BY RUSS SCOTT
OCTOBER 7, 2008
POKER ROOKIE ASKS WHEN TO GIVE UP ON A BLUFF
Bluffing in a home game and playing at an automated poker table in a casino are on readers’ minds this week.
* I am new to poker, so please tell me if there’s a good way to get out of a bluff if you think your opponent holds a good hand, or should you stick to your bluff for the entire hand no matter what? — Dan F., Los Angeles.
Bluffing is an important — and fun! — part of poker, Dan, especially in your home game where you face the same lineup of opponents each time. If you never bluff, the other players will always know you either have a made hand or are on a big draw, and they’ll act accordingly.
Bluffing should not be overdone, either. If you constantly fire bets and raises holding lousy cards, the other players will catch on quickly and your chips will disappear when they play back at you.
The best bluffs come in strategic situations. Here are two of the most common ones in no-limit hold’em:
* You’re in late position pre-flop and players have folded around to you. Go ahead and occasionally fire a raise of about triple the big blind amount with all but your worst hands. You’ll steal the blinds much of the time, and if you get called, your 8-6 suited or J-10 offsuit still has a chance to win.
* Rather than making random stone-cold bluffs, use the semi-bluff. For example, with a flush or straight draw, sometimes bet “on the come” if no one has shown strength. You don’t have a made hand, but your play has two ways to win — opponents might fold outright, or you could hit your hand if they call.
If you try a complete bluff that doesn’t work — especially at the end against a single opponent — show your weak cards one time early in the session (make sure no one else is left to act). As you fold, crack a sheepish smile and say, “Shucks, I was just kidding.” Your opponents will remember your bluff and pay you off later when you’re betting with a big hand.
The answer to your specific question is no, do not keep firing on a pure bluff each betting round if your opponent keeps calling. Chances are you’re beat and they won’t fold. With more experience and a really good read on your opponent, this play can succeed. In home games with modest stakes, it usually fails.
Until you have about 10 sessions under your belt, Dan, your best bet is to play solid starting hands, bet aggressively on favorable flops, and be prepared to slow down if you meet resistance.
That should keep you out of harm’s way most of the time and eliminate many tough decisions later in the hands, such as when your bluff goes awry.
* On a Caribbean cruise, I played hold’em on an automated table with no dealer. Being old and a traditionalist, I didn’t like it at first. But I must say the electronic table was efficient and did speed up play. Do you see the machines taking over in card rooms? — Doug B., Springfield, Ill.
Taking over? No. Becoming popular? Yes.
I haven’t tried one of the automated tables yet, Doug, but there are so many advantages that I believe they’ll be installed by casinos almost everywhere in the next year or so to give players the option of tables with dealers or without.
The casino benefits from reduced staff, of course, but also from increased rake since more hands are played per hour on the automatics. Cashing out with just a player’s card is much easier, too.
Players benefit from an error-free game and no tipping. Also, they can play smarter because they have instant access to the size of the pot and everyone’s chip count in making their betting decisions.
Online poker players accustomed to the technology should particularly gain an edge because now they can see their opponents’ physical tells, which of course isn’t possible playing on a computer at home.
Industry leader PokerTek, Inc., says it has installed more than 230 of its PokerPro tables in casinos worldwide. Notable recent installations have been at the Excalibur on the Las Vegas Strip and at the Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Card rooms in northern California, Michigan, Montreal and Atlantic City also have them.
I’ll for sure try one the first chance I get, Doug, but I’m not ready to give up the fun of playing with real poker chips and stacking them high after winning a big pot!
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
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