Friday, November 5, 2010

3 Poker Bluffs That Are Essential To Winning Poker

The Cincinnati KidImage via Wikipedia3 Poker Bluffs That Are Essential To Winning Poker

Here are three poker bluffs that every poker player should know and use in both no limit and limit hold'em.

1. Steal Flops

My favorite bluff is the steal flop. I must give credit to Bob Ciaffone and Jim Brier, since I learned about this bluff in their excellent book "Middle Limit Holdem Poker."

A steal flop is one that is not coordinated and consists of one face card or Ace along with two rags. For example, a flop of Ks-6d-2h is a great steal flop. If you are against three or less opponents, this is an excellent flop to bet. The reason is that there are no flush or straight draws and an opponent needs to have a King (or better) to call your bet.

2. Paired Flops

A second favorite poker bluff is a flop that comes with a pair. When you are first to bet this flop, an opponent will fold since he believes he is way behind. It is difficult to call a player who looks like he is holding trips, especially when the pot is small.

Importantly, the rank of the cards is influential on if your bluff will work. For example, if the flop is Jd-5s-5h, you are more likely to win with a bet as few players hold rags (a 5 in this example). Also, if you are in a blind, it looks like you have one of those big blind or small blind specials.

On the other hand, a flop like Qh-Qs-6d is less likely to work since Queens are in the playing zone (9 to Ace) for most players.

3. Stealing Blinds

Most players know that if they are on the button and everyone folds, it is often smart to raise to try to win the blinds. This play works best if you evaluate the players in the blind as tight and looking to fold, rather than defend/chase after their forced bets.

Of course, the same play should be considered for those in the cutoff position and even the hijack or power position (two seats from the button). Again, knowing the playing styles of your opponents who act after you are vital.

My suggestion is that you set up starting hand requirements for stealing blinds from the button, cutoff and hijack positions and adjust based on your experience.

Here is an example of starting hand requirements for stealing blinds by position:

Button: All pairs, any Ace-x hand, and two cards that total 18 or higher (using blackjack values for cards)
Cutoff: Pairs of 77 and higher, Ace-8 suited or better, Ace-9 unsuited or better, and two cards that total 19 or higher
Hijack: Pairs of 88 and higher, Ace-9 suited or better, Ace-10 unsuited or better, and two cards that total 20 or higher

You can adjust these requirements to your opponents, your table image, the situation, etc. The key is to start with guidelines so you know before you sit down at the poker table your action without hesitation in stealing blinds.

I hope this helps your game.

If you have any favorite poker bluffs, please don't hesitate to share them. Best of luck!
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Twizzle said...

Good advice. For the "Stealing Blinds" part, if I'm button +2 and I see A 10+ off, I figure my raise is really a semi-bluff, since I'm figuring I have the best hand when I do it. I also think stack size plays in, but I'm a tourney guy so that is a whole other article to write right there lol.

Mitchell Cogert said...


Stack sizes of players in blinds (and yours) are also key in trying to steal blinds in a tournament.

And, yeah, a position bet to steal blinds with starting hands of higher value is a semi-bluff. You hope to win the blinds now with your bet, but even if you are called, you figure you have outs to win the pot.

Thanks for the feedback!


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