Bluffing: A Critical Skill

‘Reprint’ from the main site


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In poker, bluffing is when someone bets or raises the stakes with an inferior hand. You can win with this strategy, but it’s not for the fainthearted. Follow these steps to master this important aspect of the game.

Look at your cards casually, showing no emotion. The idea is to be hard to read. You don’t want to appear excited or disappointed, regardless of what your hand may be.

Watch other players’ dispositions; if you sense anything, it should affect the way you play. If you feel another has a winning hand, you should fold.

Know the game. The more experience you have playing, specifically with the same group, will make it easier for you to anticipate others’ plays. Basing your decisions on these expectations will give you the upper hand.

Don’t show your cards if everyone folds. Take the pot and leave everyone guessing. This is your best bet, as revealing your hand may lead others on to your strategy, i.e., when you are likely to bluff in the future.

Think continuously about your hand in addition to those of other players when making bluffing and betting decisions.

When To Bluff:

Bluff when you have recently showed down winning hands: It doesn’t matter if the winning hand was Ace high or a full house, all that matters is that people saw you show the winning hand. That sticks in people’s memory (at least for a few rounds) and they will give your bets and raises more respect. Use that respect to win a few extra pots by bluffing.

Bluff when a small bet had a good chance to win a big pot: If you have a $1,000 and the pot is only $50, then shoving your entire stack in to win is probably going to lose money in the long run. You will definitely win the pot most of the time, but when you are called, you will have lost $1,000 trying to win $50. Conversely, if you bluff with a $25 bet to win a $50 pot, you only need to win 1 time in 3 to break even, and anything above that is profit.

Bluff against good players: This might seem counterintuitive, but one of the defining characteristics of a bad player is their inability to fold. A bad (or inexperienced) player will tend to call all the way to the river with a hand as week as bottom pair. A good player will usually be able to understand the strength you are representing, and will be more likely to fold their medium strength hands.

Bluff when your betting tells a consistent story: Lets say your raised preflop in a Texas Hold’em game holding 6-6. You get one caller, and the flop comes A Q 5. This is often a good spot to bluff, because your hand tells a consistent story: You raised preflop representing a strong hand (usually high cards), now the flop has come with some high cards, and you bet again. You could easily have hit this flop (although in this instance you didn’t) so your opponent will be likely to fold unless they hit the flop hard themselves.

The Turn card is very important. If you bet big on the turn when you’ve been betting moderately earlier, players will be more intimidated. If you think you’ve won the hand on the turn card, you may even want to check and then bet like crazy on the River. People are more likely to call a big bet if you checked before, thinking you might be bluffing. This works even better if you’ve been (accidently?) caught bluffing earlier.

When you think you can put your opponents on tilt.  Players do not like to be deceived out of their money. If you make a successful bluff against a player and show them, they may become frustrated and play worse in an attempt to get their money back. This is known as “playing on tilt”. However it is not advised to do this often as your opponent and others at the table may be out to get you, which will make the game trickier to play.

When Not To Bluff in Poker:

There are some times when even the best poker player in the world wont be able to get away with a bluff. Be wary in these situations; often the best choice is just to let the hand go.

Don’t bluff when you’ve recently been caught bluffing. If you have bluffed and been caught the last 3 hands in a row, chances are slim that you are going to get away with a bluff on the 4th attempt. Change gears and play tight for a little while, and then you can go back to bluffing once your image has evened out a bit.

Don’t bluff against multiple players. The more players left in the hand, the higher the chances that someone has a hand good enough to call or raise you, and that’s not what you want to happen when you are bluffing.

Don’t bluff when an opponent probably has a strong hand. There are some situations where you can be reasonably confident that your opponent’s hand is pretty good. Let’s say that your opponent raised preflop from under the gun and you called on the button with 22. The flop comes A K Q, and your opponent bets into you with a full pot sized bet. This would be an ill advised situation to put in a bluff-raise, since your opponent’s early position raise and large flop bet on a dangerous board likely indicates a very strong hand, 2 pair at minimum.

Don’t bluff bad players: There is a saying in poker: “If you try and bluff a bad player, you’re a bad player”. This is because bad players tend to call, even when they should fold. When you bluff into a bad player, all you are doing is helping your opponent to make “really great calls”, when they call down your bluff and they only have a weak pair.

