Dan, we believe you’re trying to bluff us

Frankly, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read in a widely-circulated poker magazine, about a prominent poker player on the Colorado poker scene – who never bluffs!
Let’s call him Dan. He claims to be a winning player, but I have my doubts. Why, in heaven’s name, would any smart poker player avoid learning how to bluff? In fact, if you use just the Esther Bluff tactic, you can expect to win over 70 percent of your bluff attempts – even in low-limit games. (Estimated break-even is 30 percent.)
There are times when I don’t get decent starting hands for the first hour or so. When I do get a hand worthy of investing to see the flop, it often fails to develop. If gaining six or more outs (say, two overcards to the board), I will often semi-bluff on the turn.
If I am lucky to connect, that’s great. If I miss, and the situation seems “right,” I may very well go for the bluff on the river. In practice, those bluffs help me stay in the game even as the rakes plunder my stacks every 15-20 minutes – faster in a short-handed game.
The magazine writer commented: “You’d think (Dan) must use his super-tight image to bluff now and then.”
No way! Dan, who plays primarily low-limit hold’em cash games, stated, “It’s not a big factor in the games I play.” Instead, he relies on knowing his opponents, math and game selection. To his credit, he states, “Know your pot odds, know your outs, get a range on who’s in the hand.”
Good advice but, on image, I strongly disagree. Your image is a big factor in every poker game! If you don’t take advantage of it, your opponents will.
Why would you give opponents huge tells? If you only play the best hands and never bluff, opponents soon learn and avoid getting heavily involved in those hands – unless they hold a strong hand.
“I can’t project a table image,” Dan says. “Heck, that’s too much work.”
But, he does project a tight table image – even if he doesn’t work at it. It’s fully exposed for his opponents to see – a huge tell!
Frankly, I have played against such players; they fold hand after hand until they have a strong starting hand. I prefer to be seated to their left. If they come out betting after the flop, I need a very strong hand to call to see the turn. Sometimes they win. There may be some opponents who foolishly chase them all the way to the river.
Mix it up: It’s a good idea to mix up how you play your hands so it’s more difficult for your opponents to “read” you. Even if a bluff fails occasionally, it’s OK for the sake of your table image. Just don’t do it too often, or they’ll be calling you down every time you bluff.
Fact is Dan had a tight image, as the writer suggested. It would make good sense to take advantage of it and bluff occasionally when the situation seemed right.
A poor example: Dan spoke of a hand (implying it was typical) where an opponent with Jacks-up called down his set. Dan bragged, “If you know what you do well, why mess with it?” Well, if Dan does know his poker math, he must know, starting with a pocket pair, his chance of catching a set on the flop is only about one in nine. A long shot! How often does that happen?
You might be interested: This is another in a series of columns on bluffing. Others were based on a lecture my co-columnist, George “The Engineer” Epstein presented to the Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group. If you are a serious poker player, I suggest you go to the Gaming Today website to review those columns.

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