Texas Holdem Strategy


Texas Holdem poker is the game of choice today for most players. It is the hugely popular poker game that is easy to learn, but hard to master.

As World Poker Tour host and highly respected poker player Mike Sexton says, “It takes a Texas Holdem Strategyminute to learn, but a lifetime to master.”

Texas Holdem is the game of choice these days, whether it’s at the casino, online, a home game or the popular bar tournaments.

Texas Holdem is the next great American past time, and is catching on like wildfire around the globe. This section, called Texas Hold’em 101, will explain all of the game of texas holdem.

There are sections that start out with texas holdem hand ranks, rules, an odds chart, and strategy sections. For new players, we recommend first playing some free no limit texas holdem online and if you already have an understanding of the game then here are five top choices for playing real money texas holdem sites online.

This page contains links to many different features of no limit texas hold em and lessons for no limit holdem players. If you are interested in playing Texas Holdem Games Online then we recommend checking out our online poker room reviews for the best places to play and utilizing the poker bonus codes offered on the page like the Full Tilt referral code which will net yourself a 100% deposit bonus at one of the largest and most trusted online poker sites online. The PokerStars.com bonus code is not to shabby either.

Texas Hold Em 101 – The Basics

How To Play Texas Holdem
Learn the basics of the most popular poker game…this is the game you see on TV. Learn how a basic poker hand works, how the blinds work, how the rounds work and the rank of hands in texas holdem.

How The Betting Works In Texas Holdem
Not sure how the betting works? This walks you through the play of a hand round by round. Learn how to bet and how the betting goes around the table.

Texas Hold ‘Em Rules
Check out Robert’s Rules of Poker, the most extensive Poker rulebook and standard operating manual for most Poker games today. This is the authority set of poker rules on the net and he has given permission to even post a printable copy.

Poker Hand Ranks
Does a flush beat a straight? If you’re not sure, check out our extensive hand rankings chart.

Free Texas Holdem Online FREE!
Easy and anynomous.  Online poker is a great way to learn how the game works and to figure out the basics of the game with absolutely zero risk.  Just download the free software from an online site like FullTiltPoker.com and create your account.  No deposit required.

You can play with free play chips, both tournaments and “cash game style”. Playing online poker is the easiest ways to learn how to play Texas Holdem. t’s anonymous and completely free. If you’re ready to play now and hit the tables! View our list of approved and Texas Holdem online poker rooms.

Best online poker and casino
Gaming online today is safe and secure – and a lot of fun. You find all kinds of poker variations and hundreds of entertaining casino games online. Join the action on the best online poker sites or spice up your day in a USA friendly casino.

If you’re new to online poker, you can use our favorite free poker software or you can use one of our online poker download guides. These guides walk you through each step of the process. It’s absolutely free to set up an account and you’ll be playing in less than 10 minutes. Have fun!

Texas Hold Em 201 – Intermediate

Poker and Texas Holdem Strategy
Now that you’ve learned how to play the game it’s time you learned a little about Poker and Texas Holdem strategy. We take a unique approach to strategy. You need to develop two separate but equal poker strategies. One is the strategy you use at the poker table and one is the strategy you use to become a better poker player. Learning basic poker strategy can improve your results and take your game to the next level.

Poker and Texas Holdem Odds Chart
A chart that lays out the basic odds. Info on how likely you are to hit your flush when you flop a four to the flush, how likely you are to pair your ace or king when holding big slick, etc.If you’re a serious poker player, check out this Free Holdem Poker Software tool. A great program to use for calculating odds when playing heads up holdem.

Texas Holdem Game Variations
No-Limit Texas Hold ’em, the cadillac of poker, Limit Poker with fixed sized bets each round, and Pot Limit, which is traditionally an Omaha game, but plenty of sites offer Pot Limit Holdem.

The History of Texas Holdem
Do you know the history of Texas Hold ‘Em poker? Read about it here.

Texas Hold Em 301 – Advanced

Poker Strategy Articles
Articles and tips to improve your poker game. Tips on No Limit Holdem, how to play in certain situations, and how to choose the profitable tables.

