People seem to take extreme views about bluffing. There are those who think bluffing is the sine qua non (an essential condition; a thing that is absolutely necessary) of poker. And there are those who say bluffing is only a small part of the game. In actuality, both of them are right. There are situations in which bluffing is indispensable, and there are situations when it should not be used. Anyone that tells you that bluffing is not an important part of the game is likely a losing player.
Why Should You Bluff?
If only winning by the merit of your hands were enough, poker would be a much simpler game than it really is. But good hands don't come often. If you just wait for the best hands and fold the rest of the time, you will never make big money in poker. That may be okay for casual or part-time players.
But if you are serious about the game of poker, or if you want to play in tournaments, that attitude won't do. It's nice to be tight; it's safe. But to make huge profits, you have to take risks and bluff when the time is right. Anyone can win with a monster at a showdown, but it takes a very good poker player to win with a stone-cold bluff.
When to Bluff
Here are some situations when it is good to bluff:
If you are in late position, you can watch other players first. When the others fold or check to you, it is a good time to bluff and try to steal the pot.
A disjointed board is easier to bluff especially when there is a high card, since it is so difficult for your opponent to have a hand.
If you are close to making your hand, a bluff then is called a semi-bluff. This is a good bluff to make. If your bluff works, you win. If your bluff fails, you still have a chance to win if you make your hand.
Where to Bluff
The different rules in each poker game heavily influence the way it is played. You should realize that bluffing is more important in some poker games than in others.
Fixed Limit vs. No Limit Poker
Bluffing in a fixed limit Texas Hold’em game is rarely as effective as bluffing in a no limit game. It's hard to bluff someone out of the pot when the betting is capped and the raises aren't that big. They've already put money in the pot; why fold just to save a few more dollars? Bluffing is more powerful in a no limit game because you can bet and raise to any amount you want, which is very convenient when you want to bully an active player in a hand.
Ring Game vs. Tournament Poker
In ring games, you can leave anytime you want. Not so in tournament poker. If you make it to the final stage of a tourney, the blinds will be too costly for you not to bluff. You have to try your luck at the pot or else the blinds will kill you.
Who to Bluff
Bluffing works best on people who are scared of losing their money. It's that simple. You can bluff tight players even if they have a huge stack in front of them, if they are really tight and no signs tell you they have a good hand. Look for a tight table if you like to bluff a lot. You can successfully bluff opponents who are looking for an excuse to fold.
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