The Poker Bluff
One of the most popular (and iconic) forms of poker strategy is the “Poker Bluff”. Bluffing means to bet or raise with an inferior hand. It’s at this point that poker becomes more of a psychological warfare game than an actual game of chance. Your intention is to mislead your opponent into performing an action he or she would normally not do if they could see your hand.
The most desperate bluff is the “Pure Bluff”, or “Stone-Cold Bluff”. This means you are bluffing with a hand that has little or no chance of improving. Since the chance of winning by having the best hand is small, you’re trying to get their opponent to throw in the towel and quit. Once they do that, you’re free to reach over and move all that money toward your pile.
A “Semi-Bluff” is to bluff with a hand that has a reasonable chance of improving with additional cards. With a semi-bluff the intent is to have opponents fold and/or to receive a better hand. As the opponents fold and you receive additional cards, the chances of you getting the best hand improve dramatically. This can actually be a very strong play if you have a reasonable chance at a strong hand (for example, holding two pair with two cards left to play has a reasonable enough chance at becoming a full house.)
Certain poker playing situations are ideal for bluffing. Bluffing during a small limit game just isn’t worth it since the pot is small. It’s very hard to bluff someone out when the stakes are low. Games with a smaller number of players are ideal since that reduces the number of people who must fold and give you their paycheck. Bluffing with a “Scare Card” is also ideal. For example, if you’re showing an eight, nine, and a queen in seven card stud, and are dealt a Jack, you can bluff other players into thinking you have a straight, regardless of whether you have a 10 or not.
As with any strategy the key is to use bluffing correctly. If you bluff too frequently, your opponents will certainly call your bluffs. Bluff too little, and people may believe you’re betting for value and call your hand. You may also want to bluff at random to confuse your opponents. If your opponents are watching your body language and notice that you tap your fingers before every bluff, a random bluff could hide your intentions from him or her in the future (you have to work hard at discovering and hiding your tells). If you want to get really sneaky you could intentionally make an obvious movement before each bluff and then do nothing for your real bluff with the big jackpot (you’re ok with sneaky, aren’t you?)
Regardless of how and when you do it, learn about bluffing, as it’s a formidable weapon in any poker ace’s repertoire.