The When, What, Why and How of Bluffing in Online Poker
Bluffing is a significant piece of the puzzle called ‘how to play Texas Hold Em’. When used judiciously, it can do what it is meant to do – get an opponent to fold. Here is what you need to know about bluffing and why it is not always a winning tactic.
How to Play Texas Hold Em: The Art of Bluffing
Bluffing when playing online poker at Juicy Stakes Poker is a bit of an anomaly. It isn’t – or shouldn’t be – based on gut feeling. If you can’t rely on intuition, how do you know when it is the right tactic to deploy?
The fact of the matter is there are no hard and fast ‘best bluffing rules.’ It is part of Texas Hold Em strategy but is not learnable nor teachable. That said, there are good times to bluff… and it all boils down to profitability.
Learn how to play Texas Hold Em and the core objective is to win the pot. How you do that is based on two key factors – the cards on the table and in your hand along with the betting activity. The question is… what happens when you are holding poor cards?
When that happens – and it’s going to happen a lot – you have three choices. You can check or fold, or alternatively, you can raise in the hope it will scare the opponent into throwing in his or her cards. Wrong.
In reality, there is no ‘hope’ in the raise equation in online poker. You must make the decision to bluff based on the two Ps – percentage and profitability. In other words, you must have a pretty good idea of how often your opponent will fold in the bluff.
Once you have a percentage in mind, you can work out the expected value (EV) of the tactic. In other words, you can calculate how much you stand to win or lose when your opponent folds. If the EV is positive, it means the bluff is potentially profitable and worth a shot. If the EV is negative, it is time to check or fold instead.
How to Play Texas Hold Em: Calculating the Bluff’s EV
How to play Texas Hold Em entails a lot more than learning the rules. It involves a complex strategy that requires at least a rudimentary understanding of mathematics. When you have that as part of your repertoire, you can play – and bluff – with a lot more freedom.
Right, back to our two Ps. Evaluating the fold factor in your opponent is based purely on observation. You have to assess the number of times he or she throws in their cards. Then it is a matter of breaking it down into a percentage and storing that information in your memory bank.
Now to the profitability angle. In this scenario, you can actually calculate whether a bluff is a good or bad move. You base the sum on stack size and current value of the pot.
Here is an example. You are sitting on a $300 stack, your opponent has $250 – and the pot is $200. You decide to bluff and raise the bet to $250, putting your opponent all-in. You have evaluated how often he or she has folded over time and pegged it at 57%.
The calculated EV of the bluff is as follows:
- If your opponent folds, you win $200 57% of the time = $200 x 0.57 = $114
- If your opponent calls, you lose $250 43% of the time = $250 x 0.43 = $107.50
The overall EV of the bluff is $114 - $107.50 = $6.50. What that tells you is the bluff is profitable and hence a good poker playing tactic in the current circumstances.
The trick to a sound bluffing strategy in Texas Hold Em Poker is this. Avoid bluffing simply for the sake of it. When a good situation arises and you are fairly certain of the fold percentage and associated profitability, go for it!
How to Play Texas Hold Em: General Guidelines for Best Bluffing
The truth of the matter is when you read how to play Texas Hold Em articles online, you won’t find stuff like optimal bluff frequency. What you are likely to find is a few general guidelines, like we are about to cover right here.
- Don’t start a hand or betting round with the intention of bluffing. Rather wait until the perfect scenario arises and do the calculations. When you do that, you can try a bit of deception in the knowledge the expected value is positive.
- Don’t raise with high stakes. Rather tailor your bet size appropriately. If a smaller wager can have the same effect – and that is to get your opponent to fold – stick to low stakes. The first rule of how to play Texas Hold Em is do not bet wildly if you do not have to!
- Mindless bluffs sometimes work but oftentimes they can cost you lots of money. It fits right on in with the dumb things people do with their money!
- Choose your opponent carefully. Avoid the experienced, cerebral online poker players. They will usually sniff out a bluff and make you pay dearly for it. Similarly, desist from bluffing novice players as they seldom know when to fold.
- Always ensure that your bluff is believable and makes sense. Wild exaggerated bluffs are simply unsustainable and are likely to get you into trouble.
When executed properly, bluffing can be exciting and profitable. It is an integral part of Texas Hold Em poker gameplay and one that can help you play online poker like a pro.
Now that you know how to play Texas Hold Em with the bluff in the equation, what is the next move? To register an account at Juicy Stakes Poker, of course! That way you can grab our welcome bonus and put your tactics to the test!