Historical Prelude to

Poker: A Quick History

Poker is an old card game that developed and evolved over time.  The origins of Poker are traced back 1,000 years and across a wide range of civilizations to both the Sung Dynasty of 10th century China, and to Persia (Iran) from a game called “As Nas” dating back to the 16th century. There are many variations of Poker games that throughout its history have varied considerably.  That said, however, the two basic elements of a) psychological strategy and b) card ranking have always been the prevalent fundamentals to serve as key identifiers of this card game, regardless of the other less essential table rules that may vary.

In the 17th century, in France, the popular game of Poque is the version of the game that is most closely linked to Poker’s contemporary form.  Poque made its way across the Atlantic with a group of French settlers who eventually founded the city of New Orleans. From there, during the 18th and 19th centuries, Poker spread to the riverboats and saloons along Mississippi River and finally westward earning it the historical associations with America’s “Wild West”.


From Poque, the American versions soon became the game we know as Stud Poker.  Then, other variations developed and became popular, including: 5 Card Stud and 7 Card Stud, Texas Hold’em, Omaha and Omaha Hi-Low. Texas Hold’em however has gained a strong foothold as a tournament Poker game of choice.  During the 1970’s it experienced a rise to cult status when it appeared as the featured game in the World Series of Poker. Today it is by far the most popular of all where it is regularly played in leading online poker rooms and in land-based casinos around the world.

Tournaments: The World Series of Poker & Beyond

The history of poker would be incomplete without mentioning the rise of the World Series of Poker. The WSOP is the game’s most notable annual competitive tournament, attracting professional players from around the world.  The first person to win the title of Poker World Champion in 1970 was Johnny Moss when the game was held at Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas NV. Then in 2003, another Vegas operation, Harrah’s Casino, bought the exclusive rights to host the tournament which is now held annually at the Rio Hotel and Casino. Poker tournament fever continued its explosive growth and the World Series of Poker expanded to venues across the United States and across the world when the first-ever World Series of Poker Europe was held in late 2007. The World Series of Poker tournament circuit has reached epic proportions and is continuing to make poker history with over $100,000,000 in prize money and fifty-five gold-bracelet events.  Online Poker providers, however, like rising star are quickly developing ‘real feel’ electronic, online tournament poker sites where national and international player participation will be more readily available to everyone around the clock.  As Online Poker fever takes hold, so will a new breed of competitive events.

Facts & Names of Modern Poker Legends

The poker community has become so mainstream, that people’s interests in everything about the game is now rooted in popular entertainment with a particular fascination for its early American “pioneers”.  There are a few standout, historical heroes that come to mind whenever the conversation turns serious about the game.  The main ones are:

Doyle Brunson, the “Texas Dolly” was the first-ever million dollar poker tournament winner.

Facts & Stats:

  • 9 WSOP bracelets.
  • Authored Doyle Brunson’s Super System, authoritative tutorial book about Poker

Stu Ungar, “The Kid” is known as one of the game’s child prodigies.

Facts & Stats:

  • A champion player by the age of fourteen.
  • Considered to be a “natural talent” of this game.
  • 5 WSOP bracelets and
  • Earned an estimated $30,000,000 over the course of his career which was mostly lost to an abusive drug problem and which led to his premature death at the age of 45.

Johnny Moss, “the Grand Old Man”. His ‘moniker’ came from his youth when he was hired to monitor games at a local saloon in his hometown of Odessas, Texas, where he was a fair-play fanatic. One story recounts how he threatened to shoot (and eventually wounded) a man he caught spying on his cards during a game.

Facts & Stats:

  • Moss won eight bracelets in the 25 consecutive WSOP events that he participated in, between the years 1970 to 1995.

Thomas Austin Preston, Jr. , “Amarillo Slim” was controversial both at and away from the poker tables.

Facts & Stats:

  • Had a moderately successful career in show-business;
  • 4 WSOP bracelets and
  • Is listed in the Poker Hall of Fame.

Benny Binion, “The Cowboy”:

  • Founder of the World Series of Poker, playing a key role in bringing poker to the masses.
  • Propells Las Vegas into a world-class gambling resort as one of the most influential figures in the city’s history.

The history of poker will undoubtedly continue, and other rising stars will one day become recognized as poker legends. It’s entirely conceivable that a decade from now a few amazing JoinOurGamesPoker online tournament players will be adding their names to this esteemed list.

