One reason that NL Texas Hold’em has become popular worldwide is the element of bluffing. While bluffing is a part of all forms of poker, NL Hold’em takes that to the next level. Being able to pull off well-executed bluffs at the right time is the difference between being a “good player” and being great.
Of course, there are times when you just shouldn’t bluff, as it will usually result in disaster. Today we look at seven ways not to bluff in Texas Hold’em.
Shake, Shake, Shake, Señora!
If you have a tendency to shake or make any type of nervous movement when you’re under stress, then bluffing is going to be difficult for you. Some players will begin to exhibit a noticeable shake or some other type of nervous behavior due to the adrenaline running through their veins. If you’re one of these players, then you want to limit your bluffing frequency and work on controlling your physical responses.
Bluffing Because She’s a Girl
While this sounds dumb to some of us, there are still many players out there holding to the old beliefs about women in poker. They think they are not as skillful as male players and do not have the guts to call down a big bluff. Some will go out of their way to bluff a woman because they think she will only call with the nuts.
The problem with this thinking is that poker is no longer a male dominated sport and in many areas, women have advantage over their male counterparts. When you’re running a bluff against a female opponent, you better have a better reason than “because she is a girl.” Otherwise, you’re going to look stupid when she correctly calls you down for a large portion or your entire stack.
Bluffing to Try and Change Your Luck
You just lost a monster hand or you’ve lost several pots in a row and you are bemoaning your luck. It’s time to try a bluff to see if you can change your luck, right? Wrong!
When you try to run a bluff after losing a monster pot or after a string of losses, players are going to assume that you’re on tilt. Chances are that you might be because why else are you still playing after getting your teeth kicked in.
You’re going to get called down by your opponent unless they just completely miss the board and have junk as a starting hand. There’s a good chance you will be called down correctly by a wide variety of hands.
If you want to play a big pot after a big loss or losing streak, make sure you’ve got a hand. Otherwise, just hand over your wallet to your opponent’s now and save the Christmas rush.
You Bluff Like You’re Scared
Uh oh, I don’t have a hand. What do I do? I know! I’ll bluff here but I don’t want to risk much, so maybe I’ll bet the size of the blinds or twice as much. That’s aggressive right? Keep thinking that if you want, but odds are you’re setting yourself up to get stacked.
One big reason that a bluff fails is that a person bets as if they’re scared to lose chips. They put out a smallish bet thinking that will be enough to scare someone off when in many cases they are just pricing that player into the pot.
You want to make a large enough bet to push drawing hands and weak holdings out of the pot. When you make an appropriately sized bet and get called, this gives you information on what you’re opponent has and you can make the decision to continue with the bluff on later streets if applicable.
Pricing your opponents into the pot will result in them hitting their draws or getting lucky and catching on the turn or river. Then your bluff will turn into a large pot for your opponent, and it will be all your fault.
When You Suck at Acting
Ever played with that one guy that you can tell what he has nearly every hand because he wears his emotions on his sleeve? Hell, this player could wear a Nixon mask and you could still pick up tells because he just cannot act.
This player is the type where their poker face gives away their hand. When they have a big hand, they are completely silent and try not to move or even breathe. Otherwise, they are animated in one way or another. They may talk too much, study the board too much hoping they can hit their draw or they may randomly check out everything at the table.
Many players of this type will be easy to spot and they usually don’t realize how much information they are giving away. If you find that ever bluff you are running is failing, find someone you trust and have them watch your game. Odds are they are going to tell you that you suck at acting.
You’re a Limp Fish
You decided to limp into the pot pre-flop or checked your option in the big blind. The flop is relatively harmless and you decide to bluff. We guess you don’t like money then. While it is true that players miss the flop a large portion of the time, you telegraphed to the table that you hand isn’t all that great. Odds are it still isn’t that great.
When you bluff into a pot after limping in or checking your option from the big blind, the chance that someone calls you down increases, as they know you didn’t have much of a starting hand. This chance increases even more if you don’t have a tendency to show down tricky hands like sets, etc. Remember that if you’re hand is worth a limp, it should be worth a raise. If it isn’t, it probably isn’t worth a bluff either.
When Players Don’t Believe Your BS
You decide to run what you feel was a skillful bluff only to have someone call you down. This is a horrible feeling and a horrible time to try and run another bluff. Nobody is going to believe your BS for a while.
Now is the time to channel your inner Allen Kessler rather than your inner Daniel Negreanu. Rock up for a while and let your opponents forget that failed bluff. Then try again later when they are likely to believe you and when you don’t make some of the other mistakes listed above.