Inducing, stopping, making and combating bluffs...

Jesus Lederer

Jesus Lederer

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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]
UTG: folds
CO: folds
Villain: raises 114 to 164
SB: folds
Hero: calls 114
*** FLOP *** [Qs Kh 4h]
Hero: bets 250
Villain: raises 250 to 500
Hero: ?

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.
 
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Dorkus Malorkus

Dorkus Malorkus

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Bluffing in the example you gave is really horrible. Removing the actual situation in the tournament, to bluff, the following things are generally important.

- Fold equity. While villain isn't exactly pot commited here, he has a decent chunk of his stack in. In the event of him having something like a flush draw, he probably isn't folding.
- A signal of weakness from villain. You don't have this here. His two actions in the hand thus far have been raise and raise.
- Outs should you get called. You have no straight or flush draw and two undercards to the K and Q on board.

I don't like the call preflop. You either fold or reraise here - the stop and go is later-stage strategy, essentially for situations where you will be justified in open-pushing postflop. Stacks are too deep for it here, all you are acheiving by stop-and-going is increasing the risk of you losing a much larger pot by over-commiting yourself. If villain has no hand preflop, don't give him the opportunity to make any sort of a hand on the flop, and don't give yourself the opportunity to make silly moves. Just folding is by far the best option here, but reraising is better than calling.

The bluff is also a bad idea because of the tournament situation. I'm assuming this is a 9-player SnG, and top 3 pay. You have a reasonable stack, there are 5 players left, and there are two short stacks to your left. Getting deeply involved in a pot with one of the big stacks without any sort of hand here is suicidal - steal from the shorties who are conveniently positioned to your left where possible and only play with the bigstacks when you have cards to back it up.

The rest of your post is pretty cool stuff, though I disagree with your piece on 'stopping bluffs'. You can do it easily when in position, and even with calls if the situation is suitable. With mid-deep stacks, it's not uncommon to see something like this:

Folds from EP players
Villain raises pf from MP
Hero calls on the button, others fold.
Villain leads flop
Hero calls
Villain checks turn
Hero bets turn and takes the pot

What Hero and villain had by way of cards and what the flop/turn was don't really matter.

Of course, you have to have somewhat of a 'doesn't follow through with flop c-bets' read, but so many players don't you can almost assume it even against a relative unknown.

Something else quickly worth mentioning, if you're in a tough game, you have to mix a few small bets with big hands in occasionally, to stop your blocking bets being transparent and to prevent you from leaving yourself open to bluff-counters.
 
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Jesus Lederer

Jesus Lederer

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Thanks Chris, i wanted a reply like that.

Dorkus Malorkus said:
- A signal of weakness from villain. You don't have this here. His two actions in the hand thus far have been raise and raise.
But what about the note? How much importance should i give to the minraise=bluff note? To me his raises didn´t mean strength. Also a very important factor to do a bluff is my table image, and i had been very tight.
Anyway i´m not saying that a bluff is good here, as the two other points you said are right.

Dorkus Malorkus said:
I don't like the call preflop. You either fold or reraise here - the stop and go is later-stage strategy, essentially for situations where you will be justified in open-pushing postflop. Stacks are too deep for it here, all you are acheiving by stop-and-going is increasing the risk of you losing a much larger pot by over-commiting yourself. If villain has no hand preflop, don't give him the opportunity to make any sort of a hand on the flop, and don't give yourself the opportunity to make silly moves. Just folding is by far the best option here, but reraising is better than calling.
I agree, but anyway i had reasons to believe i would take the pot on the flop. I don´t see so bad the option of stop-and-going in a little pot like that as if i had been the preflop aggressor and then i made a common c-bet.
Another reason that i thought for calling in that situation was that he was starting to steal, and since blinds were starting to grow up, i wanted to show him that he wouldn´t steal my blind whenever he wanted. But then again, a reraise would have worked better for that.

Dorkus Malorkus said:
The bluff is also a bad idea because of the tournament situation. I'm assuming this is a 9-player SnG, and top 3 pay. You have a reasonable stack, there are 5 players left, and there are two short stacks to your left. Getting deeply involved in a pot with one of the big stacks without any sort of hand here is suicidal - steal from the shorties who are conveniently positioned to your left where possible and only play with the bigstacks when you have cards to back it up.

Actually it was a 6 players SNG, but i got your point.

Dorkus Malorkus said:
I disagree with your piece on 'stopping bluffs'. You can do it easily when in position, and even with calls if the situation is suitable. With mid-deep stacks, it's not uncommon to see something like this:

Folds from EP players
Villain raises pf from MP
Hero calls on the button, others fold.
Villain leads flop
Hero calls
Villain checks turn
Hero bets turn and takes the pot

You´re right, when i made the thread i thought in that situation but I didn´t take that as stopping a bluff because in my opinion that play is in the category of combating a bluff (with the exception that you called-bet instead of raising). To stop a bluff, your opponent must have a weak hand, so if you think he´s bluffing on the flop then you should raise him. What about if you just call and Villain bets the turn? Then you didn´t stop the bluff.

Again thanks Chris, more critics are very well accepted.
 
