Thursday Poker Blog! Calling the Bluff


Welcome back to your Thursday Poker Blog everyone!  Who else is looking forward to this three-day weekend!? 

Last week on the poker blog, we discussed the art of bluffing.  In particular, we noted that bluffing is sometimes worth the risk because of the psychological high it brings to the successful bluffer.  Today we will discuss an equally satisfying maneuver — the successful call of another player’s bluff.

Last night was my weekly Wednesday home poker game with my good friends.  We typically play two sit-n-go’s with 2500 chips to start.  Last night, as we do on occasion to switch it up, we switched to one game with 5000 chips.  After an hour of boring poker for me, which included a string of interesting hands that never got help from the board (the story of my last month), one hand swung some momentum in my favor. 

I had A-x offsuit in the small blind, with one caller from early position, a close friend with whom I’ve played for years.  After a flop of 10-9-2 (no help to me), we both check.  The turn brought another 10, and also produced a flush draw.  At this point I believe my ace is good against the caller, but I’m unsure of the big blind.  To see where I stand, I bet out about half the pot.  The big blind folds immediately and the caller, after some deliberation, calls my modest-sized bet.

At this point, I am putting my friend on JQ, JK or a flush draw.  To have checked the flop with a T or a 9 against two players in position made no sense.  To have a 2 in his hand limping from early position made no sense (unless he’s slow-playing 222TT, which happens sometimes!).  Two overcards with a straight draw or a flush draw sounded right to me.  The river brought a low blank (I don’t remember specifically but it did not complete the flush, and did not complete any of the would-be straight draws).  At this point, I have ace-high, my “hunch” is that it’s the best hand, but still no where near good enough to bet out for value.  I check, and heeeeeeeere comes the bluff!  My friend bets out 800.  Now, of course, my friend could have 222TT, or even TTT99 or even AATT.  BUT, because of the large chipstacks and because I kept the pot size relatively small by checking rather than betting, I can afford to take a chance and call.  My friend immediately says, “Good call, you got anything?”  I say, “Nope not really.”  He shows his KJ, and my ace takes the pot.  I scooped one of the bigger pots of the night to that point, and served notice to the table that I was ready to play.  I ultimately chopped the purse with another good friend, ending a drought for me at the table. 

So, what are some ways to help you pick off a bluff?  Here are some tips:

1) Does THEIR story makes sense?  Remember last week when we discussed bluffing I said that each hand is a story, and for you to try to make sure your story makes sense before you bluff?  The same thought process applies to calling a bluff.  In the hand from last night, I discussed how it really did not make sense from my opponent to have a T or a 9 or even a stronger Ace (remember no pre-flop raise).  So, the hands he’s betting with are either a monster like 222TT or AA, or he could be boldly value-betting a middle pair like 77.  Ultimately, I believed that a busted draw made more sense.

2)  Control the size of the pot as best you can.  It’s a lot easier to make a bold decision when a wrong decision will not end your tournament or cripple your stack.  Aggressive players prey on this fact.  In the hand above, the small bet on the turn follwed by the check on the river helped keep the pot manageable so that a misstep would have not taken me out of the game. 

3) Let the math do its thing.  Everyone seems to believe they have bad luck at the poker table, meaning that they think every time that are all in preflop with A4 against another player’s 79, they will lose.  However, it’s just a psychological mirage because we remember negative history more strongly than positive history.  The point here is, particularly late in tournaments in shorthanded situations, don’t be afraid of 60/40 all-ins.  There is a lot of fast and loose moves late in tournaments as all players become short-stacked against the blinds.  The a6 against q9 may be the best odds you see for awhile.

Explore posts in the same categories: Poker Tips and Tales

5 Comments on “Thursday Poker Blog! Calling the Bluff”

  1. K O'Malley Says:

    I think you missed a major point in this post and the last post, which is –

    Sometimes you HAVE to get caught bluffing, or no one will know you are willing to bluff. And finding the time to get caught is a rather undervalued skill, no one really wants to lose, but sometimes a big loss sets you up for a big win down the road.

    Also i know you do not do criminal and im not sure how big it is down south, but up hear Casey Anthony trial is airing pretty much 24/7 (they have a channel devoted to it in the “OnDemand” where you can rewatch every day of the trial….. how bout your take?

    • Craig Salner Says:

      Hi Kev,

      I have to respectfully disagree with your poker take. Remember that not every bluff is going to work to begin with, so your opponents should see that you occasionally bluff just as a matter of course (during the times when you get caught). I don’t think you want to be loose enough with your chips to also budget in some “intentionally unsuccessful” bluffs.

      I wish I had a take on the Casey Anthony trial but no I’m not familiar with it.

      Have a great long weekend!

  2. BePro2011 Says:

    I think that everyone should start by playing poker for free before they start gambling. There are many websites that let you play for fun, but at the same time this can actually ruin your game more than anything. You can learn bad ideologies when you play with weaker opponents. But jumping into high cost games is also absurd. There are many poker games on social websites like Zynga and Ultimate poker pro, that allow you to play against lots of opponents for free. I would start there…

  3. Bjorn Hansen Says:

    I agrre with Bepro…learning to play good poker starts at playing without involving money and watching experience pros caompete and also by researching and asking players…thats what i think

  4. I have read so many articles about the blogger lovers except this post is in fact a fastidious post, keep it up.

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