How Often Should You Bluff?
How often should you bluff in poker?
There is no straight answer to the question of “how often should I bluff?”. Just as there is no straight answer to the question “how often should I fill up my car” or “how often should I go to the gym?”.
It all depends. (Sorry)
To be more precise, when it comes to bluffing in Texas Hold’em or any other variant of poker for that matter, you need to evaluate each individual situation before deciding whether or not to bluff.
There is no set optimum frequency for bluffing that covers every situation.
It would be awesome if I could tell you that you should bluff once every 10 hands or something to that effect, but there are no hard or fast rules in poker.
When should you bluff in poker?
You should bluff when you think you can get your opponent to fold.
That’s one hell of a vague answer I know, but it’s the most succinct and accurate answer that you can ever expect to get from a question like that.
Over time you will start to figure out good spots for bluffing. It all comes with good strategical knowledge of the game and experience. Unfortunately, that’s not something that I can teach in this one short article.
What makes a good bluff in poker?
To work out whether a bluff is going to be profitable (or “a good one”), you need to try and accurately estimate how often your opponent will fold to your bluff. As you can guess, the more knowledge and experience you have the more accurate your estimate will be.
After you have a percentage in your head, you can go ahead and work out how much you expect to win when they fold and how much you expect to lose when they call. After that you’ll be able to tell if the bluff is going to be a good one or not.
Working out if a bluff is profitable.
Let’s say that we are on the river against one opponent. The cards in this example do not matter; we’re just looking at the math of it all. The pot and stack sizes are as follows:
Our stack: $200
Opponent’s stack: $150
Now let’s say that we decide to make a bluff of $150 that will put out opponent all in. When we make this $150 bluff, we are confident that our opponent will fold 65% of the time.
Does this make our bluff profitable? Working out the EV.
- Calculating expected value.
- Opponent folding. We win $100 65% of the time. $100 x 0.65 = +$65.
- Opponent calling. We lose $150 35% of the time. $150 x 0.35 = -$52.50.
- Overall EV of bluffing = $65 - $52.50 = +$12.50.
So after using all the math to work out the EV, we can see that bluffing in this situation is profitable. This is how you can tell if a bluff is a good one or not.
For more information on these sort of calculations, check out the article on expected value.
How important is bluffing?
Not as important as you might think. What is important is that you don’t force yourself to run bluffs because you feel that you need to (for whatever reason).
You shouldn’t play a session of poker or start a hand with the intention of bluffing at some point. If a good bluffing situation arises then cool, go for it. Just don’t go out of you way to try and bluff. That’s not a profitable way to play poker.
You’ll probably find that you bluffing frequency will increase as you gain experience, as you’ll be able to spot profitable bluffing opportunities more and more as you go along. At the start however, take it easy and don’t feel compelled to bluff because you see everyone else doing it.
I see big powerlifters at my gym deadlifting twice their bodyweight, but I’m sure as hell going to be starting a little lighter than that at first. I think my spine would melt. Build your way up rather than jumping in at the deep end.
Are there any guidelines for bluffing and when to bluff?
Sure. Just remember that these are just guidelines.
- You don’t need to bluff as much as you think. Bluffing in the right spots will make you money, but bluffing isn’t the key to winning money - playing good poker is.
- Bluff when you think you can get your opponent to fold. As straightforward as this sounds, it’s amazing how many beginner players overlook this simple fact. If you don’t think your opponent will fold, don’t bluff.
- If you’re unsure about whether a bluff is going to profitable, don’t bluff. Bluffs are risky and can cost you a lot of money if not used correctly. You’re almost always better off checking or folding rather than firing out bluffs left right and centre.
- Tailor you bluff sizes appropriately. If a smaller bet will have the same effect as a larger one, then make a smaller bet. You want to minimize your risk whilst keeping the probability of your opponent folding high.
As you can see there are no specific rules for bluffing here, just general pieces of advice. I’m sure that as a player new to learning about how to bluff well these tips will end up saving you a lot of money.
If you want hard rules for bluffing you’re not going to find them. However, if you really want to make better bluffs, what you can do is take the time to learn about the basics of bluffing to help you utilize them more effectively in the future.
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