Poker Strategy Forum
The sharing of information with others to improve ones skill level. Join the forum and discuss playing the game of poker.

Texas Holdem Strategy Videos – FREE
Watch videos of KickAssPoker.com Co-Founder Spry playing poker online at some of our favorite poker sites like PokerStars.com, Bodog Poker and others.

Card Runners – Videos focused on Cash $$ Game Strategy
Card Runners is video training from some of the best online cash game players on the net.  Highly recommended for cash gamers.  Read our organic review and see what you think.  There are also free videos and you can read our complete reviews of the top online poker training sites.

Bluefire Poker Training
Designed for players looking to take their tournament play to the next level.

You watch video’s of the top online poker players as they play and listen to him explain why he is doing what he is doing. It is very interesting way to learn, especially if you have ever wanted to peek at the hole cards of a really good player and see how he plays his hands. These strategy videos are well articulated and edited. Train with the Pro’s and sign up with Bluefire Poker for FREE!

Free No-Limit Poker Games
Practice for free and win for real. Play at our top two picks for free texas holdem online poker games and test your skill, learn how the games work and how to win playing online freerolls.

Texas Holdem Poker Strategy

Strategy Resources

So you want to “Kick Ass” at Poker? Well, we’re here to help. We all know that there have been thousands of pages have been written on poker strategy on the web and while we’d like to cover all of them here nobody has that much time and besides, you wouldn’t read it all anyway. Here is a quick list of our texas holdem strategy resources.

With this page, we’ll cover the basics of texas holdem strategy here. To discuss poker strategy, feel free to visit the strategy section of the forum. It is active and full of strong players who love to discuss poker. Click here to visit the poker strategy forum.

Here is our constantly growing list of poker strategy articles. These articles cover a wide range of poker strategy, mostly focused on playing texas holdem. The strategy articles have plenty of tips to improve your game as well as discussion on more subtle advanced topics holdem topics.

If you are new to Texas Holdem and are looking for a basic strategy, check out Texas Holdem 101 and be sure and read this quick article on No Limit Holdem Tips.

Dennis Purdy’s book The Illustrated Guide To Texas Hold’Em Poker, is chock full of real life hand examples, strategies on how to play each and explanations of why the hand is played like it is. It’s a great read and a great way to improve your game and we also found a strong resource for Texas Holdem strategy at thepokerbank.com.

Basic Hold Em Strategy – Rules to live by at the poker table.

Checking Calling and Folding – Do I check, call or fold? How about a check-raise, what actions can i take?

Bluffing Tips– Bluff at the wrong time and you’ll lose your entire bankroll…learn when to bluff and why…

Poker Odds Chart – Poker Odds Chart and info on how likely hands are to win.

Online Poker Room Guide – a great way to practice is to play online, be sure you check out our in-depth reviews of online poker sites.

Basic Texas Holdem Strategy

1. Position is very important.
2. Start with strong cards.
3. Aggression combined with Tightness wins.

Which of the above rules is the most important?

Of course this question is debatable and there is no right answer, but I believe that Position is the most underrated factor in poker by MOST players. At the very least, the importance of position is the most overlooked factor by the average poker player.

Let’s take a look at position and why it can be such a powerful tool to build your bankroll


The best position in the game is the very last position, called the button. You have the opportunity to see what everyone does before you (with the exception of the blinds on the first round of betting.). This allows you to see what everyone else does before you have to act.

Everyone takes their turn, checking, betting or folding before you have to do anything. You can watch everyone in front of you… if you hold a marginal hand and there is little to no action in front of you might choose to bet right there and possibly win the pot. If there is lots of action in front of you, you can fold your hand without worry, which saves you lots of bets over the long haul.

Your position should factor into deciding whether or not to play in the hand from the very first round of betting. The general rule of thumb is that if you are going to play a weaker hand, play it from late position. So, what is a weaker hand? Let’s take a quick look at your starting cards.

What are Strong Cards?

Strong starting cards is relative. A general idea is that strong cards are mostly big pairs down through TT or 99, AK suited and offsuit and sometimes AQs.

