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Poker Strategy With Alex Fitzgerald: Five Ways To Bluff More

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Alex Fitzgerald credit: PokerGO Get a Free Training Package at PokerHeadRush.com

Bluffing is one of the greatest highs available to us in no-limit hold’em. Who doesn’t love stealing a pot that doesn’t belong to them?

Do you feel like you do not bluff enough? Do you want to learn how to bluff more?

You’ve come to the right place. Let’s discuss five tips that can help you bluff more in your next session.

1. Focus On Weak Preflop Ranges

It’s easier to bluff your opponent when they don’t have much to begin with.

If someone calls you out of the big blind, they have half the deck. No one likes folding there. It’s much easier to bluff that range because it mostly flops garbage pairs.

Similarly, if someone opens too many hands, you can three-bet them and corner that weak range. Most people don’t fold enough preflop. You’ll get them to take their weak preflop range to the flop where they’ll make mediocre pairs that can’t stand pressure.

Another situation where someone has a weak range is when someone cold calls constantly preflop. Some guys act like it’s an insult to their honor when they have to fold the button. They’ll flat you with anything halfway suited or connected. Versus that weak range you can fire multiple barrels.

2. Focus On When They Play Passively On Coordinated Boards

This is one of the biggest hints that can help you bluff more. Most of my bluffs focus on this one contextual clue.

Let’s start with some assumptions. Here’s the first one:

Two pair, three-of-a-kind, flushes, and straights don’t come around often in no-limit hold’em. For this reason, people struggle to fold these hands. They feel like they are too strong to be folded.

Here’s the second assumption:

If you want to have more success bluffing, you should focus on the situations where people have pairs. People flop pairs all the time. They are more likely to let go of pairs than stronger hands.

How can we know when our opponent likely has a pair? There’s one clue that is fairly consistent across most poker markets.

When a board comes with flush draws, straight draws, or both, that is a dangerous board for two-pair combinations and sets. People don’t like holding two pair or a set when the flush draw or straight draw comes in. They have a hard time folding their strong hand, so they now know they could possibly lose a huge pot.

To avoid this fate, most people play fast with their two pair or better combinations when the board has draws on it. They do this to simultaneously protect their hand and get value from it.

What does this mean for us? Let’s say we bet something small on a coordinated board with flush draws, straight draws, or both. If our opponent calls on that board, we just learned something. They likely would have raised with many of their sets or two pairs. There’s a good chance they would have folded many of their high cards. What they most likely have when they call there is a pair. More importantly, their most likely pair combination-wise is a pair that matched with one of the board cards.

If the turn card and river card are bad for most of the flopped pairs, we can fire huge bets at this range of mostly pairs. That will put a ton of pressure on our opponents.

Similarly, let’s imagine we raised preflop and then called a three-bet out of position. The board comes with flush draws and straight draws. We check to our opponent in position. They check back.

This lets us know our opponent likely doesn’t have two pair or sets. They would have usually fired on such a dangerous board with their best combinations. When they check back there, they often have good high cards and halfway decent pairs. We can also fire at that range.

3. Focus On Serious Players

It’s easier to bluff a serious player than it is a recreational player.

Most players are recreational players. They might talk the talk and dress like poker players, but they’re not doing this for their income. It is wildly difficult to beat the rake and pay your bills from this game. The vast majority of people cannot accomplish that feat.

For this reason, most of your opponents are stations. They raise preflop with any hand they want to see the flop with. They cold call with any hand they want to see the flop with. They call down too much because they want to see if their hand is good. Their goal at the table is to win as many pots as possible because that’s what makes them feel best. They’re not trying to maximize the amount of money they’re making, because good solid poker requires patience, and patient poker is boring.

Since most of your opponents are stations, you’ll need to have a damn good reason to bluff them. You will want them starting with wide ranges and then playing passively on coordinated boards.

However, if your opponent folds more preflop than most players and seems like a thinking player, they can be a great candidate for a surprise attack. If you’ve been playing solidly, they will have noticed that. They won’t assume your first bluff is going to be a triple barrel bomb versus them since they are the other tight player in the game.

If a solid player calls you from the big blind, take advantage of their discipline.
When they call you on a coordinated board and cap their range, keep firing. They won’t expect you to be bluffing. Most of their opponents are not capable of triple barrel bluffing. They got their disciplined image because they are capable of folding pairs.

4. Focus On Big All-Ins

This is a smaller point, but it needs to be stated.

If your bluff is going to be a small all-in on the turn in a tournament, you should be less willing to do it.

Why? Your opponent is going to want to see your hand. It’s not that expensive to see what you have. They know there’s no more betting if they call you now.

If, instead, you can fire a huge all-in on the river which puts tons of big blinds at risk that is far more likely to scare off one mediocre pair.

5. Focus On Bigger Buy-Ins

I was playing a $5,000 buy-in event once versus a satellite winner. The guy was opening way too many hands. I three-bet him in position and he called. The board came with flush draws and straight draws. He checked to me, I fired, and he called. I knew right then he would have check-raised with sets and two pairs, so he was capped at one pair.

The turn brought the flush draw in. He looked sick. He checked to me. I fired with my nothing suited-gapper which had totally missed. He called quickly, but he didn’t look comfortable.

The river was a blank. He checked to me. I shoved. He looked disgusted and folded quickly.

That was standard poker on my part. Most satellite winners don’t want to dust off their stacks in the first levels. $5,000 is a lot of money to most people. You can’t blame the guy for not wanting to stack off with what was most likely one pair.

However, contrast that situation with a hand I played recently in a $200 buy-in. I was getting some live reps in at a local casino and I was in a similar situation. My opponent had capped their range at one pair and obviously didn’t want to see me bet. I disappointed him and overbet the river massively.

To my opponent’s credit, he made a correct call. However, it was a much easier call to make because if he was wrong, he could reload $200 much more easily than a $5,000 buy-in.

Moral of the story? If you have a choice, bluff the person who is concerned about the buy-in. They’re far more likely to buckle under pressure. ♠

Learn how to play A-K when it misses the flop!

Alexander Fitzgerald is a professional poker player and bestselling author who currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He is a WPT and EPT final tablist, and has WCOOP and SCOOP wins online. His most recent win was the $250,000 Guaranteed on ACR Poker. He currently enjoys blasting bums away in Ignition tournaments while he listens to death metal. Free training packages of his are provided to new newsletter subscribers who sign up at PokerHeadRush.com