Learning when to turn a made hand into a bluff is one of the most beneficial lessons for mid-stakes players. It takes study, practice and experience, but with a few key tricks you will be able to better navigate river decisions and understand when to turn your hand into a bluff.
Before we get into the different factors to consider, it’s important that you have the right mindset. I see many players grumble over the fact that a bluff would have worked ‘that one time’, so it must be the right play. Don’t fall into the trap of being result-oriented. Sometimes your bluffs will get called, but by understanding when to turn your made hand into a bluff, your overall win-rate will skyrocket.
When to turn your made hand into a bluff:
• When the opponent can fold to a bet or raise It’s important to understand your opponent’s tendencies. Does your opponent have the capability to fold a better made hand than yours? Will your opponent ever fold an over-pair on a 4-straight board, or are they a calling station? If you know your opponent can fold a made hand, it could be reasonable spot to run a bluff.
• When your hand has relatively low showdown value If your hand won’t win very often at showdown and it falls near the bottom of your range, it’s likely a good spot to turn your hand into a bluff.
• When your hand blocks your opponent’s obvious calling range This is perhaps the most important thing to consider. If you block a large portion of the calling hands that should be in your opponent’s calling range, it’s likely a good spot to bluff.
So… if you know your opponent is capable of folding a made hand, your hand is unlikely to win at showdown, AND your hand blocks your opponent’s calling range, then it’s time to turn your made hand into a bluff!
Example 1: UTG +1 min-raises and I defend from the BB withThe flop comes 8-6-2 rainbow and I check/call a bet of 40% pot. After the turn goes check/check, the river comes the If you know your opponent is capable of folding a better made hand, this is a reasonable spot to turn your hand into a bluff. On the flop, my hand was marginal, but by the river my hand has relatively low showdown value. After some range analysis using the Float the Turn Range Analyzer, if the opponent folds all one-pair hands and worse, he will be folding roughly 2/3 of his range, making this a profitable spot to bluff! I choose to bet 70% pot and villain folds.
Example 2: MP2 min-raises and I call on the BTN withThe flop comes 9-7-5 rainbow, villain bets 40% pot, and I call. The turn is the , villian bets 40% pot, and I call. On the river is the and villain, once again, bets 40% pot.
This is another reasonable spot to turn my marginal made hand into a bluff because 8-8 blocks hands in villain’s calling range, such as J-8, and I do not have enough showdown value to call. The villain is representing a condensed range containing good, but non-nut hands. He could easily be making a thin value bet with one pair and I have plenty of two-pairs and better in my range that can confidently raise for value. Taking all of this into consideration, I raised to 1.6x pot and villain folded.
I hope that this summary shined light on a few of the factors to look for when turning your marginal hand into a bluff and how to apply the strategy in game! If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out my training site PokerCoaching.com for lots of quizzes that will help you learn to implement this strategy in real time.