Bluffing In Online Poker - Should You Attempt It?

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Bluffing In Online Poker - Should You Attempt It?


"); There are a number of reasons to bluff in poker. In many instances you bluff in order to win a specific pot because you sense weakness from the rest of the table. This is usually a benefit of good position. If you are last to act in a hand you might deduce that no-one else feels confident about their hand, say if everyone checks the flop and then checks the turn as well. This leaves you in a position to steal the pot with a bet.

However, you might also bluff in order to preserve or create a set table image, that is to appear aggressive or to appear incompetent. The latter is an advanced concept in that you do not mind if your bluff is called down and you show the table the rags that you bet with. You want them to think you are a poor player so that when you raise later on with a premium holding they will stay with you and throw you plenty of extra bets. This form of "false advertising" is often wasted in an online poker scenario because other players are not paying close attention to you, or they leave and are replaced by other players who missed your trickery. As a general rule, unless you are playing in a single table tournament, I would advise against this type of overly clever strategy when you are online.

Other reasons why you might be tempted to run a bluff are contextual and based on that particular hand. So, you might bet out on the flop because you hope to get a free card on the turn. The single bet is worth the cost because you take the lead in the hand, and so everyone is more likely to check it down to you when the next card comes. If that card doesn't help you chances are you still get to see it for free and save yourself from having to spend two bets to stay in the hand for the final card.

Alternatively, you might have a hand with great drawing power that could still improve to become the best hand. In that case you bet without a made hand in order to build up the pot, or take down the pot then and there. This strategy is known as a semi-bluff. Technically you are bluffing because you are betting without the best hand, but in reality you are taking out an option that your hand will justify that bet once all the cards are out. You don't mind action and you also don't mind winning it straight away. The semi-bluff bet, which is even more effective when it is a semi-bluff raise or re-raise, is a powerful weapon in all forms of poker, both in your local card room and in an online game.

A general key to playing poker well is to deceive others into thinking the opposite of your actual position; so when you are incredibly strong in a given hand you would like the rest of the table to get the impression that you are as weak as a kitten, and when you have your back to the wall you would very much like to terrify the table into believing that you hold the mortal nuts. It takes a lot of courage and discipline to bluff and there are times when the strategy backfires, but if your game lacks deception you cannot hope to win in the long run. The issue is that once your play becomes predictable to your opponents they will never pay you off when you have the best hand and they will consistently run over you when you have the worst hand. You need to keep them guessing, and that probably means you will have to lose some chips every now and then in order to maintain your unpredictability.

You do need to be aware that the chances of a bluff working online are lower than they would be in a real-world environment. The primary reason for this is that online play is generally a lot looser, which means that opponents will call down hands regardless of whether or not they have the pot odds or even the cards to make that call. You could put in a perfect bluff with position, a big bet, and a scary board, and still be called down by some fool with pocket deuces. When he wins the hand you have every right to feel aggrieved, because there is no way that you would have made that call. But remember that his bad play is precisely what makes online poker so lucrative in the first place. Your only wish should be that he stays in the game for a long time, and if he leaves make sure you add his username to your list of easy marks so that you can beat him soundly at a later date!

Written by Marc Weinberg - the Senior Editor at Online Poker Insider, and you can read his daily articles on online poker play at http://www.online-poker-insider.com

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