The Foundations of Bluffing in Poker

A lot of poker players try to learn a number of different plays to use at the table to try to get the advantage against their opponents. This is one way to approach the game, but it can be difficult to keep up with 15 or 20 different plays in your head when you’re trying to play. We want you to have success in poker because the most fun aspect of poker is beating other players and cashing out your winnings. That’s why we want you to understand that most plays in poker are really just types of bluffs. If you understand how bluffing works on a fundamental level, then you don’t need to keep up with 15 or 20 variations of the play when you’re at the table.

The Basics of Bluffing In Poker

Bluffing works like this. You have been dealt a worse hand than your opponent, and you want to get that opponent to fold so that you win the hand. If you’re stealing blinds, then that’s a bluff. If you’re raising someone on the river because you think they are betting to protect a marginal hand that you’re pretty sure they will fold, then that’s a bluff. It’s all the same thing, and there’s a simple way to figure out if it’s going to be profitable.

There are two numbers you need to know to evaluate a bluff. The first number is how much additional money you’re putting into the pot. The second is what the total size of the pot is going to be after you make your bet or raise. Divide the first number by the second number to get a percentage. That percentage is about how often your opponent is going to have to fold for your bluff to be profitable.

An Instructive Example of Poker Bluffing

For example, suppose that you’re playing a $0.25/0.50 no-limit hold’em game. Someone in middle position raises to $2 before the flop, and it folds to you in the big blind. You put in a re-raise to $5.50 as a bluff. Because you’ve already put in the $0.50 big blind, you’re really putting in $5 of new money into the pot. After you make your raise, the total pot will be the $2 the player raised to, the $0.25 big blind and the $5.50 you have put in for a total of $7.25.

From here, you divide $5 by $7.25 to get about 69 percent. If your opponent folds more than 69 percent, then you’re going to make money from your bluff regardless of what happens the rest of the time. The numbers don’t have to be exact — a quick mental estimate is sufficient for this — but it’s an easy tool that will help you to get the advantage against your opponents and beat them for their money.

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