Bluffing is one of the sexiest moves in poker. You put your chips and possibly your tournament life at stake with nothing but air. It is a roller coaster ride of emotions that can pay off huge dividends or it can leave you watching from the rail.
There are many different techniques that players use to bluff but many beginners make huge errors when bluffing. Today we will take a look at 5 bluffing mistakes that you probably didn’t know you were making.
Bluffing on a Board That’s Outside Your Range
Unless you are early in a game where players still don’t have a read on you, your opponents are going to have a good idea of what type of range that you’re playing. As such, you need to make sure you aren’t bluffing into boards that are clearly outside of the range of hands that you normally play.
For example, there was a player I used to play in a home game against that loved to play small cards. If the board flopped wheely, these were great opportunities for him to bluff. However, one of the worst bluffs he ever ran was on a middling board. His opponent didn’t believe him and wound up wining with a measly pair of nines.
Getting Too Calm / Too Nervous When You Bluff
Some players have a problem controlling their nerves during a hand. The adrenaline rush from running a bluff can cause a player to shake, develop a nervous tick or act faster than they normally would. Other players will become noticeably calmer or slower in their actions when bluffing.
Early in my playing days, I had this problem but in reverse. I had the adrenaline rush with big hands it was always with my right hand. It was so bad that when I got big hands, I bet with my left hand. A friend of mine picked up on this and pointed it out.
He also pointed out that when I bluffed, I was much calmer than in any other point of the game. I had nothing and he knew it based on my physical actions.
Some players cannot control this early on as their body isn’t use to the rush from bluffing, but this is something with effort that you can control over time.
How did I solve this problem? Early on, I did the most obvious thing I could think of. I bet left-handed.
You’re Not Bluffing Enough
There’s an old poker cliché that if you’re winning every time you bluff, you aren’t bluffing enough. While it is true that some players can get by without bluffing that much, the game has evolved to the point where you have to be able to bluff on a consistent basis in order to be a world-class player.
Not bluffing that often in low stakes is fine, and in many games it is advisable. However, you will never improve if you don’t incorporate more bluffs into your game. You want to occasionally get caught bluffing. This will help you down the line when you make the same play with a monster hand. It mixes up your game and gives you more tools to steal pots.
Your Story Doesn’t Make Sense
Similar to you trying to bluff on a board outside your range, you need to make sure that the story that you’re telling makes sense to the player you’re trying to bluff. This is really a multi-layer problem.
First, you need to pay attention to the story that you’re selling. How did you play the hand pre-flop? Does your action on the flop make sense? Is the flop something that will hit your range?
Why did you check-raise on the turn? Was there a draw that completed that you’re now representing? Was the turn card an actual scare card to improve your hand?
The other layer to this problem is whether your opponent is astute enough to understand your story. You think you may know what he is thinking or that you know what he thinks you know, but does he really have a clue?
This goes beyond “don’t bluff a calling station.” Some players may not be experienced enough to understand your play and others may not have been paying proper attention to action in other hands to this point. They may not know your range or that you haven’t shown a losing hand with an ace or king on board.
If your story doesn’t make sense to your opponent and they think they have a chance to win the pot, they are going to call more often than not.
You Don’t Have Enough Money to Bluff
Some players will get into a hand and try to make a bluff with a stack that isn’t large enough to really hurt their opponent. For example, you have 10 big blinds and see a flop with an opponent holding 75 big blinds. You don’t have enough chips in this spot to make a bluff and force him out the pot.
If you don’t have enough of a stack to give you some fold equity, then your bluff is seldom going to work. I accidentally learned the concept of “fold equity” when three handed in a Sit & Go. I was the short stack but neither of my opponents were an overwhelming leader. A double-up would make stacks about even.
I picked up A-K and raised pre-flop, receiving a call. On the flop, I missed but I bet about 75% of my stack. Not the best move, but it got into the head of my opponent. He analyzed how I could possibly not shove in that spot being so short and playing as snug as I was.
Eventually, he looked at his buddy and said, “he doubles it’s about even” and he folds. I had enough chips there for my bluff to work. However, had that same spot occurred when we were heads-up and he had his buddies’ chips, it would have been an easy call.