In “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” I cautioned against bluffing too often.
“If you are not skilled at it and try to bluff often – and usually get caught, your opponent will be expecting the bluff and more likely call.” The net result: Your bluffs will cost you.
Over the years, I have been refining my own bluffing skills. Working on my next book, “The Art of Bluffing,” also helps as I consider and examine all the various aspects involved. Indeed, successful bluffing requires more than simply making a huge bet.
Don’t get me wrong: A very large bet (“I’m all in!”) as is possible in no-limit games, is a powerful tactic. Your opponents are reluctant to risk so many chips while holding a marginal hand and often are prone to fold what would otherwise have been the winning hand.
The pot odds most often are against calling, but there is so much more to learn to be a skilled bluffer at the poker table.To make my point, here are some of the topics that will be discussed in my new book. Each relates in some way to achieving success in bluffing:
• What is the Break-Even?
• Bluff Occasionally – Not too often.
• It’s Easier to Bluff Out Fewer Opponents
• It Takes More Skill to Bluff in Low-Limit Games
• The Two Key Bluffing Tactics (Very important!)
• Evaluate Your Opponents
• Your Image Counts
• Use Position; The Late-Position Bluff
• Reading Your Opponents’ Hands
• Caution: How Well Does Your Opponent “Know” You?
• Look for TELLS; Avoid Giving Tells – Except “Reverse Tells”
• Bluffing: Stealing, Check-Raising, Trapping/Slow-Playing, Semi-Bluffing
• Other Reasons for Bluffing
• Take Advantage of How You Have Been Playing This Hand
• Be Sensitive to Situations
• Caught Bluffing
• Bluffing the Bluffer
• Defending Against a Bluff
• Beware: Opponent Raises After You Bluff Bet
As you can see, there is much more to successful bluffing than just making a big bet or raise. As I developed my bluffing skills, I found that bluffing has become a more important part of my game.
The other night, playing at a local casino in a limit hold’em game, I wasn’t doing very well and was a bit behind. I tried my first bluff of the evening and lost to a player who caught a two-outer on the river. Happens. I was disappointed but not discouraged; you can’t win them all.
Then, for a while, I played on the tight side to develop my image and thereby improve the chances of succeeding when I subsequently bluffed. About half-an-hour later, I tried my second bluff of the session. The situation seemed right.
There were three opponents in the pot when we reached the turn. In a late position, I sensed weakness when they all checked to me. This was my “golden opportunity,” I thought to myself. Holding four-to-the second-nut flush, and with no pairs on the board (so a full-house was not likely), I made a semi-bluff. If they all folded, it would be my pot by default.
As it turned out, one opponent called. I was hoping to fill my flush on the river. Unfortunately, the river card was a blank. My opponent checked to me. I reasoned chances were he had a small/medium pair. I could win the pot only by bluffing, so that’s what I did – using, of course, the Esther Bluff tactic, reinforced by the Richard B. Reverse Tell (a powerful combination!)
My opponent thought for a brief moment before tossing his hand into the muck. Score one big-pot bluff for George! Now I was almost even for the evening. To make a long story short, I had two more bluffing opportunities. Both succeeded and I was pleased to go home a modest winner.
Had it not been for the three successful bluffs, I would certainly have been a loser. Bluffing to the rescue!
“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].