Bluffing in No Limit Texas Hold em: Winning Holdem Poker Tournaments Without the Best Hand
Players rarely win poker tournaments, whether one table Sit ‘n’ Go games or multi-table events with thousands of entries, through consistently good cards. The successful poker player knows that to win poker tournaments, hands have to be won without the best cards.
As with any move in poker, there are times to make a bluff and times to play it straight. Here are some positions where a bluff will help build a chip stack.
No Limit Hold em – Blind Stealing
The most common type of bluff is the blind steal. A player on the dealer button has only the small and big blinds between him and the pot, so a raise puts pressure on the blinds who, with two random hands, will often have to fold.
As with all bluffs, timing is everything. Early in the tournament, the blind levels are likely to be low in comparison to the players’ chip stacks. This may make it easier for one or other of the blinds to decide to defend. Similarly, a player with a very short chip stack may be forced to go all-in as folding would leave them crippled.
A player stealing the blinds should also consider his table image. If he has been caught in bluffs during the tournament, players are more likely to defend their blinds.
No Limit Hold Em – Semi Bluffs
A semi bluff is a bet where a player has a hand that is not especially good, but has the potential to be strong, such as a flush or straight draw. Bluffing in this position has a number of advantages,
- The opponent may fold on the spot
- The aggressive bet may buy a free card on other streets
- The pot is bigger if the bigger hand is hit.
The semi bluff is a strong move, essential to players hoping to make the money in tournaments.
No Limit Hold Em – Continuation Bets
The continuation bet is another common bluff, but is still a good move. This bluff is made when the player raises pre-flop, but misses the flop. E.g. a player raises with A,K of diamonds, but the flop is 4,7,T, clubs and spades. The only player to have called pre-flop checks and the bluffer makes a strong bet, representing that he has hit on the flop.
As always, beware the re-raise. If, e.g. the other player had called with pocket T’s, the continuation bet in this position is likely to be met with a trap check and then a strong re-raise.
When considering the continuation bet, the number of calling players in the pot and whether any have already bet out should also be considered.
No Limit Holdem – Family Pots
One interesting feature of low buy-in poker, particularly on-line, is the family pot. On occasion, a, ‘Family pot’, will develop, when four or five players simply call the blind. This happens because the more players call, the better price other players are getting to call with any two cards.
It is tempting for a late position player to raise, trying to push these limpers out of the pot, but this is more likely to simply get everyone calling and building a pot beyond the level expected from the cards involved in the hand.
This is not a spot to bluff and if a player decides to try and thin the field, the cards held had better be ultra-strong and the bet made should be a very big overbet.