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Looking back, I quote Irene Edith who wrote last year in her weekly poker column in Gaming Today: “A player who never bluffs or is not otherwise deceptive, is not likely to be a winner. Playing only ABC poker won’t ‘cut the mustard.’”

As we explained last week, when playing poker in a casino, it is essential to be skilled at deception to be a winner. We explored several aspects of the art of bluffing – the most widely used form of deception.

Today, we will continue on this path by discussing other key forms of deception: semi-bluffing and stealing the Blinds, both of which are methods of bluffing; and then focus on using deceptive tactics to build the pot when you catch a monster – especially if it’s the nuts or near to it.

Semi-bluffing is betting out or raising on the turn while you hold a strong drawing hand such as four to a high flush, or four to an open-ended straight – especially if you also hold overcards to the board. That’s a lot of good outs.

First of all, you can win the pot if your opponents muck their cards. If one or two call your bluff bet/raise, with so many outs, you still have a reasonable chance to make your hand on the river. If you miss, depending on the board and your opponent’s playing traits, a follow-up bluff bet could still take the pot for you – especially if your opponent was also drawing to make his hand. Most likely, he also did not connect.

Stealing the Blinds is another way of bluffing. Preflop, if you are in a late position – on the Button or the Cut-off – and it has been folded to you, consider raising to force out the opponents yet to declare. It’s best if you have at least a marginal hand in case one of them wakes up with a decent starting hand.

It won’t be a big pot, but it will pay for a Blind or more. A precaution:  Don’t try this if one of these players is very aggressive (may re-raise) or loose (prone to stay to see the flop almost every hand dealt). If so, consider a seat change when one becomes available to the left of that player.

Likewise, consider stealing the pot when there is a weak flop and you are in a late position – preferably the Button, and everyone has checked to you. Another option is to steal the pot when the flop shows a big pair. Be sure to use the Esther Bluff tactic.   

Should you catch a monster, your goal is to build the pot size. Deception is the best way. Here’s a good example:

You have been dealt pocket Aces. Ideally, you would like to play against two or three players. To force out those behind you, raise the bet if three or more opponents have already limped in. The limpers are bound to call your raise. Otherwise, just limp along, hoping two or three opponents stay to see the flop with you. 

What if you raise preflop and then a third Ace falls on the flop, giving you a set of Aces? Your opponents check to you. Now, if you bet out, they would likely muck their cards. So, just check along; don’t force them out – so they can help build the pot.

As the hand progresses, if the board is not threatening, make your bet and hope one or more call.

If you have an opponent who is continually winning, he must be skilled at deception.Take that into account when he bets out or raises on the river and call him if you have any chance of holding the best hand.

In Part III of this series, we will discuss deceptive tactics to build the pot when you flop a monster.

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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