Most of your starting hands, fold. Let’s repeat that, because it is important. You should fold most of your starting texas holdem hands. Don’t get involved with mediocre hands that will lose big pots. It’s bad business. Here are some that you can consider playing depending on your table and your comfort level with them. This is a good article on the top 10 starting hands in holdem.

Start with Strong Cards…

There is no exact rule as to exactly which cards you should play and which cards you should fold. The truth of the matter is, it depends. More of those pesky details we’ve mentioned before. Let’s just take your typical loose passive online game for example.

Pocket Pairs:

Any 2 hole cards that match up, Jh Js for example. Normally these hands are worth playing in most games. Medium to small pocket pairs can be tricky to play correctly. You get dealt pockets rarely enough that you really want to maximize your profit.

High Suited Connectors:

These cards have at least 3 things going for them. They have Flush potential, Straight potential and Top pair top kicker potential. On top of that, whenever the hand reaches its potential it is quite likely the nuts. For example. AK suited is a very strong hand. Also known as Big Slick. You should be betting this aggressively pre-flop. Note that KQ-s isn’t nearly as strong as AK-s. and QJ-s is even weaker. It is very easy to get out kicked or to land your flush draw but get dominated by someone holding A7-s. Be careful playing KQ/QJ-s in early position.

High Cards:

This will encompass the unsuited connectors, like AsKd and the one gapers, like AcQc. These hands have value in your poker arsenal, especially when you hold the A. If these are connected they add value to their potential. Remember, there is no hard fast rule as to which to play. In my book, the J is the lowest ‘High Card’ in the deck. Lot’s of people like to play A/10 and K/9. That’s a good thing for the rest of us. Remember, you want to fold most of your hands.

Suited Connectors:

9d/10d for example. These hands are sometimes worth playing from late position. These have straight potential and flush potential. Obviously the higher the connectors are the better. If you are late to act and there are lots of pre-flop callers this is a good time to play this hand. It is fairly weak on its own but it can turn into a giant with the right flop. You are looking for a straight or a flush, or even better a straight flush. I don’t recommend playing this hand if the pot has been raised/re-raised in front of you unless you’ve got a great read on your opponents and think that they are raising with junk. You’re probably way behind already and in most situations you should probably just fold.

So, how do you play these hands. In most cases, you play these starting hands aggressively.

How to play holdem aggressively. Aggression

In poker, aggression is good. What do we mean by aggression? I mean betting and raising instead of checking or calling in most situations. Since you are playing strong cards for the most part, you want to bet and raise the hand instead of just calling.

Here is a quick tip: You need a stronger hand to just call a bet than you do to raise.

Read that sentence again, it is important. Don’t be afraid to raise…raising is rarely a bad thing. Certainly sometimes you are raising into someone that has a better hand but they might not realize it. Raising gives you the opportunity to win the pot right there, you don’t have to have the best hand.

Sometimes it makes sense to check (when the flop totally misses you and you are early to act against a lot of opponents) and sometimes it makes sense to call. Like when you are on a draw with suited connectors. Calling one bet ‘just to see what the next card is’ is normally a bad idea if you are not on a strong draw.

Texas Holdem Hand Example – A common Rookie Error

You have A5s in late position. The flop comes A 10 9 rainbow.

Position 1 bets, 2 calls 3 raises and 4 folds. Now, it is to you.

Your options are Call, Raise or Fold. What do you do?

When I first started playing I would call just to see what my next card was, maybe I’d get another A or possibly hit my 5 for 2 pair. This is WRONG. Do not be that guy (unless you happen to be sitting at my table).

Fold or Raise. Those are your options.

In this situation I would consider that I am beaten by someone with an Ace with a bigger kicker or possibly 2pair. You are unlikely to be best here, so I fold this hand most of the time.

This is an example of tight and aggressive.

If you raise and are re-raised you know that you are behind and should fold. If you raise I’m pretty sure some of the early positions will fold possibly isolating you with the original raiser. Depending on what type of player he is he might be on a draw and trying to see a free card on the turn or he might have 2 pair already with A/10 or 10/9. If one of the early position players calls or raises you, they most likely have an A, but you can at least see how they will bet it on the turn. You can read this article on more common texas holdem mistakes and how to avoid them.

