Bluffing is the act of making a bet with the worst hand, and hopefully forcing an opponent to fold a better one, but there’s a lot more to it than that…
Bluffing is the act of making a bet with the worst hand, and hopefully forcing an opponent to fold a better one. Easy enough in principle, but when it comes to Texas hold’em, you also need to know the various ways you can do this successfully. So here are some of the many types of bluff on offer to you, as well as a few of the basic counter tactics!
This is when you’re ‘betting with outs’ – that is, if you do get called, you still have ways to win, such as betting a fl ush draw in the knowledge that you may win with a bluff or still make the flush if you get called. This tactic is used frequently by the pros and all good players, and is often the deadliest, as it means your opponents will find it difficult to know if you have a strong hand or just a draw any time you put chips in pot.
A naked bluff is when you’re ‘betting without outs’ knowing that the only way you can win is if you make the other player fold. Daring and audacious, this is a very high-risk option that requires a precise ‘read’ on your opponents and a lot of guts. John Duthie put on a master class of naked bluffs to win £1 million at the inaugural Poker Million in 2001, although one reason he got away with it is that he never had to show any of them, and the other players didn’t have a clue until afterwards!
Sensing that someone else is making a move in a pot and fighting back to try to beat them at their own game is known as a rebluff. Often called ‘the strongest move in poker’, this is an ultra-high-risk, sophisticated play made by many top players mainly against other top players, all of whom understand intimately the ‘levels inside levels’ that are present in a high-stakes poker game.
A less spectacular version of the rebluff, the delayed bluff consists of calling a bet with nothing against a seemingly weak opponent, with the intention of taking the pot away on a later betting round. This often works best with position, as if you call a bet on the flop or turn last and then the other player fails to follow through, it frequently means they were stealing, Moreover, if you either called and missed a draw or called with nothing just to bluff later, you’ve found a great low-risk opportunity to do so.
A positional bluff is using good table position to exert pressure on the opposition. You may be raising to steal the blinds in late position, or betting one of the subsequent rounds in the hope that you can make a player pass a better hand when they know you will be acting after them throughout, and could put them to some tough decisions.
Checking to let your opponent bet after you with position, and then reraising is a check-raise bluff. This is both a high risk and a very powerful move, as the check-raise almost always signifies strength, meaning you might force an opponent to fold. Equally, though, if they call or re-raise, then you’ve created a big pot out of position and are left with the equally tough choices of giving up or making an even bigger and potentially fatal bluff on the next betting round.
A trap is feigning weakness with a very strong hand in the hope that an opponent will make an ill-timed bluff. This might be through ‘slow play’, where you check and call other players’ bets, or a small bet that hopes to communicate weakness and bring a raise or bluff from an opponent.
An antidote to very aggressive players and a way of minimising your damage if you fear you’ve walked into a hand rather than a bluff, checkcalling means simply calling down an opponent when you think they have nothing. If you’re right, then the other player has effectively given a lot of free chips to you, and if you are wrong, at least you found out as cheaply as possible.