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Understanding Bluffing

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We can define bluffing as any instance where we bet or raise and prefer that our opponents fold rather than looking to take their hands to showdown against us or drive us out of the hand before we get there.

If you are playing a live game, bluffing may be seen as much more of an art than it is doing it online, with a lot less of the face to face tells that you can see in live poker. Some newer players even may think that bluffing therefore must be less important online, but this definitely is not true.

What bluffing really is doesn't have anything to do with any kind of show that we may put on. What it does have to do with, purely and simply, is our opponents' tendency to fold in a given situation. Bluffing at its best in fact is just a matter of knowing when an opponent will fold too much and then making him or her pay for this mistake over time.

So our bluffing skills here become merely a matter of being able to read the overall tendencies of players in combination with specific instances. So one player may be tighter overall and therefore more easily bluffed, where another may fold less and be less susceptible to bluffs.

Against the first player, we even could say that his or her weakness is that they fold too often, whereas the looser player does not fold often enough, and we can actually look at their folding frequencies and come up with a basic plan on how we are going to exploit these players generally.

With the tighter player, that will mean that we will need to use bluffing to get him to fold hands to us. Bluffs don't have to work every time or even most of the time to be profitable, they just need to work enough. For instance, if I know a player will fold 40% of the time to a half pot bet on the flop, I can bet profitably every time here and my cards don't matter at all.

We also want to look at instances where players tend to fold even more often, for instance if they check the flop to us, or they check back on the flop in position and then fold a lot to a lead on the turn. So in other words we want to not only know that a player folds too much, we want to also know when they tend to fold a lot.

However, just because we can profitably bet or raise every time doesn't mean we always want to do it. It's important to also look to balance our play, and not just fire out bluffs every time, as even the dimmest of players will catch on. The ideal amount is the amount that won't cause them to play correctly against us, although if they do loosen up we can re-adjust ourselves.

We also need to understand that bluffing or not is seldom a black or white thing. There are two ways to win a hand, and taking down the pot is just one of them. Often times we will have bluffing value, or fold equity, along with a fairly good chance of our hand winning the pot if we don't get the folds we want.

So we then need to account for both forms of value in situations where our hand is likely behind, as we may end up hitting the best hand and moving ahead later. A good example of this is what is commonly known as the semi bluff, which would be better named as a bluff with hand value. It is in fact a real bluff, meaning that we prefer a fold, but we are more comfortable with our opponent not folding than we would be if we had nothing.

Especially with the tight games that we see these days, there may be no more important skill in poker then becoming a proficient bluffer. At the same time, as you learn to become better at bluffing, you will also develop a better understanding of how much folding on your own part is too much, and therefore be able to better defend against the bluffs of your opponents. Once you can do both well, you will certainly will have taken a big step to becoming a very good player.

One of the advantages of playing poker at Party Poker is that their games are known to be way looser than Pokerstars. The reason is that as American players are not allowed, and as they are the most advanced players as the game started in the USA, casual players are relatively more numerous.

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