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Bluffing - Based on tournament experience. My Two Cents for the New Year.
01-17-2009, 04:16 PM (This post was last modified: 01-17-2009 04:18 PM by jwalker.)
Post: #1
Bluffing - Based on tournament experience. My Two Cents for the New Year.
I've been drinking a little today and bored lately(can't wait for the Flames/Coyotes game tonight) but here it goes.

This is based on my experience and many people will have different opinions and results I'm sure. I'm sure cash games are different as well; I haven't played a lot of cash games.

If you're a tight aggressive tourney player like me, bluffing and how often you do it is a very important part of the game. I've found that if I'm playing tight and bluff once in a while, things seem ok but when I've reviewed later, my game was far from perfect.

For example if you are bluffing here and there and never get caught the whole tournament, you feel like you're on top of the world, no one can read you and you're playing perfect....WRONG. I've come to the conclusion that if you never get caught bluffing - you're not bluffing enough and you're also costing yourself a lot of action when you have a hand. If you get caught bluffing enough that it is adversely affecting your chip stack over a few blind increases (2-3 blind levels) - then you are bluffing too much (or really bad at it).

My bluff calculation - I used to try to bluff once per round and adjusted until heads up equalled one bluff per 3 rounds(give or take), but I have now changed to bluff per hands played. This gives me better opportunity to wait out being card dead and it also makes it so that my bluffing scales well to the tournament progression. ie Early in the tourney I play less hands and therefore bluff less - later on when I get more aggressive and play more hands I end up bluffing more. Now I like to bluff once per 4-8 hands played depending on the table, structure, blind level, people left etc.

Tight table - bluff more
Big stack - bluff more
Short handed- bluff more
Late Position - bluff more
First to act - bluff more

So if it was 7 handed, I had more than average chip stack at a tight table, I would be bluffing 1 in every 4 hands played. If it was a loose table or I had a small stack with a full table I would be bluffing maybe 1 in every 8 hands played (if the table is very loose I might never bluff, I am talking in the realms of most normal games here).

Times when I almost never bluff:

When I've been checked to, and someone's still behind me.
More than three people in the pot.
When there is a raise and call/reraise in front of me.
A calling station is in the pot.
The pot is too big for others to fold.
Someone has more than 30% of his chips in.
A person checks to me and he "seems" too weak, and many other tells.


Whether you're calling a bluff or making one, the most important thing I've found is your first impression - does it feel right. If you know the tells, you can read bets, and have been playing poker for a while, don't over analyse, trust your first instinct and stick with it. It's like a multiple choice exam; your first guess is usually the right one.


I think the most profitable way to bluff in a tourney is by making a series of small bluffs at small pots instead of the infamous all-in over and over. The all-in is definitely going to score some big pots by bluffing but I think a series of well timed small bluffs will be just as rewarding without risking all of your chips. In a tourney if you make a wrong move with all your chips you’re done, you can’t pull another hundred out of your pocket and get back to work. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes to pull off a bluff you’ll need to put it all on the line, just make sure you have that good instinct and the reward is worth it.


On a side note, I have also found out that going from regular Casino tourneys and the free tourneys to a tourney involving a group of dedicated poker nuts the value of big hands goes way down. So although I find bluffing more profitable with a group of tight solid players, playing small pairs or A-10 A-J A-Q can be very costly. In the last 4 tourneys I’ve played I won’t even think of playing A-10 or A-J unless I can limp/call small raise with the button or I’m in the blind. I’ve run into too many early limpers with pocket tens or better A-Q A-K etc that kill me when I hit big. These people aren’t slow playing; the hands just really have less value in a very tight game. If you make a continuation bet you better have at least two big pair or your just bluffing, bluffing is ok you just have to realize it’s a bluff or it’s not going to work.

It seems very ironic that in “TIGHT” games many more pots are actually won with bluffs than in loose games.

I don't have to be better than you, just better than the donkey that took you out.
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