Inducing, stopping, making and combating bluffs...
An important thing in NLHE (which decreases a lot in LHE) is the bluff. Bluffing optimally definitely gives you an edge over players who almost never bluff or those who bluff a lot more than they should. We also know that optimal bluffs aren’t random at all. Before attempting a bluff, you should consider some factors like opponent’s style, your table image, stack sizes, specific reads, etc. Otherwise you are going to be committing the same mistake as a lot of players at low levels: bluffing without any reason. If you do that, in the long run you’re going to be caught by good hands often enough to make your bluffs unprofitable. If you make random bluffs without any good reason to support them, you may find yourself in situations where the risk/reward ratio is terrible or where you have almost none fold equity.
We know that bluffing is an extra way to win pots (the other one being by getting true value of your good hands), so what about when your opponent bluffs at you? Then you’re literally losing money.
Here is where I wanted to reach. A fundamental idea about poker is that you’re going to success and make profit as long as you force your opponent to commit mistakes (and of course you need to exploit them optimally). So applying that idea to the previous introduction, you should start taking care not only about doing optimal bluffs yourself, also you must try to force your opponent to commit bluffs at the wrong time and you must force him to give up a possible bluff that under normal circumstances it would make you fold.
How do you force your opponent to make a mistake or prevent yourself of being bluffed? Basically there are two solutions (one to each problem): Inducing a bluff and stopping it.
When you’re planning on inducing a bluff, one of the main aspects to take into consideration is your opponent’s style. Obviously it’s going to be easier to induce bluffs against a LAG than a weak TAG. To induce bluffs you must show weakness at some point of the hand, which doesn’t means that you should always slow play. According to your table image you can achieve that goal by different ways, like letting your opponent to take control of the hand early or maybe showing strength at the beginning and then suddenly calm down as if you had surrendered to attempt bluffs. There are a lot of situations where you may ask what’s the best way to induce a bluff, but unfortunately this is a very wide concept that depends on the context. Styles, table image, stack sizes and position, are factors that make impossible to analyze or determine a single and effective way of inducing a bluff. I have seen some posts asking "how could I have got more chips from here?". Generally if in the hand the Hero checked the flop, bet turn and Villain folded, then the replies are like "You should have bet the flop and checked the turn". That results oriented thinking is originated by the idea that it’s always possible to induce bluffs. That isn’t true because sometimes your opponent won’t have anything and he’ll surrender from the beginning, prepared to check/fold till the river. That generally happens while you hold a monster with a scary board and the pot isn’t too big. So a little suggestion to induce bluffs is to grow up the pot as soon as you can, so you can slowdown and your opponent will be tempted to take the pot at any cost. Inducing bluffs with monsters is the classic example, but actually you should be trying to do it every time you think it’s correct and you may force your opponent to commit the mistake. So if you hold a medium strength hand and you induce a bluff, you must call/raise your opponent’s bet. Otherwise it doesn’t have any sense to induce the bluff.
Now in relation to stopping bluffs, like inducing bluffs and almost everything at poker it depends on the situation, but there’s one aspect that is really important: you must be out of position. When you try to stop a bluff with a block bet, you must take into consideration that your bet also works as a bluff, so you must be very careful with the size of your bet. It has to be big enough to give you correct fold equity or control of the pot, but it also has to be little enough to achieve the goal of losing less money (in the case of being called or raised) than if your opponent made a bigger bet that could mean either a bluff or a value bet. Block bets allow you to take control of the pot and also prevent your opponent of doing an optimal bluff. These kinds of bets are very useful to complement the classic check/call river strategy out of position. While in limit check/calling the river is generally the right option (you get great odds
to call), in no limit you must be aware that your opponent may bet a huge amount. Controlling the size of the pot is important, so sometimes if you think that you can stop the potential bluff, betting an amount lesser than the possible bluff itself should be right. You must be careful with that strategy and you also have to remember that an advantage of check/calling is that you may be against an induced bluff.
The golden rule when you try to stop bluffs is that you mustn’t call your opponent’s raises. If you do that, then why did you try to prevent the bluff?
So remember that making good bluffs is important, but preventing your opponent of doing them against you and forcing him to do bad ones is important as well.
Finally I want to comment something about making and combating bluffs. When you make a bluff, you have to know that you are going to be called sometimes. So to make more profitable your bluffs, it’s always good to leave yourself some outs. Even if you only have 4 outs, that’s going to make a difference in the long run. A simple conclusion that can be made is that "the bigger the fold equity, the lesser the outs needed". When you make a semi-bluff with a flush draw, you don’t need so much fold equity as if you make a stone cold bluff. So you must be very careful if you plan doing a stone cold bluff. They generally aren’t profitable unless you’re convinced (in a high percentage) that your opponent is going to fold.
How do I combat a bluff? The answer is simple: with another bluff. This may be dangerous, and please note that I’m not suggesting that you should be raising every time that you suspect someone is bluffing or every time someone does a continuation bet, but sometimes it’s important to forget about your hand and if you’re convinced that your opponent is bluffing, then go ahead and raise him. Don’t have fear of going all in, after all he can’t call you and he can´t come over top.
Now I’ll show a hand where I had to choose between counterattacking a possible bluff or make the safe play and fold.
Seat #4 is the button
Seat 2: UTG (780 in chips)
Seat 3: CO (766 in chips)
Seat 4: Villain (2224 in chips)
Seat 5: SB (3435 in chips)
Seat 9: Hero (1795 in chips)
SB: posts small blind 25
Hero: posts big blind 50
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [8s 7d]
Villain: raises 114 to 164
Hero: calls 114
*** FLOP *** [Qs Kh 4h]
Hero: bets 250
Villain: raises 250 to 500
The weird bet preflop meant nothing special to me since he had been doing that previously. Villain was somehow aggressive (especially if someone showed weakness) and lately he had been stealing some pots. His button raise seemed to me like a steal, so probably I made a mistake by not reraising or simply folding, but I decided to call with the intention of betting the flop no matter what came (taking advantage that I was first to act). I thought that my table image was weak-tight (as I’m normally), since so far (hand #61) I had only showed one hand (KK, went all in preflop and doubled up). In most hands I was involved I didn’t reach the turn. So with my flop bet I thought it was going to work as a stopping bluff bet and consequently I would take the pot right there, but then Villain minraised me. At first I thought that I had been caught so it was time to fold my busted bluff, but then I read the notes I had on him and I found one that said "minraise=bluff". I knew that the only way to combat a bluff was bluffing again, but the problem was that if my bluff didn’t work, I would have to hope for a runner-runner miracle or otherwise I would be out of the tourney. I didn’t have outs so my fold equity needed to very high. If he was bluffing, then almost any all in reraise I made would make him fold, no matter if i had a short stack. But in this particular situation I found that also the fold equity, if he had something like middle pair, was high, since calling my all in reraise and losing would mean a big damage to Villain’s stack. So my question is: is it worth attempting an all in pure bluff in this situation?
Combating bluffs like that is very risky, because generally you won’t be able to control the pot size. I rarely do them for all my stack (when I have an average one) because I don’t like the idea that if I get called I’m almost drawing dead and I’m out of the tourney, but that note I had on him may be the key factor to make me go ahead and re-bluff him.
ps: I know that in this thread I only made 1 direct question, but please don’t think that everything else I wrote was intended to teach you. Actually I don’t know if what I wrote is right or wrong, so I would appreciate replies not only with the answer to my question in the hand, I also want critics. I think that there is a lot to discuss on this theme.