When should we bluff?
You will usually be pretty sure that you don’t have the best hand, but you think that if you bet your opponent will be folding enough for you to generate a profit. Unlike value bets, the percentage of the time your bluff needs to work will be dependant on how much you are risking to take down the pot.
In general the cheaper you can bluff without losing fold-equity the more profitable your bluff will be!
Often when players think of bluffing the first image that comes to mind is a huge all-in river bluff where everything is on the line and one hero-call could make or break the other player. In reality these situations are quite rare compared to the frequent and small bluffs winning poker players make all the time. A large proportion of players make small continuation bets on the flop as a bluff very often.
Here's an example:
Effective stacks are 100bb. You raise to 3bb from the BU with 56
The flop is k72. SB checks. Hero bets 3bb into the 7bb pot.
This is a typical board that is considered good to fire a continuation bet as a bluff. It is a very dry board with a broadway card that you can legitimately represent. There are no draws your opponent can continue with and very few made hands he can have. Even some of the made hands like 55 or 67 may not feel too comfortable continuing with an overcard out there.
You want to optimise your bluff here by giving yourself a good price. In this case you bet less than half-pot which should be sufficient to get the job done. It may appear overly small, but you might be suprised how often your opponent will fold to such a bet. It actually looks less suspicious than a full pot bet. Imagine you had AK here and wanted to bet for value. Realising that there aren’t many hands your opponent can have you’d likely choose to bet small in an attempt to coax floats or marginal calls out of him. Betting big might not be a great idea in terms of extracting value – so when you do it as a bluff it may even look suspicious.
What is a semi-bluff and when should I use it?
The same concept as bluffing, but this time you will have some pot-equity along with your fold equity. Your bluff will not need to work as frequently, because some of the time when you get called you will improve to the best hand on a later street. Let’s take a similar hand but this time consider where we might semi-bluff on the turn.
Take the following example:
Effective stacks are 100bb. Hero open raises to 3bb from the SB with 56. BB calls.
The flop is k72. Hero bets 3bb into the 6bb pot. BB calls.
(Hero is aware that this particular villain likes to float somewhat wide on dry boards. A second barrel may be profitable here. Before hero fires a continuation bet on the flop he decides he will barrel any 8, 4 or club.)
The turn is 3. Hero bets 9bb into the 12bb pot.
(This is one of the cards that increases hero’s equity. Villain should be folding most of his floats like AJ or 66 to a double barrel. In the case villain has a strong made hand such as a Kx, slowplayed set, or any other made hands like QQ/JJ – hero has a decent amount of pot-equity. Hero’s combined fold-equity and pot-equity make a bet profitable.)