Do not be predictable. If you always bluff in certain situations, your opponents will figure this out and start calling more. On the other hand, if you never bluff, they will figure that out too and stop calling your non-bluff bets, which is a bad thing-even though you might win the hand, you will fail to win the amount of their call. The exact ideal bluffing frequency in each game situation is a complicated exercise in game theory that you will not be able to solve at the table, so you may have to rely on rules of thumb, prior analysis, experience, and intuition.
General guidelines
  • Bluffs are more successful with fewer people in the pot. Against only one or two opponents, your chances are often good that no one has a hand good enough to call. Against three or more opponents, at least one of them probably does, so bluffing is unlikely to succeed.
  • Bluff much less in high-low split games-some very weak hands will call hoping for half the pot, and the likelihood of splitting the pot greatly reduces your pot odds in any case. In some games such as limit Omaha high-low, you would not be giving up much advantage if you never bluffed at all.
  • In games with many betting rounds, bluffs are more often successful in early rounds rather than late ones. Once other players have put a lot of money into the pot, they are less likely to give up (this tendency is based on the false concept of being "pot-committed" and goes beyond the correct strategy of calling more often with higher pot odds. cf. sunk cost fallacy)
  • Value bet your strong hands, consider bluffing with hands you are almost sure cannot win any other way, and check the ones in between: On the last betting round, if you have a hand that might be good but that is not very strong, you are probably better off checking and then calling a bet by your opponent rather than bluffing. A player with a worse hand will probably not call if you bet, but a check might induce your opponent to bluff, allowing your call to win more money. On the other hand, a player with a better hand than yours will almost certainly call, and may raise, costing you money. You also do not need the protection of a bet.
  • A raise, and especially a check-raise, as a bluff is more psychologically intimidating than just opening. Of course it also risks more of your money and makes the pot bigger (and therefore more likely to be called), so it must be used with care.
In games with multiple betting rounds, to bluff on one round with an inferior or drawing hand that might become a much better one by chance in a later round is often called a semi-bluff. Semi-bluffs thus afford a player two opportunities to win the pot: everyone may fold, or if the player is called, they still might win the showdown. For example, a player in a stud poker game with four spade-suited cards showing (but none among their downcards) on the penultimate round might raise, hoping that others believe they have a flush even though they do not. If their bluff fails and they are called, they still might be dealt a spade on the final card and win the showdown (or they might be dealt another non-spade and try their bluff again, in which case it is a pure bluff or stone-cold bluff on the final round rather than a semi-bluff).
Randomizing devices
In performing bluffs, it often helps to have a randomizing device: for example, if your analysis or experience leads you to believe that you should bluff half of the time in a certain situation, use a device such as the color of the last card dealt. Another strategy useful in short-handed games is to give yourself fake outs: if a jack is not a scare card, pretend that every jack is an out for you, even if it is not. This strategy has a mathematical basis in game theory. Bluff (the game) Bluff is an ancient predecessor of poker played in the 1800s, where only the cards from 10 to Ace were used, and straights and flushes hadn't been invented yet.
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