Article Summary: Bluffing is a dangerous move to make in online poker. However, bluffing can be advantageous at times and is absolutely necessary in certain situations.
There are appropriate situations to bluff in online poker and there are situations where bluffing is entirely inappropriate. Online poker players need to be able to distinguish the two and make the correct decision. Too often, players bluff when they should not and pay dearly for it. Bluff attempts should always be taken with caution. There are flags that should instantly be raised and delay further bluff attempts in certain online poker situations. Learning to be an observant online poker player will help in noticing these situations.
The opponents at the table will greatly impact these decisions. Opponent playing styles and tendencies significantly impact the environment for bluffing. For example, would you want to bluff at a table full of extremely loose players? Of course not, the chance of being called on your bluff with a garbage hand is too likely. The same is true for bluffing out of position at a tight table. The chance of being pushed in return or called from a later positioned player that has the dominant had is also highly probable.
Continuation bets can get a lot of players into trouble. Online poker players seem to get attached to their hand and even more attached to the chips they have given to the pot. A classic example of this is the Ace/King raise pre-flop that hits nothing on the flop. The inexperienced player will fire a continuation bet with this hand nine out of ten times. The bad part is that when they are called or re-raised, they call if re-raised or fire another continuation bet on the turn with unfavourable odds. However, the continuation bet can be a profitable bluff tactic if used correctly.
Players that open up the pot pre-flop have an advantage in that; they control the pace of the hand. If they are sitting in late position after raising pre-flop, are checked to and fire an instant continuation bet, they will probably take the pot down the majority of the time. This would be an example of properly using the continuation bet bluff tactic. Keep in mind; players should be cautious if the continuation bet is called and should not allow themselves to drown by continuing to try to bet their opponent off the hand.
Online poker players that are inexperienced will often bet their draws heavily to push players off the hand or build the pot for if they hit the draw. This can be advantageous and also very dangerous at the same time. The strategy for bluffing with a draw is to either have the other players fold or note the aggressiveness and only call. The call allows the bluffer to see another card and hopefully they hit their draw. However, if the draw is bet and an opponent comes over the top, now the situation is a little sticky. At that point, pot odds would definitely need to be calculated and determined as to whether calling the re-raise is worth it. Too often, players get attached to their draw bets and push too hard when they are obviously beaten. When bluffing, players have to observe their opponents and not be afraid to abandon ship if it gets ugly.
Stealing the Blinds
Stealing the blinds is typically only used in sit n go’s or tournaments. This is because the blinds escalate and blind stealing may be worth it because the pot is so large. Be very cautious attempting this bluff type because just about everyone is aware of it and are actively watching for players that are consistently trying to steal the blinds. The reason everyone is aware of it is because everyone feels the heat of the rising blinds, the short-stacked players pushing wildly and everyone can taste the prize pool. Blind stealing is most effective from the dealer position when the table folded around. This player has the opportunity to raise and steal the blinds.
If the blinds call, the dealer position has positional advantage the entire hand. However, be cautious if a noted tight player calls a raise in the blinds from a player sitting in the dealer position. They most likely have a strong hand to call the raise being dominated in terms of position.