This is a very tricky hand to play and every time you are in this situation the outcome will probably be different. If you fold this hand now you could see that someone did have A/10 already and you were pretty much drawing dead, or they could hold K/Q and were hoping for the J to make the straight. Regardless of the outcome, play aggressively if you are going to play.


Poker is a game of action. When it is your turn for action, there are a number of things you can do. Here we will look at your options and begin discussion on reasons for taking each action, check, bet, call or fold.

Open | Call | Raise | Check | Check-Raise | Fold


If you are playing No Limit you will often times hear the expression ‘Open the pot’. Opening the pot means you are the first person to bet. In general, if you hear that someone just opened the pot, they have done more than just called the big blind, they have raised to a certain amount. A common opening amount in NL is a raise 3 times higher than the big blind. Betting is the act of placing your chips into the pot and claiming ownership. If no one else at least calls your bet you win the pot, you now own it. You can also open the pot in limit holdem as well, it is just more common to here the phrase when playing no limit.

Reasons for Opening

You should open a pot whenever you think you have the best chance of winning the hand. This doesn’t mean that you never open with a weak hand. As all actions in poker, they are dependent on the situation. Some tables you can get away with limping in with J/10 suited from early position… some you can’t. Watching higher stakes tournaments, pots are normally opened by a raising the big blind. Generally you open when you have a strong starting hand or that the game conditions allow you to cheaply play drawing hands. If you are later in position, or at an extremely tight table with a bunch of rocks, you can open the pot on a bluff just to steal the blinds. This is most effective from late position. The question of, “How much do I raise to open the pot with?” is a question for the forum, and this is a good discussion of how much to raise with pocket aces pre-flop.


Calling is when someone has bet before you and you match the amount of chips that they bet. Calling is done when you wish to continue in the hand but do not wish to raise. If someone before you bets $5 dollars and you have a drawing hand that you would like to continue playing you simply match that $5 and the action continues to the person on your left.

Reasons for Calling

You call bets because you want to see another card, or because you feel that someone behind you will raise and you will have the opportunity to re-raise. This calling with the intention to re-raise can be effective if you have a super aggressive player to your left and you you’ve got a monster and you want to get as much money in the pot as possible. This tactic will trap everyone in between the super aggressive player and yourself into contributing money into the pot when they would have folded if you were the one originally raising.

Often, you will want to see another card but you don’t want to raise the pot. On strong drawing hands it is often smart to call a bet because of the pot odds. Keep in mind that as you set your standards as to when you should call… you normally need a stronger hand to just call a bet than you do to raise it. Calling is a passive play.


Raising is when you increase the amount of money everyone else at the table has to put into the pot to continue in the hand. When it is your turn for action you raise the pot. Generally if you are playing Limit, raises will be in set increments. No limit you can raise as much as you choose. Calling a bet is not raising, even though there is more money in the pot. From our example above, in limit a raise would be making it $10 to go instead of just calling the $5. That means that all the players after you have to put $10 into the pot to continue their hand with the exception of the original raiser. He has to match the $10 you’ve put in but he already has $5 in the pot from this same round of action, so he only has to put $5 more in to call.

Reasons for Raising

Raising is an aggressive move, and aggression is rewarded in poker. Raising not only gives you the opportunity to win the pot right there, but it can give you valuable information about your opponents. If you think your opponents are on a draw, you should raise to make it cost as much as possible to complete the draws. If you think your opponent will fold to a raise and you want to win the pot right there, raise. If you want to find out the strength of your opponent, you can raise. If they re-raise you have to fear that they have a strong hand. If they just call you have to use your best judgment as to what they are holding.

If you are on a draw and in late position, you can raise to see a free card. For example you have 4 to your flush on the flop and an early position better bets. When the action gets to you, you raise it up with the hopes that on the turn, where the bets are larger, it will be checked to you. You now have the option of checking and seeing the river for ‘free’. Of course, you could also bet again on a semi-bluff and possibly win the pot there. Contrast this with the passive move of just calling a bet on the flop. The turn comes and it is very likely that whomever bet on the flop will bet on the turn, and now you have to pay 1 big bet to see the river.


