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Bluffing with a Good Hand

Bluffing when holding a poor hand is very difficult in Draw Poker when there are limits.  Without limits, or with potentially large limits, such as in pot limit, the size of the bet can force timid players to fold winning hands, but when it costs no more than a couple of chips, say, to call, most players with any sort of the hand will pay the two chips into rather than never know whether they have been bluffed or not, so the bluff will fail.
            On the other hand, bluffing when holding a good hand, in order to entice more chips into the pot, is a strong weapon in the hands of good player.

EXAMPLE CALLING A BLUFF

In the hand shown to the left, the limit, bet or raise, is one chip before the draw, two afterwards

EXAMPLE CALLING A BLUFF

In the hand shown to the left, the limit, bet or raise, is one chip before the draw afterwards. The pot is six chips.  Player 1 is the dealer.

First betting interval 

FIRST BETTING ROUND

  1. Player 2 speaks first.  With a small pair and an Ace kicker he checks.
  2. Player 3, with a prospect of a straight, bets one.
  3. Player 4, with a pair of aces, calls.
  4. Player 5, with two pairs, calls and raises one.
  5. Player 6, King high, folds.
  6. The dealer, with three players betting, decides to fold his pair of Queens.

SECOND BETTING ROUND

  1. Player 2 decides that the idea of drawing two cards to his pair of 4s and a kicker is not a good one and folds also.
  2. Player 3 calls, adding another chip to the pot. 
  3. Player 4, reasoning that at least he knows he has the highest pair among the hands, and because it will cost him only one chip to stay in for the draw, also calls, putting his chip into the pot.

AFTER THE DEAL

The first betting interval is over, with players 3, 4, and 5 still in, and 12 chips in the pot.

The draw

  1. Player 3, being the nearest active players to the dealer ’s left, draws first, and draws one, discarding ♣ 2.  He draws ♣ 7 and completes his straight.
  2. Player 4 draws next and discards ♥ 10, ♣ 8 and ♥ 4, drawing ♥ 7, ♦ 7 and ♠ 9.  he now holds two pairs, aces up.
  3. Player 5 discards ♣ 3 and draws 6 – he has not improved.

Second betting interval

FIRST BETTING ROUND

  1. Player 3, who was the first to bet in the previous betting round, has completed his straight, but with two other players in, he decides to bluff, and checks.
  2. Player 4 knows that his hand, with Aces up, would be the highest if all hands were of two pairs, which he suspects is the case, as both players 3 and 5 drew one card.  His view is that both drew to two pairs and that as the odds are more than 10 to 1 against improving two pairs, he might well now hold the best hand.  He reasons that player 3, who merely checked, has not improved his hand.   He decides to bet two chips.
  3. Player 5 is in a spot as he thinks player 4 might have improved to three of a kind.  However, he reasons that player 4, on the other hand, might have improved only to two pairs, and since he drew three cards and was thus not retaining an Ace kicker, player 4 two pairs would not match his own two pairs of Kings high.  He, too, reasons that player 3 probably has not improved on two pairs, and with his Kings and 10s, he considers it worth two chips to call.

SECOND BETTING ROUND

  1. Player 3 likes his Jack-high straight and now calls two and raises two, adding four chips to the pot.
  2. Player 4, now throwing good money after bad, calls.
  3. Player 5 folds.

Showdown

           Player 3 wins with his straight, and collects a pot of 22 chips, a profit of 15 chips.  Had he not bluffed and, instead of checking in the second betting interval, had bet, it is likely that player 4 might have called and player 5 folded thus reducing his profit by four chips to 11.

When and when not to bluff

Despite the value of bluffing, and psychology in general, and the fact that many top players will argue for its precedence over mathematics in poker, the fact remains that if there is a showdown, you’ve got to have the best hand to win the pot.  Bluffing is of no use at all once the hands are exposed.  Therefore you should bluff only when you can see the likelihood of a bluff being successful.

Who to bluff

Sometimes it is easier to bluff a good player, who will fold when he thinks he is beaten, than a poorer who will allow the bluff to go over his head.  If you are exaggerating the value of your hand, for instance, a poor player who regularly loses money because he presses on to a showdown when he cannot win will sometimes embarrass you by exposing your bluff.  If you consistently bet when the odds are against you, just to experience the joy of occasionally winning a pot with a bluff, you will almost certainly lose over the long run.
            On the whole, bluffing is likely to be more profitable in stud Poker and Hold’Em than in Draw Poker, and more about bluffing will be discussed then.

 

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