Stopping Bluffs

Essentially the strategy to stop bluffs is to represent more strength than you actually have. Your opponent will not try to bluff, thinking you have at least a calling hand and perhaps better.

Let's say you are playing draw poker, jacks or better to open, against someone you want to stop from bluffing. As the dealer in last position, you open with a pair of aces. After having originally checked in a very deep position, the potential bluffer now calls you. There is no chance that player has something like two pair, since in that case he would have opened himself. Instead he must be on the come. Drawing first, he takes one card, which either makes his hand or doesn't. Now you stand pat! Even when you check after the draw, your opponent will almost never bet unless he actually made his hand. He certainly will not try a bluff in the hope that you will throw away a pat hand. He probably won't even bet a small straight. If he does bet, he's made his hand, and you fold, knowing you have not cost yourself any money — that is, knowing your opponent did not steal the pot from you.

To stop a bluff in this spot, some players would draw one card, representing two pair, and many players would draw two, representing three-of-a-kind. But in either case, their opponent may still bluff, and he will probably be bluffing approximately correctly. By standing pat, you are stopping the bluff almost completely at almost no cost to yourself. Since you have two aces, there is no chance your opponent can catch a bigger pair than yours, and the odds are approximately 500-to-l that you would make a full house by drawing three cards at the same time that your opponent makes a straight or flush.

By stopping a bluff in this fashion, you have reduced your opponent's chances of winning money from you to a minimum. Let's assume the opponent who draws one card makes the hand 20 percent of the time. When that opponent never bluffs — and by standing pat you have pretty well forced him not to bluff— you win the pot 80 percent of the time. Given the pot's size, your opponent's proper bluffing frequency, according to game theory, is about 7 percent. However, as long as your opponent bluffs anywhere from 1 percent to 20 percent of the time, he does better than if he doesn't bluff at all. If, for instance, he bluffs only 2 percent of the time, you still shouldn't call when he bets, and now he wins 22 percent of the pots rather than 20 percent. If he bluffs 10 percent of the time, he is still a 2-to-l favorite to have his hand made when he bets. Since the pot is giving you better than 3-to-l odds with the antes, you are forced to call, but you will lose that last bet two times out of three. So you clearly fare better when this opponent never bluffs (or, of course, bluffs way too much) than when he bluffs anywhere near correctly.

Suppose you are up against an opponent who usually bluffs correctly in hold 'em, and the following hand develops:

Board

Your opponent is first to act and he bets. You are worried about a flush or a straight, as well as other hands, but you are also worried about a possible bluff. Therefore, after he bets, you should raise with your two small pair. If he calls with, say, a pair of kings or a four-flush, he will certainly not try to bluff you out on the end. On the other hand, if he reraises or calls and then bets on the end, you should usually throw your hand away. You know you are beat since your opponent would be afraid to bluff you after you have suggested so much strength.

Inducing Bluffs

When you are up against a player who bluffs too much, rather than stop his bluffs, you should usually induce one. Let's take an example similar to the draw poker example earlier. Once again as the dealer you open with two aces or even two queens, and an aggressive player who originally checked now calls. This player takes one card, and you're sure he's on the come. Since you want this player to bluff, you should go out of your way to take three cards, making it clear you're starting off with only one pair. Now if he bets, you call. Even if you've succeeded in increasing the player's tendency to bluff only slightly, you have gained by inducing a bluff. You have given yourself more winning chances when you call that last bet than you would have otherwise had.

Just as you try to stop a bluff by representing strength, you try to induce a bluff by representing weakness. Let's say you have a high pair in the hole in hold 'em, and on fourth street the board is something like:

*Jft Jft

(s a

*

¥

rt

*

*

♦ n

*

*

▼9

» 5

You should check behind an opponent who checks if you want to induce him to bluff on the end. The only dangerous thing about this play is that you are giving your opponent a free card. If he has an ace, any ace on the end gives him the best hand. However, if he has a small pair, the odds are a long 21-to-l that he will improve to three-of-a-kind. Of course, if your opponent is slowplaying three 9s, you are already beat, and you save a bet. The question you must ask yourself is whether you want to bet on fourth street to avoid giving a free card or whether it's worth trying to induce a bluff on the end.

Sometimes inducing a bluff is nearly the same as slowplaying. Take this hand from seven-card razz:

Opponent

You have the best possible first four cards. Yet you should frequently check and call if your opponent bets. Besides disguising your hand, you are inducing a bluff on a future betting round.

When you are inducing opponents to bluff, it isn't necessary to lure them so far away from correct bluffing strategy that they are favorites to be bluffing when they bet. All you want to do is lead them to bluff significantly more than the correct frequency. Clearly you should never stop bluffs by people who bluff way too much. However, it may be correct to induce bluffs from people who rarely bluff if you can induce them to bluff more often than their chances of making the hand.

Summary

Players who bluff with approximately the correct frequency are dangerous opponents because they often force you into the position of making an incorrect play. Therefore, it is important to try to stop or induce bluffs to lead opponents away from correct bluffing strategy.

You should normally induce a bluff against players who already bluff too much and stop bluffs against players who already bluff too little.

In the first case, you are in a situation where you would have to call if your opponent bets. By inducing a bluff, you increase your chances of winning that last bet since your opponent will bet more hands — including his bluffs — that you can beat than he otherwise would.

In the second case, against someone who bluffs too little, you feel you would have to fold if that opponent bets, even though there is some chance he might be bluffing. By stopping his bluffs, you reduce the opponent's chances of winning since he will bet only when he has made his hand, and you can comfortably fold.

Besides artificial means, you try to induce a bluff by showing weakness on an earlier round; you stop a bluff by showing strength on an earlier round. Thus, inducing a bluff is something akin to slowplaying, and stopping a bluff is something akin to semi-bluffing.

When you induce a bluff, you plan to call if your opponent bets since you have increased the chances he is bluffing. When you stop a bluff, you plan to fold if your opponent bets since you have reduced or even completely eliminated the chances he is bluffing.

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