The Bluff

There are few things in life that match the exhilaration of a successful huge all-in bluff on the river with absolutely nothing. I would venture a guess that the worst thing that could happen to a new poker player is for him to make a huge successful bluff. The adrenalin and endorphins will pulse throughout his body and a natural high will envelope him. In the same way people become addicted to drugs the body will crave that feeling and each time the player pulls off the bluff the body becomes more addicted.

There are other ramifications to bluffing besides the physical and emotional dependency that it creates. The opponents observe and learn what players are doing and will make adjustments and begin to call the serial bluffer. They will take it one step further and begin to trap him. The bluffer will soon lose all of his money.

A good player rarely has a need to make a huge all-in bluff on the river with absolutely nothing. Bluffing is part of the game and it has to be done selectively and it has to be done in a fashion that makes sense. For example, in a game with effective stacks of $1000 if there is a pot of $100 and your opponent has just bet $50 does it make sense to move all-in for $1000 to try to win $150? I would say that it does not. In the scenario given there is not much chance to execute a naked bluff. A raise will be called by the player if he has almost anything. There are very few hands other than a bluff that he could bet $50 and then fold. If he is bluffing, how much would you need to raise to make him fold? I would suggest that $50 would do it. A raise of $150 would be wasting an extra $100 on the times he does have a hand and calls. There are very few if any hands that he would call $50 and not call $150.

After saying all of that I have to admit that I have made large all-in bluffs on the river with absolutely nothing in my hand but the stacks were not very deep. The last time I executed this play was against a good opponent and there was a threatening board (774). I floated him on the flop and quickly called him on the turn and I could tell that he was weak and suspected I may have flopped trips with the flop being paired. On the river I checked and he made a weak bet at the pot and I moved all-in. He instantly mucked his hand. My all-in bet was just slightly larger than the pot and I had a hand, like five high, which could not beat a bluff. I moved all-in because that is what my opponent was expecting. I thought a minimum raise here may have put my opponent in a tough spot with his pocket pair and could lead to a crying call. Because he had never seen me make the all-in bluff on the river he did not even consider the possibility that a bluff could be in my hand range.

All players bluff from time to time and the best time to bluff is when your opponent is weak. To think that you can bluff a player off a strong hand is foolish. Most players will not lay down a big hand and will call even if they think there is a very good chance that they are beat. I attribute it to curiosity.

If you are going to bluff I suggest you not do it on the river. I also suggest you bluff when your opponent is weak and the board is threatening. Finally, bluff a good player that is capable of folding.

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