How to bluff your hand by just thinking one step ahead and having no plan. I am writing these two in one go, as they are related, to a degree. They are actually fairly basic, but as it seems to be a very common problem, I thought I would still talk a bit about them. Let’s start with a definition of bluffing. It just means playing your hand in a way that makes it impossible for your opponents to continue with a worse hand than the one we have.
Most people who play poker at our levels, do so for fun. There is often no real reason behind their checking, calling, raising or folding – most decisions are due to chance or current states of mind. The same hand could be played in an entirely different way half an hour later, even if under the exact same conditions. However, we’re going to think a little further ahead. An example:
We raise with AK from utg+1. Why? To steal the blinds, for value (worse hands can call), to thin out the field/increase our equity, to get more information about the others’ hands. What do we do if the loose/aggressive player with the button 3-bets? Or if the tight player in SB 3 bets? If the button 3-bets and SB calls, etc.?
Let’s say that SB (the tight player) calls and everyone else folds. Which HD* do we put the SB on the pre-flop?
The flop is dealt: K72
SB checks. What do we do, and why? If we bet, why do we bet? For value? Can he call with a worse hand? (what is his call-HD?) What do we do if he raises? (what is his raise-HD?) What do we do if he raises, we call, the turn is blank and he goes all in? What happens if he raises and we 3-bet? Can he then call with a worse hand? (how does his HD change?)
This is the kind of thinking we are looking for when we talk about having a plan for the hand; that there is a meaning behind every decision.
Let us go on to “bluffing” and try to apply that thought pattern to the hand above. We’ll make it easy for us and say that SB always 3-bets AK/KK/AA pre-flop and never calls with dominating hands, like KQ/KJ/K10 or worse out of position. Let us also say that we know he sometimes likes to bluff with a check/raise. If we then bet, we do so partly to get an 88-QQ, as well as to be bluff raised. An excellent way to turn our nice AK to nothing would be the following scenario: he calls, we c-bet, he raises and put in. We have now guaranteed that he will never call with a worse hand: he places 88-QQ, likewise a bluff, he couldn’t have a worse king, there are no draws; he can only call with a set and we might as well have sat there with two uno cards.
The above is obviously an extreme example, as there are hardly that many players that are that good, but at least it illustrates the point.
A slightly more realistic and very common example would be the following:
We raise from CO with K10, a fish on the button calls with T9 and the flop is dealt:
K87 with flush draw
We bet and the fish calls, the turn is a blank 2a.
We bet again and the fish calls, the river is a blank 9a.
Now, we choose to check as it is less likely that he has a worse king, partly because 67 hit his open straight draw and to let him bluff with worse, which he would otherwise not call with. Here, the fish will often choose to bet his pair of nines despite nothing worse being able to call as they do not understand the concept of turning their hand to a bluff. It’s as if they get it under their skin and they have to bet as soon as someone checks: “Aha! I knew it! He bluffed! Bet! Bet!”
*Hand distribution, i.e. all the different hands that are possible for the player to have once the game has played out.