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No doubt, Mike Caro is one of the greatest minds in the poker world. I hold him in high esteem. In fact, in some respects, he is my mentor when it comes to playing winning poker. If it weren’t for him, I probably would not be writing this column.

But, in a recent issue of Poker Player Newspaper (PPN), he wrote in his column: “The truth is that almost all poker players lose money bluffing…”

That may well be the case for those who rely only on the “standard” bluffing tactic; it is far from the case for those of us who have learned the Esther Bluff, reinforced by the Richard B. Reverse Tell.

Speaking from my own experience, my bluffs succeed over 70% of the time – even in low-limit games. Indeed, the Esther Bluff often is the difference between a winning and losing session.

There are times when I can play for an hour without making a winning hand, only to be rescued by an Esther Bluff to recoup my losses and put me ahead.

I have explained the Esther Bluff tactic and the Richard B. Reverse Tell in previous columns, so we won’t go over it again. Suffice to say it focuses in a meaningful way on your bluff target’s mind to convince him you hold a much better hand than he does; so he mucks his holecards, leaving the pot to you. In fact, it has helped me bluff out as many as four opponents at one time.

Bluffing is an art: Successful bluffing requires talent as well as knowledge. The knowledge can be learned; the talent can be developed. My next poker book will be entitled “The Art of Bluffing.” Perhaps most important is that most poker players have only one tactic – the “standard” tactic – for bluffing: Just make a huge bet.

That can work for no-limit games, especially tournaments. Raising four times the size of the pot has got to be a deterrent to opponents who do not hold strong hands. Risking all of your chips on one hand will make anyone think twice before calling that huge bet.

Key issues and factors: How often should you bluff? Why is it important to evaluate your opponents before trying to bluff them? What tells should you be aware of? What is the best timing when bluffing? (Caro has suggested 2½ seconds before making the bluff bet. That makes good sense.)

Your image and betting position are important. Other forms of bluffing include stealing the pot on an early street, check-raising and trapping. Be sensitive to situations. Semi-bluffing is a fascinating form of bluffing; it gives you two ways to win the pot: (1) Your opponents all fold; and (2) You do it with lots of outs so, even if someone does call, you still can make a strong hand.

Many reasons for bluffing: For the most part, we bluff to win a pot with an inferior hand. But there are other reasons. “Stealing the pot” preflop or on the flop is a form of bluffing. You might bluff bet or raise from a middle position to gain the “effective” button position when the opponents behind you fold.

Yet another reason is to “protect” your vulnerable hand from opponents who have drawing hands that could connect to beat your hand. (Everyone hates to be “rivered!”). The more opponents staying in after the flop, the more likely your vulnerable hand will become second-best.

One more reason for bluffing is to get yourself a “free card” on the next round of betting when the bets are doubled (in a limit game) or likely to be even higher (in a no-limit game).

In future columns, we will hit upon some of the key elements of bluffing; and why it is a very viable way to ensure success at the poker tables.

“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].

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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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