Bluffing - The Most Overrated Aspect of Poker


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Anybody who's seen more than a few poker movies has witnessed a dramatic all-out bluff scene, where some underdog bluffs their opponent to win the final pot. This Hollywood drama has created a strong belief among the general public that 90% of poker skill revolves around your ability to both pull off and spot bluffs.

The truth is though that bluffing isn't really as big of a factor in successful poker as people think. Good players rarely bluff, and when they do, it's usually on a drawing hand that gives them some outs (semi-bluffing). So the idea of a skilled pro going all-in with 7-2 offsuit is a myth that's been perpetuated by films.

The reason why pros don't constantly bluff is because, over time, it's a high-risk, low-reward proposition. Sure you can win some big pots when bluffing. But if you continue making bluffs without proper timing, you're going to leak a ton of chips when you get caught.

To illustrate this point, let's say that you have 2,500 chips and the pot is worth 2,000 chips. If you have 6s-Td on a board of Ah-5c-2s-8h, you have virtually no chance of winning this hand, even if the river is kind. But let's say that you shove your entire stack in anyways, hoping to steal on a cold bluff. Even if you're successful 50% of the time, you're still losing 500 chips on average.

Now some people might say that you could could transcend the 50% success rate by properly timing bluffs. And while this may be true, bluffing too many times against the same opponents will draw more calls from players. This is no doubt the last thing that you want when trying to steal pots and blinds.

So the key to successful bluffing is doing it in moderation, and only against tight opponents that are likely to fold. Also, make sure that the range of hands you've played before sets you up for good bluff attempts. For example, if you've been taking garbage hands to the river, nobody is going to believe that you actually have a strong hand.

As you can see, the romanticized act of bluffing doesn't carry as much weight as beginners might think. Instead, good poker strategy involves studying the range of hands that your opponents are willing to play in each situation. The better you can study other players, the more likely you are to know what kind of cards they're holding. And if they have a tendency to fold a lot, you can pull off some bluffs once and a while too.