series originally appeared in Card
is the first of a four-part series on bluffing. Not only will
we show you how, when, and why to bluff, we'll also tell you
about some of the most famous bluffs in poker history.
is poker's magic elixir.
It's the sleight-of-hand where high art and drama reside.
It's the place where myths are made. After all, what's a western
movie without a poker scene with one player trying to bluff
another out of a big pot?
To those who do not play poker, or who have only a nodding
acquaintance with it, bluffing is where they focus most of
their attention when they think about the game.
this conversation ring a bell?
"You're a professional poker player? Wow; you must have a
real poker face."
Professional Poker Player: "Why do you say that?"
"Don't you need a poker face because you have to bluff all
PPP: "Actually, bluffing is only a small part of the
game, and good players don't really bluff that often."
"Hmmmmmmm, It's not like that in the movies."
[shrugging his shoulders with the resigned weariness of one
who's had similar conversations far too many times] "Well,
few things really are…"
Is Bluffing, Anyway?
most poker players to define bluffing and they'll tell you
about betting a weak hand with the hope of driving other players
out of the pot. After all, without bluffing, poker would be
a boring game. Bets would be made, and the best hand would
the cards figure to break even in the long run, without the
possibility that someone is bluffing each player would have
the same expectation, and when all was said and done, no one
would win any money.
there are winning players and those who lose most of the time.
And it's often bluffing - or more precisely the possibility
that one might be bluffing - that goes a long way toward separating
the wheat from the chaff. Bluffing, after all, is merely a
form of deception. And deception is an essential component
in winning poker.
all, if your opponents always knew what you had, they'd be
tough to beat. Deception is the art of keeping others off
balance. Like a misdirection play in football, or a baseball
player hitting behind the runner into an area vacated by the
infielder on a hit-and-run play, deception is a required skill
for any poker player.
Kinds of Bluffs
- or raising - with a helpless hand is only one form of bluffing.
It's not the only way to bluff. The process is reversible
too. Rather than acting strong with a weak hand, one can act
weak when holding a powerhouse hand in order to lure opponents
into a trap.
or raising on the inexpensive betting rounds in order to get
a free card later on in the hand - when the cost of bets double
- is another form of bluffing.
There's also the semibluff. That's a term coined by noted
poker theorist David Sklansky, who defines it this way: "…a
semibluff is a bet with a hand which, if called, does not
figure to be the best hand at the moment but has a reasonable
chance of outdrawing those hands that initially called it."
a semibluff, as opposed to a bluff with a helpless hand,
a player has two ways to win. His opponent might think the
bluffer has the hand he's representing and release his own
hand. If the opponent calls, the bluffer might catch the card
he needs and beat his opponent that way.
Importance of Bluffing
There are some players - it's only a few of them to be sure
- who never bluff. Once you learn who they are, playing against
them is easy. If they bet once all the cards are out, you
can safely throw your hand away unless you believe that your
hand is superior to theirs. If it is, you should raise.
Others are habitual bluffers. When they bet, you have to call
as long as you are holding any reasonable hand. Although habitual
bluffers will also make real hands every now and then, the
fact that they bluff far too often makes your decision easy.
By calling, you'll win far more money in the long run than
you would save by folding.
at how Bobby Baldwin bluffed Crandall Addington out of a big
pot during the finals of the World Series of Poker.
Bluffs: Baldwin versus Addington
the 1978 World Series of Poker no-limit Hold'em championship
Bobby Baldwin, then a professional poker player and now President
of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, was matched up against
San Antonio real estate investor Crandall Addington for all
Addington was heavily favored at the time, having about $275,000
in chips to Baldwin's $145,000. Baldwin bet before the flop
and Addington called. The flop was Qd 4d 3c. Baldwin bet $30,000.
What could he have? A flush draw or straight draw was a possibility.
So was a pair of queens.
Crandall Addington called without a moment's hesitation, a
sure sign he also had a good hand. The Ad fell on the turn,
making a straight and a flush distinct possibilities. Baldwin
made a $95,000 bet, adding it to the $92,000 already in the
pot, and leaving himself with only a few remaining chips if
he lost the hand. Addington went into deep thought. If Addington
called and won, Baldwin would be nearly broke, and he would
almost surely be the winner. If he called Baldwin's bet and
lost, the tables would be turned and Baldwin would then be
favored to win the event. If he folded, he would still have
a substantial chip lead on Baldwin and still be favored to
grind him down as the tournament wore on.
folded. As Baldwin gathered in the pot, he tossed his cards
toward the center of the table. They were the 10h 9h. Baldwin
had run a naked bluff, winning a $92,000 pot with absolutely
nothing - not even a draw. That turned the tide and Bobby
Baldwin became the 1978 World Series of Poker champion - although
whether he won it or stole it right out from under Crandall
Addington's nose is subject to interpretation.
to Part 2