Poker Bluffing Basics

Bluffing is a central component of poker, and one of the most valuable weapons in the arsenal of a winning player. Most players, whether playing online/live, don’t fully understand the basic aspects of bluffing, nor do they understand the advanced principles underlying the decision to bluff. A winning player must bluff an optimal amount, to balance their strong hands, otherwise they won’t get paid off enough with their big hands. But you’re required to do so in a manner which does not tip off opponents to your bluffing patterns. In this article, we will discuss the key concepts behind optimal bluffing for beginners.

The main idea of this poker bluffing basics guide is that if you don’t bluff enough, the proper counter-strategy for opponents will be to always fold to your bets unless they figure to beat your average holding for that particular situation, since the bluffing frequency is so low, meaning you’re pretty much always value betting when you are betting. Your table image may be such that they may even think you never bluff, which is definitely true for some players.

On the other hand, if you bluff too much, the proper counter-strategy for opponents will be to always call (or even raise) whenever they figure to beat your average holding. But if your strategy is such that you choose to bluff at just the right ratio, there is no optimal way to play against you. When players are playing correctly against you, then you need to adjust and change your range so they’re playing incorrectly and making mistakes. This is how you make money at poker. There will always be fish who pay you off on multiple streets, but you need to balance your range against the more observant and stronger poker players.

There is an implication that human beings, being aware as they are, will seek out whether always calling or always folding is the more correct solution when you are bluffing above or below the optimal range. In other words, don’t underestimate your opponents. If calling you all the time is the better decision than folding, they will figure that out once there is history between you.

The same holds true if folding all the time is the better decision versus the way you play. You can expect your opponents to tend toward the decision that aids them the most. Poker is a zero sum game for the most part, one player’s loss is another player’s gain. So, this also means they will tend toward the decision that hurts you the most.

Developing an optimal bluffing frequency pre-flop so that players can’t play correctly against you isn’t as complicated as you might think. By adding certain “bluff” hands to your raising/re-raising range will allow you to accomplish this. Exactly what starting hands that should be included as your bluff hands is a topic of much discussion.

Some players like to three bet bluff with ace rag hands whilst other players dislike this play because you can be easily dominated. You have to find out what works for you. For the most part, hands that have good potential after the flop can be good to bluff with, as you have many ways to win the hand post flop, and you can make big hands that stack Aces.

A player who bluffs optimally and has no tells puts his or her opponents in a really bad spot. First, there is no clear historical evidence on what the better decision is. Secondly, it doesn’t even matter what they decide. It may be that an intuitive awareness develops in opponents that it’s difficult to decide what to do against such a player.

If you want to be a winning poker player, then you need to understand this. If you want to use “feel” for when someone might fold to a bet when attempting a bluff, that’s fine and all, but remember the ratio you’re seeking, and then try to get as close to it as possible, as this will consternate opponents to the maximum degree.

When all is said and done, if you’re a student of the game of poker, only the better students are going to avoid losing money, since they’re dedicated to improving. Even above average students are barely a step above break even. A player who wins small amounts over time, helped through well timed bluffs during a session can really be a formidable opponent to play against as the regular wins will no doubt boost confidence and this will translate to playing well. In order to dominate opponents constantly at the stakes and games you play, then bluffing is a skill you will need to learn and refine over time, and your sense for bluffing at the right times will get better with experience on the felt.