Bluffing in No Limit Texas Hold'em Poker


Bluffing in No Limit Texas Hold'em Poker is an essential talent for furthering your No Limit (NL) Hold em skills. There are many different ways of bluffing, but the purpose remains the same - to win that pot! Sometimes bluffing is all you can do to protect the chips you have in the pot, especially in a tournament where you are low stacked. Bluffing can get you into a lot of trouble as well.

Four Bluffing Strategies

This article covers four bluffing strategies: 1) buying the blinds, 2) aggressive betting in a pot that had early pre-flop action which died to a check after the flop, 3) stealing the pot from someone trying to bluff YOU, and 4) semi-bluffing.

Bluffing by Buying the Blinds

Buying the blinds is one of the most common forms of bluffing in NL Hold'em. If you are on the button and every player before you has folded, you can throw out a small comfortable raise to try to get the small blind and the big blind to fold. If you succeed you have bought yourself a few chips.

Bluffing when the Action Dies Down

Say you have AK and someone raises double the blinds; you call along with 3 other players to see the flop. After the flop it checks around. Turn card comes, it checks to you again. This is where you want to make a bet - maybe no one hit any of his/her cards and assumes you have a hand because you are betting. Your bet should be big enough to make players think you are holding good cards. If you bet 1 bet (whatever the big blind is) this may entice another player in the pot to bluff himself and raise you all in because of the weak bet. I like 2 or 3 times the big blind bet - this is enough to let the other players know you are serious about what you are holding and not afraid to put your chips in the pot. If no one has a strong hand, everyone should fold and your AK wins the pot. If you just call the pre-lop bets and let it check around to the river with no betting, this lets someone hit a dinky pair at some point and win the pot by checking down.

Bluffing a Bluffer

Bluffing a bluffer is the hardest form of bluffing (to me). To bluff a bluffer you must first have some kind of read on that player - maybe you have played with them before and have a note on them saying they tend to bluff a lot. Maybe you have played at the same tournament table for an hour or so and see this player taking down a lot of pots that are folded to him. You will see WHAT he bets and WHEN, and at the times it does go to showdown - WHY. Pay attention. Say that you see him take down 4 pots. 3 out of the 4 you see him take down he bets 3 times the big blind, getting all of the other players to fold. But the 4th time you see him bet much smaller. I would say that he bluffed in 3 of the 4 pots but actually had a hand the 4th time and tried to lure someone in.

Let's say you bet into this guy and he bets 3 times the blind at you . If you decide that you want this pot, you should re-raise him double what he bet into you. The bluffer will do 1 of 2 things: 1) Re-raise you back all in (this is the really tricky part) or 2) Fold (he figures he is beat and doesn't want to lose any more chips). A true bluffer may read you well enough to see that you are trying to bluff at his bluff and then just go all in on yo. This is where you have to decide if your hole cards can beat his hole cards. If you are holding any kind of pair you might make that all in call.


Semi-bluffing is when you are onthe way to making a good hand, like an open ended straight draw or nut flush draw. Say you have 10J and the flop comes 9Q2 - you are open ended (an 8 or a K gives you the nut straight). When you bet on the flop, it is called a semi-bluff because you don't really have a hand yet. You are betting on the pretense that your 8 or K will come on the turn or on the river, making your hand. If you have callers and the turn blanks you, you should continue what you have started and bet again hoping that either your card will river or the other player or players in the pot will fold. The river comes and your hand is not made - BET AGAIN! You have been betting since the flop and if no one else has a great hand they may think that you have had the winner since the flop. This is what I call "firing 3 times". You may shoot and miss twice (on the flop and on the turn) but that last river bet may be the one that makes your opponent fold.

Bluffing doesn't always work - sometimes it can be your demise in a tournament. One of your opponents may be slow playing, or you might get trapped or called by someone that is just plain stubborn. You never want to show your cards after you have bluffed. This tells players that you didn't have a hand, and next time they will call or raise you, and you do not want that when you are trying to bluff. If you are the type of player who never bluffs, maybe you should try some of these strategies and see how they improve your game.

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