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Bluffing Online
06-02-2009, 09:01 AM
Post: #1
Bluffing Online
WHAT IS BLUFFING?

In the card game of poker, to bluff is to bet or raise with a hand that will fold enough better hands to be profitable. This is useful because it can cause other players to believe the bluffing player has a dominant hand, so that they all fold; the bluffing player then wins the pot. By extension, the terms are often used outside the context of poker to describe the acts of pretending knowledge one does not have, or making threats one cannot execute.


PURE BLUFF

A pure bluff, or stone-cold bluff, is a bet or raise with an inferior hand that has little or no chance of improving. A player making a pure bluff believes he can win the pot only if all opponents fold. The pot odds for a bluff are the ratio of the size of the bluff to the pot. A pure bluff has a positive expectation (will be profitable in the long run) when the probability of being called by an opponent is lower than the pot odds for the bluff. For example, suppose that after all the cards are out, a player holding a busted drawing hand decides that the only way to win the pot is to make a pure bluff. If the player bets the size of the pot on a pure bluff, the bluff will have a positive expectation if the probability of being called is less than 50%. Note, however, that the opponent may also consider the pot odds when deciding whether to call. In this example, the opponent will be facing 2-to-1 pot odds for the call. The opponent will have a positive expectation for calling the bluff if the opponent believes the probability the player is bluffing is at least 33%.


SEMI-BLUFF

In games with multiple betting rounds, to bluff on one round with an inferior or drawing hand that might improve in a later round is called a semi-bluff. A player making a semi-bluff can win the pot two different ways: by all opponents folding immediately or by catching a card to improve the player's hand. In some cases a player may be on a draw but with odds strong enough that he is favored to win the hand. In this case his bet is not classified as a semi-bluff even though his bet may force opponents to fold hands with better current strength. For example, a player in a stud poker game with four spade-suited cards showing (but none among their downcards) on the penultimate round might raise, hoping that his opponents believe he already has a flush. If his bluff fails and he is called, he still might be dealt a spade on the final card and win the showdown (or he might be dealt another non-spade and try his bluff again, in which case it is a pure bluff on the final round rather than a semi-bluff).


WHY BLUFF?

There are two main reasons why to try bluffing. Bluffing can increase your profits by winning pots when you don’t necessarily have the best hand (or even anything at all). Bluffing also increases the likelihood that your opponents will call you in the future when you do actually have the best hand. But first, what you must realize is that bluffs don’t have the same advertising value on the internet as they do in a live game. This is an important point that many players trying online for the first time struggle to get to grips with. First of all, many players don’t pay as much attention to the game online as they do in a casino. They might be playing two tables, watching television, eating a pizza, or reading their email. Chances are they’ll be doing anything other watching you when you want them to pick up on your behavior. In addition, you rarely play with the same opponents very long on the Internet to take advantage of your “loose” image. You might try a bluff online and then 15 minutes later there are five new players sitting at your table, completely oblivious to the stunt you just pulled for effect. Of course, sometimes bluffing is needed in games where the players don’t move in and out of the game a lot or you are against regular opponents, but this is the exception rather than the rule on the Internet. The bottom line is that bluffs on the Internet generally only derive value from the particular hand you are playing. Since the advertising value of bluffs goes down, bluffing in general is less profitable on the Internet than in a live game.


INTERNET CHARACTERISTICS

You’ll probably find that bluffing tendencies are different in online games than in live games. Against good advice, players tend to bluff a little more readily online than they do in a live game. Why is this? Well, I believe that people’s propensity to bluff more online is the result of two characteristics that are pretty much unique to the Internet. Firstly, there’s that virtual wall of the web that makes many players play a little more deceptively than they would against a live opponent. You’ll see opponents who are normally very tight players in real-world card rooms gain a little more courage and confidence to try tricky plays since they don’t have to look you in the eye to do it. For those players who play the game for the thrill of making a successful bluff, this ‘virtual wall’ provides the perfect environment to seek their adrenaline rush. And secondly, the virtual environment also makes it easier to commit your chips to try a bluff. If you are contemplating a bluff, all it takes is one click of the mouse. Compare this to a live game where you have to physically move your chips into the center of the table while your opponents are watching you. Many players become careless with these ‘virtual’ chips.