ChuckTs

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yarg. just wrote a whole response to this and it got deleted because my internet cut off :/ .....here we go again :p

Great stuff, sir :) I agree with most of your points, but like Chris, don't agree with having to be out of position to stop a bluff. Say you have position on a preflop raiser, who you called. He/she leads on the flop. If you have a good read that your opponent is bluffing, then reraising him right there should stop him in his tracks, no?
I do agree, however that being OOP makes it easier to block-bet though. I mean you can't really do that if your opponent leads at the flop like in the last example^^^. Sometimes being out of position is actually an advantage iin that sense.

I also thought you could have chosen a better example hand to illustrate your point. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was 'horrible', but I think it was just too complicated (not to mention I also agree with both of you that you should have raised/folded PF).

Maybe using a simpler example (just a suggestion):

Villain is very LAG, and steals blinds very often. He is stacked at 4K.

Hero is a solid TAG player with 2K.

With blinds at 150/300, villain minraises to 600 from the button after being folded to. The SB folds, and Hero, in the BB, is sitting on JTh.


In this example, our Hero is sitting on a pretty mediocre hand, but is in a perfect bluffing situation. By coming over the top, it puts villain in a tough situation if he's holding say 22 or 33, or maybe even 67s, A2 or K9. He'll be getting poor odds (~1:1), and will have to commit more than half his stack total if he calls.

Good stuff though JL; I think that too many people (including myself in recent memory) bluff without considering all the factors that make a bluff successful. There is a definitely a science behind bluffing and inducing/preventing bluffs.
 
twizzybop

twizzybop

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You are right though about knowing what kind of opponents you are up against. I think the bluff works best against 1-2 opponets especially if you can make them think you hit the flush or the straight on the board and you have absolutely nothing.
Then if you can make them fold the 2 pair they may have or the set that they may have makes the bluff even better. I also agree that being in later position gives you the power to take a chance on a bluff compared to earlier position.
 
Jesus Lederer

Jesus Lederer

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yarg. just wrote a whole response to this and it got deleted because my internet cut off :/ .....here we go again :p
lol, believe it or not it happened the same too me, but the computer restarted for my own fault (what happened was incredibly stupid).
Well, after that i´m not in a good mood so i´ll reply only with the main points.

ChuckTs said:
Great stuff, sir :) I agree with most of your points, but like Chris, don't agree with having to be out of position to stop a bluff. Say you have position on a preflop raiser, who you called. He/she leads on the flop. If you have a good read that your opponent is bluffing, then reraising him right there should stop him in his tracks, no?
Yes, but as i said to Chris, in my opinion that fits in the category of combating a bluff. I know that if you combat a bluff, consequently you´re stopping it, but i wanted to separate them because in one case you want to prevent the bluff (stopping it) and in the other one the bluff has already been made (combatting it, like the example you gave). Anyway we all agree on the main points, so the discussion shouldn´t be towards that semantic stuff.

ChuckTs said:
I also thought you could have chosen a better example hand to illustrate your point. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was 'horrible', but I think it was just too complicated (not to mention I also agree with both of you that you should have raised/folded PF).

Maybe using a simpler example (just a suggestion):

Villain is very LAG, and steals blinds very often. He is stacked at 4K.

Hero is a solid TAG player with 2K.

With blinds at 150/300, villain minraises to 600 from the button after being folded to. The SB folds, and Hero, in the BB, is sitting on JTh.


In this example, our Hero is sitting on a pretty mediocre hand, but is in a perfect bluffing situation. By coming over the top, it puts villain in a tough situation if he's holding say 22 or 33, or maybe even 67s, A2 or K9. He'll be getting poor odds (~1:1), and will have to commit more than half his stack total if he calls.

Thanks for that example.

In relation to the hand i posted, after he raised i went all in. At that time, i didn´t think about all the factors that you need to take into consideration before attempting a bluff. I just thought "if he´s minraising then he´s bluffing", so i pushed. Right after that i thought "what the hell i did! The note isn´t going to be right for every situation, he may also held a flush draw, and especially if it was the nut one, most likely he wasn´t going to fold. There i may have some outs, but what if he was holding top pair? Then definitely he wasn´t going to fold and i´m almost drawing dead risking my life in the tourney. So the only hands i was going to scare were little pairs or bluffs, and i risked my life in the tourney for that?
Then i thought that bluffs needed to be well elaborated with strong reasons to back up them, and not just random ones because "i had the feeling he was going to fold" or "i had the balls to go all in with nothing". So i decided to wrote the thread.
There are a lot of factors that you should consider before doing a bluff, and as Chris said the tournament context is very important. You don´t want to attempt "extreme bluffs" against big stacks, because one of the main factors (fold equity) decreases a lot, because your opponent knows that even if he loses he is still in the tourney, so he´s "allowed" to call with non monster hands.

Yes, i had a tight image and a note, but what if my opponent caught any piece of the flop? Then i´m out.
So the main point is that you´ll always find some reasons to attempt a bluff, but you don´t have to lie to yourself and you need to evaluate if what you´re going to do has a good risk/reward ratio.
 
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