Bluffing is one the most famous of all poker concepts. A bluff is a bet or a raise when you have an unlikely chance of winning the pot, in case you call. For example: you have a 6-5 of diamonds and the board shows Q-T of diamonds, 8 of hearts and the ace of spades. The river brings up a 2 of hearts, and you bet. This is considered a bluff, because you have NO CHANCE of winning the pot should someone call. There’s also the notion of a semi-bluff: to bet or raise when you don’t have the best hand, but when you nevertheless have a chance to improve it and MAKE it the best hand.
In general, bluffing is profitable when your pot odds are better than the odds of the other players folding. For example, when you determine that the percentage of your opponents folding is more than 20%, a $2 bet is profitable if the pot is more than $8. The most important thing in successful bluffing is calculating the chances that your opponents will fold. Keep this in mind.
We recommend that you also pay attention to the following aspects when deciding to bluff or not:
Number of opponents. The more opponents, the less your chances of bluffing successfully. Bluffs against three or more opponents are, as a rule, of no use.
Type of opponents. It’s easier to bluff against experienced players than weak ones or maniacs. That’s because strong players can fold hands of medium value, and weak players tend to call even when their hands are weak. It’s hard to get them to fold.
How large the pot is. The bigger the pot, the harder to bluff. But, on the other hand, success when bluffing with a large pot will naturally be more profitable.
Table image. If you’re known to bluff often, or were “caught” bluffing recently, it’ll be hard for you to bluff again. Also, if your opponents are rather “tight” players—they bet and raise with strong hands only—it’s easier to bluff. “Loose” players—who often bluff—usually won’t give you that opportunity very easily.
Opponents’ hands. If you can tell from the way your opponents bet or raise how strong their hands are, you can also figure out their chances of folding. Remember, you might not be the only one who’s bluffing!
Position. You can sometimes use your position to identify good bluffing opportunities. For example, a widely-used bluffing opportunity is to bet in last position when everyone has checked. Another bluffing opportunity is to bet out from the blinds when you’ve got all rags (cards lower than 9).
Early or late betting rounds. Bluffing is more difficult on the river than on the earlier rounds of betting (though you’ll have a larger reward).
Type of flop. The flop, which offers a great chance of making a strong hand, represents a considerable impediment to the notion of bluffing.