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In my last column, you met my incredible granddaughter, Esther Fayla Epstein, and learned how she created the famous (it’s powerful!) Esther Bluff – enabled by her devotion to the magic of Harry Potter.

You can use this tactic when stealing the blinds, stealing the pot on the flop, making a semi-bluff on the turn or straight-out bluffing on the river.

As noted in Part I, when we’re bluffing in poker we pretend and create an image – just as do the Harry Potter fantasies … It’s like magic – supernatural!

The Esther Bluff on the Flop

Example: Preflop, using the Hold’em Algorithm or other viable criteria, you have a decent starting hand – a reasonable chance at the best hand at the showdown. About two out of three times, the flop doesn’t help you. Indeed, this flop probably missed everyone in this poker hand: Hole Cards: Kd, Jd.  Flop: 7s, 4d, 2c

You’re in a late position and called to see the flop, along with three opponents; no raises. Now, on the flop, two of them check to you. Here’s a great opportunity to use the Esther Bluff! You confidently make the bet, acting as if certain you hold the best hand – even though it is possible someone flopped a small pair. Your opponents all fold. The pot is yours – not a large pot, but enough for a few blinds.

The Ultimate

One of my favorite strategies is to use the Esther Bluff in a sequence of events: value betting on the flop, semi-bluffing on the turn and then the final bluff. It helps to be able to “read” your opponents and their hands.

Getting involved in an “ultimate” Esther Bluff, start with a value bet on the flop. Hole cards: Ad, 10d. Flop: 7d, 9c, 2d.

Example: In a late position, you flop four-to-the-nut diamond flush. The blind bets, and two other opponents call before you. With nine outs to the nut flush, the card odds are 1.86-to-1 against you. (Card odds are 2-to-1 because the 9 is a tainted out.) With three opponents betting on the flop, you raise; you’re getting 3-to-1 “money odds” for a Positive Expectation. All three opponents almost invariably will call your raise. In the long run, that bet will make money for you. Confidently, you make your Esther-Bluff raise, while anticipating the next step.

But the turn card doesn’t help. Having raised on the flop, your opponents respect you; they all check. You make the big bet; it’s a semi-bluff – another Esther Bluff. If they all fold, you take the pot. Even if you’re called, you still have a good chance to make your nut flush on the river – almost certain to win the pot.

As it turns out, one opponent calls. Having observed his previous play, you know he’s not a Calling-Station; he is capable of folding a hand he considers a loser. Nor is he especially deceptive, so he’s unlikely planning to check-raise you.

The river card is another rag – probably did not help anyone. You have put your remaining opponent on a range of hands, most likely a small or medium pair, perhaps a draw to the diamond flush. If you check to him, it’s at least 50-50 he has you beaten with a small or medium pair.

Your betting tactic now is another Esther Bluff… After hesitating, your opponent folds his hand – and you take a decent pot. Whew… You really sweated that one out, didn’t you?

Meanwhile, I have yet to muster the courage to bring my Harry Potter magic wand from Whimsic Alley to the casino. One day soon, perhaps.

Comments? George “The Engineer” Epstein can be contacted at [email protected]

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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