Bluffing is an art. It is a set of techniques used on the poker table with the objective to manipulate the decisions of the opponents. Betting or raising with mediocre hands in order to make the opponents think that you are holding a strong hand and fold their better hands is called bluffing.
If you are a conservative player who never bluff and play predictable (enters the pot only with a strong hand), the opponents fold their marginal hands quickly without contributing much to the pot. If a player bluffs too often, the opponents stop taking his bets seriously and call or raise without hesitation. That’s why it is important to adopt a mixed strategy as per the situation on the table.
There are different types of bluffs a player can choose to implement on the game table. The decision to pull off a bluff must be based on the number of opponents, their gameplay (skill set, experience, betting pattern, playing tendencies), position, stack size, table image, etc. Here we are going to talk about the most commonly used and profitable form of bluff in poker – continuation bet.
What is a Continuation Bet?
When a player raises preflop and continues betting in the rounds (flop, turn, and river) the bet is called continuation bet. If he calls the blinds, raises pre-flop and the opponent checks, he bets again to create the impression that he has a better hand than the opponent. Even if the flop does not help in improving the hand, the player feigns strength to make the opponent fold his cards.
Factors to consider before making a continuation bet:
1- It is better to use continuation bet in a heads-up game only. One or two players can be bluffed but if you play against multiple players, the chances are high that your bluff will ultimately become unsuccessful. If your “before the flop”bet is called by many players, it is an indication that someone is really holding a better hand than you.
2- You cannot determine what cards your opponent is actually holding. If the board comes of high cards (k, Q, J) and your opponent calls your bet, you need to deduce which card on the board helped him to create the hand and what is the possibility of him staying in the game for long. If you don’t find a clear answer, don’t bet anymore.
3- The bet should not be too low or too high. If the bet is low, the opponent can consider it an invitation and think about giving it a shot with an average hand. If you bet too high, you are risking more money than required, e.g. putting Rs. 1800 into Rs. 1000 pot rather than a relatively smaller bet of Rs. 900.
4- Choose the opponent to bluff by carefully examine his level of skills and playing style. Avoid making a continuation bet against calling stations. The opponents which rarely fold their hands can call your bet with any type of hand and steal the pot from you. Also use continuation bet as minimum as possible against highly experienced players easily figure out the strength of your in-hand cards by observing your game and call, re-raise, or check-raise your bets without a single thought.
5- Being “in-position” helps as you can see the actions of all your opponents before making your move. You can fold your cards before entering the pot if you hold a poor hand and you find the situation not suitable for a bluff.
It is not easy to deceive a skilled opponent in poker. But it is also not possible to have the best cards every time. It happens more than often that your strong hand which makes you enter the pot becomes worse at the river. In that situation, you can employ this bluffing strategy to attack your opponent with aggression to scare them away and take down the pot.