IT WORKS BOTH WAYS


Since your opponents will tend to bluff more, you will need to keep your opponents honest a little more often online than you would in a live game. Don’t get carried away with this, but always look for those players who are trying to win every pot with a bluff. Since there is a lot of bluffing going on in Internet games, your opponents will also tend to call bluffs a little more often than they would if you were sat across the table from them. When contemplating a call, that quick click of the mouse is easily accessible for your opponents to see what you have. Your opponents have a tremendous curiosity to see what hand you hold; therefore, choose your bluffing opportunities a little more carefully online than you would in a live game. The truth is that in most low-limit games, profitable bluffing opportunities are far and few between, so proceed with caution. Internet games are very different than live play. Bluffing on the Internet doesn’t have the same advertising value online as it does in a live game. First, many players don’t pay as much attention to the game online as they do in a casino and won’t even notice your bluffs. When you’re playing against somebody on a site, you don’t know whether they’re paying attention to the game, the chat box, or something completely different. For instance, they might be playing two tables, watching television, or reading email. In addition, unless you take part in poker forums or play very high stakes games, you very rarely get to play with the same opponents for long on the Internet to give you a shot at taking advantage of your “loose” image. You might try a bluff online and then 15 minutes later there are four or five new players sitting at your table. Of course, sometimes bluffing is needed in games where the players don’t move in and out of the game a lot or you are against regular opponents, but this is the exception rather than the rule on the Internet.


THE BOTTOM LINE

The bottom-line is that bluffs on the Internet generally only derive value from the particular hand you are playing. Since the advertising value of bluffs goes down, bluffing in general is less profitable on the internet than in a live game. In fact, in most low-limit games, profitable bluffing opportunities are far and few between. The best times to try your bluffing tactics are in the short-handed games and the tight high-limit games. Of course there are always times that you might be presented with a profitable bluffing opportunity - but just be sure that you evaluate the situation very carefully and don’t raise the pot to the roof with rag cards just because you can.


BLUFFING CIRCUMSTANCES

Bluffing may be more effective in some circumstances than others. Bluffs have a higher expectation when the probability of being called decreases.

Several game circumstances may decrease the probability of being called (and increase the profitability of the bluff):
•Fewer opponents who must fold to the bluff.
•The bluff provides less favorable pot odds to opponents for a call.
•A scare card comes that increases the number of superior hands that the player may be perceived to have.
•The player's betting pattern in the hand has been consistent with the superior hand they are representing with the bluff.
•The opponent's betting pattern suggests the opponent may have a marginal hand that is vulnerable to a greater number of potential superior hands.
•The opponent's betting pattern suggests the opponent may have a drawing hand and the bluff provides unfavorable pot odds to the opponent for chasing the draw.
•Opponents are not irrationally committed to the pot (see sunk cost fallacy).
•Opponents are sufficiently skilled and paying sufficient attention.
•The opponent's current state of mind should be taken into consideration when bluffing. Under certain circumstances external pressures or events can significantly impact an opponent's decision making skills.


OPTIMAL BLUFFING FREQUENCY

If a player bluffs too infrequently, observant opponents will recognize that the player is betting for value and will call with very strong hands or with drawing hands only when they are receiving favorable pot odds. If a player bluffs too frequently, observant opponents snap off his bluffs by calling or re-raising. Occasional bluffing disguises not just the hands a player is bluffing with, but also his legitimate hands that opponents may think he may be bluffing with. David Sklansky, in his book The Theory of Poker, states "Mathematically, the optimal bluffing strategy is to bluff in such a way that the chances against your bluffing are identical to the pot odds your opponent is getting."

Optimal bluffing also requires that the bluffs must be performed in such a manner that opponents cannot tell when a player is bluffing or not. To prevent bluffs from occurring in a predictable pattern, game theory suggests the use of a randomizing agent to determine whether to bluff. For example, a player might use the colors of his hidden cards, the second hand on his watch, or some other unpredictable mechanism to determine whether to bluff.

"Depend on the rabbit's foot if you will, but remember it didn't work for the rabbit." - R. E. Shay
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06-05-2009, 06:47 AM
Post: #2
RE: Bluffing Online
Here is another hint on bluffing online. Look at the little stat box at the bottom of the page. Notice how many hands you won "without showdown." You might as well have bluffed to win them! Having the cards gave you the confidence to make the bet, but they didn't matter!

http://www.azduffman.com
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