Hey guys, unexceptional rounder here and today I am going to teach you how to pull off big bluffs that have a high probability of success. Bluffing is a key step in mastering No-Limit Hold’em. Knowing how to recognize a great bluffing opportunity will measurably increase your win rate. Get out a pen, paper or iPad and get ready to take some notes. What exactly is a bluff?
There are really two different sorts of bluffs, the small bluff and the big bluff. Think of small bluffs as bets where no one seems interested in the pot, and the first person to shoot, takes it down. These bluffs are most commonly continuation bets, positional bets, or probe bets. Big bluffs are those times when someone else has shown aggression in the hand or clear desire to win the pot, but you think you can pressure them into folding. This can be done with little to no showdown value, but takes some practice to get the hang of.
I want to finally talk about the most important bet in no-limit hold’em. It is called a continuation bet, c-bet or barrel. Barreling or a double barrel usually refers to a c-bet, followed by another bet on the turn, so the c-bet is always your first barrel. These are all done when you are the last preflop raiser and you are the first to make a bet postflop.
Before I go on to explain mathematically why this bet is so great and wins so much money let me tell you a little lesson that helped me as a young faun discovering the world of poker years ago. Just do it, if all else fails just make the continuation bet and worry about why it works later on. Now you know what to do; let’s discuss why it works. If you are playing against a single opponent post flop they will miss the flop about 65% of the time or two thirds (2/3), simply put, they miss a lot. Additionally, depending on the opponent’s preflop range, that 33% is sometimes middle or bottom pair, these hands won’t stand up to much aggression.
Now that we know our opponent misses or can’t continue most of the time, what bet sizing makes the most money? Well, if our opponent was terrible we could just bet small when we miss and big when we hit, however observant opponents will pick up on this quickly. Usually two thirds the size of the pot works well. It isn’t so small that the bet looks weak, and we only need our opponent to fold 40% of the time to break even on the bet. Since the opponent will hit one pair or better only 35% of the time, we just need to cover that 5% spread.
Between the times that we hit a hand and the times our opponent hits a very weak hand we can make a profit almost immediately. Something additional to note is that if we are playing the flop against two opponents, they BOTH will have nothing around 41% of the time. Because a bet into two opponents generally looks stronger than a bet into only one opponent I find betting around half the pot is usually sufficient to make opponents with weak hands fold, and because we only need to win using that bet about 33% of the time, we show an immediate profit. Here is some basic math you should have in the back of your head, if you don’t already know these numbers it is probably a good idea to jot them down. This way you can review them later or even use the notes while you play.
A one half pot bet will show immediate profit when your opponent folds one third of the time. A two thirds pot bet will show profit when your opponent folds two fifths of the time. A full pot sized bet will show profit when your opponent folds one half the time. A one and a half times pot bet will show profit when your opponent folds three fifths the time.
And a double the pot size bet profits when your opponent folds two thirds of the time. Keep in mind that opponents can read different bet sizes differently, but in general the more you bet the harder it is for your opponent to call. This is a checklist you can go through in your head or look at (hint: write it down) when considering a bluff. I would recommend having all 4 when you are just trying to figure things out, and the hand on the following slide should drive this point home. As always, position makes everything easier; your opponent being out of position will make them much less likely to call.
What I mean by a believable hand is that all the action in the hand up to the point of the bluff should be able to represent at least a couple hands that would make sense to your opponent. If you just check down to the river then suddenly make a huge raise, it can be hard for your opponent to give you credit for a real hand. Having more money behind as well as another street of action will make your opponent fear seeing you pile on another huge bet, especially if you have position, because they will be forced to act first on the next street. In general when looking at this list, the turn is often a good spot to make your bluffs. In addition to usually having money behind, and another street, the draws your opponent may have flopped have much worse odds on the turn, they will be forced to fold more hands on the turn then they would have on the flop.
Using the information I just discussed let’s look at a hand and see if we can identify an opportunity for a great bluff. The hero is on the button and opens with ten nine off suit; the villain is in the small blind and makes a 3-bet which hero calls in position. 885 rainbow flop is likely to have missed everyone. The tight aggressive villain makes a standard continuation bet so hero makes a call in position with plans to take the pot away on the turn (this is commonly known as a float). A Jack comes on the turn giving hero an open ended straight draw. That means 8 outs to make what could be a second best hand, and one street to hit.
Hero’s chances of hitting are about 16%. When villain bets $8 into a $12 pot or about two thirds pot which is a standard bet size hero calls getting 2.5:1 on 6:1 odds, this is not a profitable call to hit the straight. On the river villain shows some weakness by checking, hero takes the opportunity to fire out almost a pot sized bet $26 into a $28 pot.
The villain doesn’t think hero has the goods so he calls with a pair of 7s and takes down a pot over 300 big blinds in size, the hero is crushed. What went wrong? Was this just a bad spot for a bluff or maybe villain is just a terrible poker player and hero should tell him in the chat? What if the hand was a perfect opportunity to bluff but hero just executed it incorrectly? After this hand hero should probably give up on bluffing altogether. Ok let’s rewind and see if we, knowing all of this information on bluffing can figure out where the hero went wrong.
When hero calls on the flop villain can put him on a wide range of hands that include monsters like 78, 55, 89, as well as air hands like KQ. It is clear that hero has air here more than he has a monster hand. With that in mind when villain bets the turn he still can have a wide range but it starts to look more like a made hand. If hero had a set here, he would usually be making his move on the turn to set up the all in shove on the river. Now let’s go through the checklist to see if this big turn bluff hits all the items. You wrote down the checklist right?
1. Be in Position? Yup 2. Believable hand? Does a turn raise make sense for a big hand?
Flat call the dry flop and raise the turn, sure that’s how a lot of players would play trips or better here. 3. Money behind? If hero makes a pot size raise to $28 he still has about $50 behind, after villain calls he would have $24 behind knowing that he will usually have to put the rest of his stack in on the river which incidentally covers item #4, we do have another street to put money in.
Now I don’t know about you but calling this turn with 77, knowing I am getting another buy in size pile of chips in my face on the river is a pretty tough spot. It looks like this is a great opportunity for a bluff. We have everything we can working in our favor. Now if we get looked up by pocket sevens we can say we had everything in place made our move and got called, make a note and move on without worrying too much.
The way our hero (which was me if you didn’t know) played this hand the first time justifies a call on the river so all we learn is that our opponent can read hands and it cost us over 3 buy ins to figure that out. Bottom line here is if you are in a good spot, go through your checklist and make your move, if it doesn’t work make a note and move on, poker is a learning experience and you have to try things out to see how they work. If you don’t know the answer to the question click on it and re-watch the segment, you have to get this stuff down to learn and improve!
Question 1 – What is the most common small bluff, and why does it work so well?
Question two how often do you need your opponent to fold if you make a bluff that is 2/3 the size of the pot?
Question 3 – what are the four factors that will greatly increase your chances for success when bluffing?
Congrats on making it to the end, if you understand all the information in the video you are now a much tougher opponent to face at the no limit tables, I hope you enjoyed the video and learned something, questions will be answered in the comments section below, if you made it this far please hit the like button, if you like learning about poker you should probably subscribe. This is unexceptionalrounder until next time, keep on grind’n.