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Bluffing in Holdem

Bluffing is what poker is most famous for, and in fact is one of the biggest factors that make it fun. If all we did was deal and showdown, the best hand would always win and we would have quite the boring game on our hands. Add in the ability to bluff, and the fact that we are playing with real money, and you have a skill game, full of mystique and excitement. The following is a list of some considerations to think about when trying to become a successful bluffer.

What is the personality of your table? Is it a crazy loose table at or a tight bunch of semi pros at Full Tilt? Generally, there is no real point is bluffing at a loose table. The players probably will not recognize the fact that you are bluffing, and are more likely to raise your bluff with a bluff of their own than actually fold. Tight tables on the other hand are prime environments for bluffing strategies. Save your bluffs for tables full of rocks, when it will have a good chance of succeeding.

What are the table limits? If you're playing low limit poker, you should bluff less frequently. Generally in limit poker the pot is big enough by the end that most players will call a bet on the river if for nothing else than to see what beat them. Higher limits and especially no limit or pot limit poker will show a greater rate of success with your bluffs.

Who are you trying to bluff? A bluff is more likely to work against a good player than against a weak player. As noted above, weak players may not even realize they are being bluffed and maniacs may raise you back because that is the only play they know. Bluff a strong player who is actually capable of laying down a good hand. Another factor to consider is how many chips does the player have? If he has a mountain of chips and is on a good run, he'll call because he can afford to. If you find someone who is playing a short stack or "rent money" he'll be more likely to fold to your pressure.

How many players are you trying to bluff? It is not advisable to bluff more than one or possibly two players. Your goal with a bluff is for everyone to fold. Common sense tells you that the more players that you need to fold, the less likely you will win with a bluff.

What is your table image? If you have developed a tight image yourself over the course of a poker session, your bluff will have a better chance at success. Also, if you are running "hot" on a winning streak, the other players will give your bets and raises more credit. Conversly, if you are running cold, suffering bad beats and the like, players will not be as quick to respect your bets. If you've shown down some weak hands and the table perceives you as loose, your bluffs will have almost no chance of working, especially if you have been caught bluffing recently!

Yet another tool in the successful bluffers bag of tricks is the semi bluff. The semi bluff is basically a bluff with outs. You feel you probably don't have best hand at the moment, but even if you are called, there are cards that you can catch that would give you the best hand on showdown. Obviously you can't semi bluff on the river. There needs to be additional cards coming for you to semi bluff. This is a very powerful play, and is much preferred over a stone cold bluff with absolutely nothing.

In conclusion, it can't be stressed enough how important it is to bluff in poker. If you get the reputation as a player who never bluffs, you will rarely get paid off for your monster hands. Other players who know you will give you credit and immediately fold. A bluff does not have to work often for it to show a profit. One successful bluff winning a nice pot will more than pay for several other failed attempts. Strive to acheive a proper bluffing frequency, so that players respect your bets and raises, but always have that small lingering doubt.