Do you need to have the worst hand to be bluffing?

In poker then it is often perceived that in order to bluff that we must have a hand that is inferior to our opponents. This isn’t always the case and to prove it then we can look at classifying hands into groups that fall into broad ranges. We can call hands by the following and we can call them nuts, powerful hands, average hands, weak hands and fresh air hands.

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When we have a hand that can win at showdown then we are not necessarily bluffing. However we need to redefine our definition of a bluff because you are bluffing if you are over representing your holding. If you hold Kc-Qc on a board of Ad-6h-3s and you bet in a heads up pot then you are bluffing. This is even the case if your opponent held a hand like Qh-Jd and your hand is best. This is because both you and your opponent both have fresh air hands at the very bottom of the online poker hand ladder.

The difference between your hand of A-K-Q-6-3 rainbow and your opponent’s hand of A-Q-J-6-3 rainbow is so marginal that it only applies at showdown. However because your hand is so weak then you may never get to see the showdown as whichever player shows the most aggression in this situation is going to take down this pot. So although we technically have the best hand then we are betting and representing the ace and a stronger holding than we really have.

If we bet with our K-Q here and get our opponent to fold on the flop then they have made a mistake according to David Sklansky’s fundamental theorem of poker. This is because had they been able to see our hand then they would have at least called with the intention of taking the pot away on the turn or raised us on the flop and we would have had to fold our K-Q. So we have made our opponent fold incorrectly by mis-representing our hand and that constitutes bluffing.

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