Checking means that you can pass on betting or folding, but reserve the right to respond if there is any action after you in that round. Checking can only be done if there is no bet that you have to at least call to stay in the hand. Scott “What is Check” Stapp currently leads the contest for playing poker on TV whilst having no clue as to how the game works, even mechanically.

Reasons for Checking

There are many reasons for checking. You should check if your hand is beaten and you know it and you know your opponent knows it. This is a check/fold situation. Often times you will check if you are in early position and you know the flop helped out the competition a whole lot more than it did to you. If you want to see a free card to help complete your draw you can also check. A check is a passive move, except when you utilize its one unique feature… the check raise.

Check Raising

Check Raising is when you check your first opportunity to act because you believe someone will bet after you and you would plan to re-raise them. Check raising is a 2 part move and requires action from your opponents to be executable.

Reasons for Check Raising

The check raise an extremely aggressive move in poker and it conveys powerful hand strength. The check raise is a risky maneuver. The check raise is a two step process, you check your first opportunity to bet in that round and then if you get a second opportunity, you raise. There is no guarantee that someone after you is going to bet and give you the option to check raise, it could possibly be checked around. The check raise is certainly a valid arsenal to employ in your poker game. It keeps people from trying to steal with a bet on the button after you checked. A well timed check raise will keep the competition guessing as to if you have a powerful hand or not.


Folding is not calling or raising a bet before you, thus giving up the hand.

Reasons for Folding

Look for reasons to fold. Especially in low limit hold-em, you normally have to show down the best hands to win the pot. You should fold for many reasons. Fold most of your starting hands, fold most of your hands to lots of action in front of you. Fold, fold, fold. Don’t get involved in pots that you don’t think you can win, or that don’t lay you the proper odds for drawing to a monster hand.

If there is one word of warning about folding, is not to fold on the river unless you are VERY CERTAIN you are beat. Pots are normally large enough on the river that it doesn’t take but catching 1 bluff every now and then to make it worthwhile to call a river bet. Tight players will fold often, and tight is right.


It was easy as a kid telling your parents you were at your friend’s house the whole night and getting them to believe it when you were out having your first taste of a Budweiser six-pack. Bluffing in poker isn’t always this easy. However, if you read the table correctly, it can be even easier.

“The best horse doesn’t always win the race.”
-Irish proverb

When To Bluff | When Not To Bluff | Semi-Bluff | Using Odds To Bluff | Spot A Bluffer

When To Bluff

When should you bluff? That answer is dependent on the texture of your game, but here are some typical reasons to consider bluffing.

Bluffing is an integral part of your poker-playing arsenal. Learn how and when to bluff, and more importantly when not to bluff can greatly increase your bankroll. If you are never caught bluffing you probably aren’t trying it enough. If you are constantly caught bluffing you’re either bluffing too much, bluffing at the wrong times, or both. Deciding whether or not to bluff varies from situation to situation, just like most decisions in poker. There is a good article on when to bluff playing holdem for a more in depth study of when is and when is not good times to bluff.

Plain ole Bluff:

This is just betting with absolute nothing, just because you think your opponent will lay it down. This is probably the riskiest form of the bluff because if you are called you have only a miniscule chance of winning. This can be effective, especially in No Limit. Daniel Negreanu has utilized this style of play very effectively. He will put you all in with nothing based off of reads and his feel of the situation. If he doesn’t think you will risk your entire stack with top pair, he will put you all in. In most cases, this is probably unwise for most of us. Bluffing because it is the only way you would win a pot is a desperate move, and will rarely work.

Bluffing from the Button:

This is making a bet on the button because everyone has checked it around to you. Especially in higher stakes games this tactic is utilized. In general, this doesn’t work for most low limit holdem games, the bet simply isn’t respected, and more than that, most low limit players are loose and passive. They call a lot in general. Save this type of bluff for late in tournaments or in higher stakes games.

