  You should have the probable best hand or a draw to the best hand to play on the turn.  If you know that you’re going to call on the turn and the river, you should occasionally raise on the turn with what would ordinarily be a calling hand.

Pot Odds & calling on the River
  To determine your pot odds, just divide the size of the bet you have to call into the size of the pot.  If you can’t decide between calling and folding on the river, you should call more as the pot gets bigger.  Be aware that just calling on the end with the nuts can make you more money that raising if you’re in an early position.  If you’re going to check and call, you should consider betting it first.

Betting on the River
  Bet your good hands right out for value rather than try to get fancy.  Bet if the possible straight or flush draw did not get there on the river.  Bet with nearly anything if it’s been checked to you two or three times.  Don’t call an “Afraid You Won’t Bet” bet without a great hand.

Split Pots
  Don’t play a hand from the beginning head-up if it’s very likely that you’ll have a split pot.  Always raise and reraise on the river with the nuts even if you do think you might have a split pot.

  Because check-raising makes players call two bets, it places an emphasis on building pots and driving players out of the hand.  A player who check-raises to force you to call two bets cold usually wants you to fold while a player who check-raises so as to let you call one bet and then another usually wants you to stay in the hand.  You should check your good hands to aggressive players on your left.  Players who flop fantastic hands usually wait for the turn to check-raise.  A player who check-raises you on the turn definitely expects you to call.

  Bluffing on the end is usually a simple matter of mathematics and pot odds.  If you win most of the time that you try a bluff, you are not bluffing often enough.  It is wrong to never bluff because you lose money by not betting poker when a bluff has a positive expectation.  The bigger the pot is and the fewer the number of players you’re facing, the more you should bluff.  Do not bluff with an Ace, Jack or Ten the flop.  A player who bets in the certain knowledge that you’ll call is usually not bluffing.