Let me be perfectly clear. Regular bluffing in low limit poker games will make you a losing player. You will seldom make it to the river all alone. The primary goal in no limit hold’em games is simply to value bet your strong hands and use bluffs sparingly. Therefore, you will usually have to show down the best hand on the river to win.
Tip One: I Don’t Get No Respect
Your artfully timed bluffs will usually completely fly over the heads of the typical low limit player. You’ll be called. I define a bluff here as betting a hand that has little chance to win if called. If you want to try using out and out bluffs as a strategy you’ll need to move to limits above the micro stakes game online to make it work. In lower games your bets and raises won’t be respected, and therefore will seldom work.
Tip Two: Know When To Give Up
Keep in mind that if you bluff and are called by even a single player, then your bluff didn’t really work. Be willing to check on the next betting round and fold if there’s reason to believe your opponent won’t fold to other bets. I have seen players stick with a bluff all the way to the river just to avoid checking and “showing weakness.” Don’t be guilty of this. If your bluff didn’t work, you have lost the minimum amount.
Tip Three: The Semi-bluff
That being said, I use the semi-bluff a little more often. A semi-bluff is representing a so-so hand as a better hand than it is. For example, say you have a pair of pocket tens and you are on the button with two players. You raised before the flop and eliminated the blinds. Out come the 9-J-Q. At this point you have become a bit of an underdog. Two over-cards have hit the flop. But you have a pair and an open straight draw. If there’s a bet here I would raise. This is a semi-bluff, representing a higher pair than you actually have. Your opponents, who may have paired the J or Q will be seriously worried about your hand and may fold now, or to a bet on the turn. If one of them has 10-K (not likely) and re-raises you can fold before the betting gets more expensive. You might also complete your straight on the turn, which means you can beat trip jacks or Queens and are set to either bet out or go for the check raise.
Tip Four: When Not To Bluff
There are a two common bluffs that are a good idea to avoid. Don’t bluff against a player who almost never folds. Known as “calling stations,” your bluff is useless here. Keep tabs on the other players betting patterns and don’t try to bluff a habitual caller. Another good reason not to try to bluff is in late position when you have aggressive players in the blinds who will re-steal all the time. Some players will raise in late position no matter what they have but will have to fold to more aggression so just fold in LP unless you have a hand you can continue with, otherwise it’s just burning money.
Tip Five: Betting Scary Boards
There is one situation where bluffing has been profitable for me at the low limit tables. When the flop comes with a pair and some other not so great card say for instance 6-6-8 all of different suits, you have a good opportunity to bluff against a small but reasonably smart field. It’s a scary flop but there’s a good chance no one has a thing that fits it. The first one to bet here will often win the pot. Don’t try it against comfortably numb calling stations, they’ll just call and put you in the uncomfortable guessing situation. Also if you try this bluff and get called by a good player, just check on the turn and fold if he bets at you. Don’t bet all the way to the river if the bluff failed, or you won’t profit by this play.