Representing a hand:

This is a bluff that is more common in the higher stakes games. This is where you ‘represent’ a hand by your betting actions. Examples being, betting out large when the 3rd of a suit hits the board. You act as if this card completed your hand and now dominates the two pair or set that your opponent is representing. In lower limit holdem, it is normally unwise to utilize this tactic. Simply because a large percentage of your opponents don’t give a second though to what you might be holding, only what they have in their hand. They will call you down without hesitation because they don’t even realize that you could have just made your flush, they just know that their two pair of kings and sixes is a pretty good hand! Chris Moneymaker used this to perfection in one of the biggest heads up pots in the 2003 WSOP, when Sam Farha folded top pair after deliberating for nearly 3 minutes. Sam even said, “Missed your flush eh…?” He sure did Sam… he sure did.

Stealing the Blinds:

Blind stealing is normally done from the button or one seat before. It is simply raising the bet with the hope that the blinds fold. This isn’t normally a wise idea in loose tables unless you have a fairly strong hand. Where it does come in handy is when the blinds get large enough later in tourneys and you’ve picked up that certain players are playing way too tightly. Do not attempt a blind steal if there are 2 or more opponents already in the pot before you, they will nearly always call you. Even if your blind steal attempt isn’t successful you’ve got good position to play after the flop. This is a good attempt to continue the bluff if there is little action in front of you. You raised pre-flop so your other opponents might think you have a strong hand.

Small number of people competing for the pot:

It is easier to get a small number of opponents to fold than a large number. With fewer hands out there, chances are better that no one has made a reasonable hand. This is a fairly common tactic and many players will not respect this type of bluff. Especially in the lower limits people will stay in the hand just to “keep you honest.

When you’re up against very tight players:

Tight players fold easily, oftentimes too easily. Bluffing here will not only give you the chance to win the pot, but it will be an excellent source of information. By bluffing pre-flop or on the flop against a very tight player gives you a wealth of information, as well as the opportunity to win the pot right there. If the tight players do not fold you should think twice about trying it again on a future round. They have something. You have to figure out if they have a made or drawing hand. If you are confident it is a drawing hand, you can attempt the river bluff. If it is a made hand, it is time to lay it down and worry about the next hand.

River Bluff:

If the river card doesn’t complete any draws it can be an excellent opportunity to consider a bluff. Lot’s of players live by the motto: “The moment you know you can’t win, throw in your cards”. It is often a good idea to bluff with a weak hand, like ace-high or lowest pair with these kinds of bluffs

You have excellent position, and it is checked around to you:

This play is depends heavily on the texture of the table you are playing at, as well as your table image. If you are a tight player and have not been caught bluffing recently, this type of bluff might be respected. If you are against 3 or 4 players in the field, it is quite likely that someone will keep you honest. We see this tactic employed in higher stakes games with success.

Already Bet Pre-Flop, but totally missed the flop:

This is more of a continuation of your aggressive play pre-flop. You raised it pre-flop representing that you have a good hand, even if the flop missed you it might have missed everyone else also. Even if it didn’t, you have a good idea of who you are up against by betting again on the flop. Callers in this situation either have a good hand already or are drawing to a great hand (or are very passive/weak).

You are Scary:

If you just won a hand through good play, the players who say “nice hand” are the ones who now respect you. They will more likely fold to your bluff if you play it right. Play the bluff the same way you played the strong hand. It keeps your opponents guessing and you currently have the respect (fear) of the table.

Weak Flop:

Some flops probably don’t help out the competition. Pretend that it helps you out and bet if you haven’t been caught bluffing recently. If you are called or raised, it would probably be a good idea to slow down this bluff on the Turn and River, someone has hit something and doesn’t believe that you can beat them.

When the board pairs:

A pair on the board scares most players. If the pair is 88 or lower it is an excellent opportunity to bet first out into this board. It is likely that these cards have been folded or are still in the deck. If you are called you need to proceed VERY carefully. If someone was holding A/7 suited and the board pairs 7’s, they will often just call on the flop so they can raise you on the turn.

When Not To Bluff

Many times, bluffing will simply not work out to your advantage.

