I have a huge poker library, including my own three books. One of the best is “Poker for Dummies” by the memorable Lou Krieger, co-authored with Richard Harroch. Enjoying the warm fall weather, I was scanning the book while relaxing in my backyard. A section on “Bluffing on the Turn” caught my attention. Superb! My first thought was to share it with you here, dear Cardplayer Lifestyle readers.

just bluffing

You are playing low-stakes limit Texas hold’em and raise preflop with A-K. Then, you bet into two opponents when the flop comes down: J-7-3. Not much there. Your bet – a semi-bluff – may cause an opponent to fold the best hand. And, even if he calls, you still have the river to catch an Ace or a King and win the pot. But, if your bet is raised, don’t hesitate to muck your hand. This advice would be sound whether playing live or online at a reliable casino site like Wunderino.

Should you bluff on the turn?

Krieger’s book asks the key question: “Should you bluff on the turn?” He offers five tips that can help you decide. I will comment on these and add a tip of my own.

  • “Don’t bluff bad players.” To beat such a player, “you’re simply going to have to show down the best hand,” he explains.
    I would add: This includes calling-stations; once they have invested in a hand, they are almost certain to stay in the rest of the way.
  • “Know your opponents. Will she release a hand, or will she call?” If you have been focusing on the game, you may have observed her actions on similar situations. If not, you can only guess. My advice: Always give full attention to the game; try to read your opponents.
  • “Do you think your opponent is on the come? Will he release his hand if it does not improve on the turn?” Hopefully, you have been paying attention to learn his traits, so you know the answer. It helps to take good poker notes rather than depend on your memory.
  • “How much money is in the pot? The larger the pot, the more likely someone will call.” It is  easier to bluff successfully when the pot is small. To that I would add: It is also easier to bluff out an opponent who is low in chips; just look how many stacks he has in front of him. Also, in low-limit games, you might use the Esther Bluff to make up for the small bet size. The Esther Bluff is playing with confidence (you KNOW you have a big hand!) while using a reverse tell.
  • “Mentally review the hand’s play. Would your betting or raising pattern cause a good player to assume you have a big hand? If she doesn’t believe you hold a much better hand, don’t bluff.” Yes, poker is also a game of psychology. As noted above, play with confidence and use a reverse tell to convince your opponent to fold.

Let me add another tip:

Position is important. Being last to act (on the Button), you know how many opponents have bet or folded on the turn. If someone has raised and been called, don’t try to bluff. If three or more opponents have bet before you, don’t try to bluff. If you decide to call, be sure you have plenty of good outs – and hope the river is kind to you.

If you are in a middle position, look to your left to spot opponents’ tells to see if anyone is planning to bet (or raise) after you. How many chips did he gather up?

George Epstein ad