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Multi-Street Bluffing

by Ed Miller |  Published: Mar 14, 2018


In no-limit cash games at the $2-$5 level many players begin to experiment with bluffing, including multi-street bluffing. But I see a lot of bluffing patterns that are inefficient and sometimes even downright bad. I wanted to run rapid fire through a few principles of multi-street bluffing in small stakes games that will help you shore things up.

Principle 1: If you bluffed a loosely-connected flop and a card that completed few or no draws came on the turn, you should almost always bluff again on the turn.

Loosely connected flops like JSpade Suit 9Heart Suit 5Spade Suit hit a lot of hands, but don’t hit many very hard. If you bet the flop and get called, there’s a good chance your opponent has a weak pair or a weak draw like a gutshot. If a card like the ADiamond Suit or the 3Club Suit comes on the turn, it’s almost worth a follow-up bluff. Of course it won’t always work, but a large portion of your opponents range will be weak and you should easily get a fold often enough to justify the bluff.

Principle 2: Plan to bluff static non-ace boards twice.

The typical small-stakes player will tend to call once on a static board with any pair or sometimes overcards or even unpaired non-overcards. But to call a second bet (especially a fairly large one), they often will want top pair. This disparity means that they will often be folding more than enough to justify that second bet.

It also may make running a third barrel at the same board unprofitable, as they’ll tend to have a fairly strong range after calling the second bet.

Principle 3. Think about whether you want an immediate fold or one on the next street.

One mistake small-stakes players make is that if they’re bluffing they always go for the immediate fold. This isn’t necessarily so true on the flop, because many people accept the idea of a “standard” continuation bet on that street. But certainly on the turn if they’re bluffing, they will try to get the fold immediately.

“Well duh, Ed. If you’re bluffing, you want people to fold,” you might say. Sure. You want them to fold eventually. But they don’t necessarily have to fold to the turn bet.

The reason to delay the fold is that if they call once and then fold, you make more money on the hand. This strategy is particularly useful if you think they might value raise you with good hands on the turn fairly often.

To simplify, let’s say the pot is $200 and you are choosing whether to bet $200 to get a fold now or $100 to get some folds, but also to encourage some calls. The $100 bet will not just encourage calls, but it could also encourage some value raises. It’s not uncommon for players to raise a $100 bet with something like two pair, but to just call a pot-sized bet.

The reason you want to get raised is because when you don’t get raised, the value of your river bluff improves, because by not raising your opponent has told you that he doesn’t have a set of pretty good hands.

So sometimes you’ll want to bet $200 and take your shot. But other times you’ll want to bet $100, and really drop the hammer on the river.

Principle 4. Think less about what you’re representing and more about the strength of your opponent’s range.

I see many players make wild bluffs at cards that are almost certain to have improved their opponents’ hands. When I ask them why, they say, “Well I thought I could represent that the card hit me.”

Well, yeah. You can represent that just fine. But guess what. The card did hit your opponent. I’ve never met anyone in a $2-$5 game who folded to a bluff after hitting his hand. No one says, “Well, gee, I hit my hand, but maybe he hit his too. I think I’ll fold.”

It always matters much more what the strength of your opponent’s hand is likely to be than what you can represent. In fact at the $2-$5 level it may be best just to forget entirely about the concept of representing hands. If you’re betting, you’re representing a good hand. Those are always possible, and that will often be good enough.

Principle 5. You’re allowed to give up sometimes.

So if I had to pick one error that small-stakes players make too much with multi-street bluffing is they don’t do it enough. They’re one-and-done too often with their bluffing hands. They’ll take half-hearted stabs at pots, but they’re not really willing to risk a good chunk of their stack on a multi-street bluff.

To remedy this fault, players sometimes take things a little too far. They’ll commit to a multi-street bluff and follow through no matter what happens.

That’s not right either. The cards that come change things and you should tailor your plan to follow through or not around the cards that come.

To be sure, in general you should be following through on more cards than not. But some cards are particularly bad. If the board is Q-9-6 and the turn in is an eight, give up. Any hand that called on Q-9-6 is likely to have improved with an eight.

Principle 6. If you do plan to try one more bet and then give up, make sure it’s a nice big one.

There is nothing worse than betting half pot on the turn as a bluff, getting called, giving up on the river on your bluff, and getting beaten by a pair of sixes at showdown.

If you’re taking your final shot at a pot, think about what hands you are trying to get to fold. A pair of sixes will likely be among them. And then think about how big you need to bet to make sure you get those hands to fold.

It’s really a disaster if you’ve chosen a good bluffing spot, but just haven’t bet enough to get the job done. Obviously that can be even worse than not bluffing at all.

Go big.

Final Thoughts

If you get good at multi-street bluffing, you will really improve your success at the $2-$5 level. It’s not too hard to get it mostly right. The main thing is to use a little logic. Are you trying to get folds now or on the river? Is your opponent’s range weaker or stronger after that card? And so on. If you think about things systematically and choose bets accordingly, you will find yourself winning pot after pot without a showdown. ♠

Ed MillerEd’s newest book, The Course: Serious Hold ‘Em Strategy For Smart Players is available now at his website You can also find original articles and instructional videos by Ed at the training site