Busted bluffing recently:

You got caught trying to bluff a pot with 7 2 offsuit from late position. No one respects you, you are going to have to showdown a couple of winners before you see any decent hands fold to your bets. Play it straight up for a while, and wait for a better opportunity. In online poker this is very hard to do, simply because players come and go quickly, and many of them don’t even realize that you just got bluffing, or that you’ve been playing straightforward for a while.

Dangerous Flop:

Flops that hold an Ace, or two overcards are likely to have helped someone out. These cards tend to make it beyond pre-flop. Also, players tend to continue to play their Aces. Even with a weak kicker, lots of players will go into a check/call mode with a pair of aces

Lots of competition:

Someone will keep you honest. Save your bets and your reputation. There are much better bluffing opportunities on the way.

Against bad players:

Many players don’t give a second thought to what you have in your hand. They are happily playing their cards and will simply call you down with nearly anything. They’re much more likely to “keep you honest” because they don’t realize what a money-loser that is. It’s much more profitable to play straight up in these games. Bluffing is only effective from a “fear” perspective in this case.

Just lost a huge hand, or have been on a bad streak:
You’re on tilt, and someone knows it. Patience young jedi.

Limped In:

Since you haven’t shown aggression pre-flop, your post flop bets don’t garner the respect they would if you had raised pre-flop. Lot’s of players will put you on a drawing hand, or on a bluff. If you decide to limp in, it is probably best to play your hand straight up unless you have an excellent read on the table and think that your opposition will lay it down.

The Semi-Bluff

The semi bluff is when you bet with a hand is currently weak but has the chance to draw to a very strong hand. Flush and Straight draws are excellent examples of an opportunity to semi-bluff. These are generally good opportunities to attempt a bluff, because even if your bluff doesn’t scare anyone away, your hand very well might improve to be the winner at showdown anyway.

Bet It Like You Got It:

The best semi-bluffs occur with the player raising pre-flop. This will chase out any limpers and will give the table the impression that you hold a strong pocket hand. These types of bluffs are best accomplished in a late betting position but can also be successful in an early one. The whole idea here is to get the table to think you have a high pocket pair or an ace with another face card, possibly suited. Let’s take a look at a couple of excellent semi-bluff situations.

For Example: You are dealt on the button: 2H 2S.

5 people call the big blind, 2 fold, the bet comes to you. Here, you raise a considerable amount. I recommend either the maximum allowed on a limit table, or in pot limit or no limit, at least 3 times the blind cost. Here’s a good example of what will likely happen:

Small blind folds, big blind calls, two other people call, all else folds.

Now you have a considerable pot here. The flop comes: Jh 3s 4d

This is an excellent flop to bluff with. Chances are, the only hands you need to worry about here somebody who holds AJ, KJ, QJ, JJ, or a pocket pair. Anybody else would have likely folded to the pre-flop raise. Now, it is very important to carefully watch how people bet prior to the bet coming to you. The table is already conscious of the fact that you pre-flop raised and they might be leery of throwing out any more of their chips and having you come over the top-which is exactly what you’re going to do. Once again, unless somebody bets really big here, you’re going to want to bet it hard. If you’re in limit poker, I suggest betting/raising to the max until you’re re-raised. If you’re in pot limit or no limit, consider your stack size at this point. If you’re short-stacked, you may want to go all in. If you have a large stack, Bet It Like You Got It. If you get called, you still have a few outs on turn and the river. However, I have found that if you keep betting like you have a big hand, eventually everybody will believe it and the only callers you’ll get are other people with big hands who won’t be folding regardless. The idea of the bluff is to get out the mediocre hands that probably beat you but don’t know it. If someone is holding JJ with this flop, there is no way they would fold this hand. If someone is holding A/4c they are very likely to let this hand go even though it beats your pair of 2’s.

When it comes to bluffing, a lot of people think that this involves throwing caution to the wind, all your chips into the pot, and hoping everybody folds to your 2 7 off-suit. This is not at all the case, although I have seen many poker players do this and have success-albeit more failure than success. A good bluffer knows the players on the table, knows his or her own reputation, and will use this knowledge to prey on the table itself or specific opponent’s weaknesses. A good bluffer is willing to bet all of his or her chip stack when they know their opponent(s) don’t have the best possible hand on the table. A good bluffer knows when they’ve been caught. Finally, and the bottom line to a bluff that works, is one that is respected.

Eilonwy 2-1-04

Using Odds To Bluff

Poker is a game with mathematical concepts and strategies. If you look at our odds pages you can get an idea of how some of these odds work and develop strategies to maximize your bankroll by using odds.

It’s always good to look at poker from a mathematical perspective, and that even applies to bluffing. You can determine finite amounts and percentages that can tell you if it is a financially feasibly good time to bluff. This is particularly useful when there are only one or two players and the pot is rather large.

It’s good to do these calculations with potential straights or flushes that appeared on the river, that you were going for but you didn’t make. It’s nice with a flop that starts with Heart, Heart, Spade, and ends with Spade, Spade. You had two Hearts. Or a flop like Five, Seven, Eight, and ends with Ten, Jack. You had a Six. It’s also good because they might have been on the same draw, which leads them to believe (also from on odds perspective) that you were not on that draw.

Let’s say that one of the above cases occurred in a $5/$10 game and on the river there is $140 in the pot. Your only opponent checks to you. If you check, you know you’ve lost. So you bluff. The reasoning is that if you invest another $10, you’re getting 14 to 1 odds. As a percent that’s around 7%. If they fold more than 7% of the time, you make money in the long poker game of life. If not, it’s a losing venture.

You still have to evaluate the player, but from a purely mathematical standpoint, you get the picture. You can also evaluate it by reasoning that they missed their draw more than 7% of the time and will fold.

If two players were involved in the pot, it cuts the odds in half. With three, it becomes 1/3rd of 7%, etc. You can see why you want to bluff against fewer players. This can be unreliable though, as some players will stay in purely based on pot odds. So when bluffing you cannot ever use just odds. Get a feel for your opponents, and act accordingly.

Spot A Bluffer

There are some concepts and things to look for when you think there is a possibility that someone is bluffing. This is not focusing on any tell that might have given the person away, such as a fake yawn or nervous twitch, but situations in a game where you could see your opponent attempting a bluff. You will never catch every bluffer, and you certainly shouldn’t try to but knowing how to spot a bluffer can have a great impact on your bankroll.

Being able to accurately spot a bluffer is more than just about tells, it is understanding from your oppositions point of view that it might be a plausible time for them to bluff.

Bet the Flop, check the turn:

This is a sign of weakness and should be exploited whenever you are confident that your hand is has the best chance of winning. Many players will bet on the flop from an early position hoping that no one will stick around, but will then check on the turn if they have callers. Generally this means that they were hoping that most everyone would fold.

Pot Odds are in their favor:

If the pot is small compared to the size of their bet it doesn’t make sense for drawing hands to call the bet. Also if the pot is fairly large but an obvious draw was missed you can expect someone to bluff at the pot just because of the size of the pot. If the size of the pot is large enough, it is often a good idea to call these bets with even marginal hands.

Ragged Flop:

If the flop is lots of low cards many time the first person into the pot will win the hand because it probably missed everyone and aggressive action is normally rewarded in poker. It’s also important to remember that many time a paired board is considered ragged, and when you hit trips which are different from a set, that your hand can still be vulnerable.

Single opponent:

It’s just the two of you, and it is always easier to bluff one person than two. This is where you really need to evaluate all the previous information you have about your opponent and make your decision. If you think he is bluffing you should re-raise him and put him to the test.

Paired flop:

This is a scary flop, because if someone does have the third of the pair he has a fairly strong hand. Especially if it is all low cards on the flop it is highly unlikely that someone has either trips or 2 pair, and a bet out into this board is hard to call.

No draws on the flop:

Many times people will bet out into a flop that doesn’t have any obvious draws to eliminate anyone holding even a backdoor draw. This is probably less common than our above reasons, but if this happens from the button or late position it is possible that they are trying to bluff.

Thanks and we’ll see you at the tables!