Happy 4thOfJuly from All of Us

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How Poker Taught Me To Make More Money With Fewer Stocks [reprint]



By Amy Calistri
June 13, 2013

On June 7, I watched the Internet video feed from Las Vegas as Mike “The Mouth” Matusow pocketed $266,503 by winning the 13th event in the 2013 World Series of Poker.

Matusow has won nearly $9 million playing tournament poker, and I’ve studied nearly every hand he has ever played. I even sat next to his mother the night he won $1 million in the Championship Event of the 2005 World Series of Poker.

During his recent tournament, Matusow seldom had the lead. But he played a disciplined game. He folded many hands while his opponents wasted chips, chasing after hands they didn’t have the odds to win. Matusow’s patience and premium hand selection over the course of the three-day event were rewarded with the first-prize gold bracelet.

I’ve played poker for more than a decade. I’ve had the opportunity to study — and go up against — some of the best professionals in the world. I’ve seen players amass big leads in a tournament, only to turn right around and give every chip back. In my experience, both as a poker player and an investor, the decision to not play a mediocre hand can be the most profitable decision you can make.

It’s easy to spot an inexperienced player at a poker table. He’ll be the guy who plays nearly every hand. He’s probably grown up watching televised poker, where folded hands are edited out to highlight the relatively few contested hands. In his limited view, he believes by playing more hands, he has more chances to win. He has no idea how many hands he’ll lose before he gets lucky.

I want this guy at my table for as long as his money lasts.

P.A.L. Guests Strike Gold in Early WSOP Events

Everyone involved in the poker world – players media, officials and fans – have waited patiently for the World Series of Poker to get here, and now, they have to wait no longer. As a media person who hosts some of the greats of the game on the podcasts, I’ve developed friendships among these players. (Well, maybe “friendships” is a little strong, but they’ve certainly have become my acquaintances.)

As a result, I now have many players to cheer on as they all chase poker’s holy grail: a WSOP bracelet. Basically, if they were on my show, I’m probably sweating them on the internet rail. (Everyone except Todd Brunson, that is.)

So far, with three events in the books, things are off to a great start for Poker Action Line guests. With my dual roles as radio talk host and monthly columnist for Ante Up Magazine, I follow the exploits of the South Florida players (after all, I am the “South Florida Ambassador for the mag), and I didn’t have to wait long for one of South Florida’s most popular players,  Darryll Fish, to come through. Fish, who coincidentally was Ante Up’s POY in 2011, reached the final table in the $5K Event #2, and despite being the small stack, finished in 3rd place and cashed for $215K. Darryll has been on the show a couple of times, and I wrote a column about him and his life at last year’s WSOP, so we’ll have plenty to discuss when he comes back on after the summer is over. (The high finish was especially gratifying for me to watch as Fish has a disastrous summer in 2012, with only 2 min-cashes to show for an entire summer at the Vegas felt.)

Before that, Chad Holloway won a bracelet in the opener, the Casino Employee’s Event , and while a lot of players don’t pay much attention to it, the victory was extremely popular among the media (check out the post below). Chad writes for Poker News and is the Wisconsin Ambassador for Ante Up, and he came up and introduced himself to me when I was at the Rio last year. We had a couple of nice conversations, and he later appeared on Poker Action Line – he writes many of the table updates/hand descriptions and is extremely knowledgeable about the game, and obviously, a great player as well.

Since then, a few other past guests have made deep runs (Amanda Musameci was 71st in Event #3, while Matt Salsberg was 21st and Maurice Hawkins 36th in Event #4), so I feel like this is going to be fun to watch this summer. With online poker just around the corner, and some participation in Fantasy Poker, I can’t wait to check out the chip counts and view the final table streams on a daily basis.

Hope you’ll join me for the ride on Poker Action Line. Report: WSOP 2013 Event Winner


Chad Holloway Wins 2013

World Series of Poker Event #1:

$500 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em ($84,915)


Listen to this week’s  podcast to hear BigDave Lemmon discuss this event and much much more.

Chad Holloway is the first WSOP champion of 2013.

After a 90-minute head-up battle, Chad Holloway has taken down his first gold bracelet. Holloway, whose previous biggest cash was $3,719 in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event at the WSOP in 2012, won $84,915 after outlasting a starting field of 898 players. Holloway, a writer forPokerNews, hails from Reedsburg, Wisc.

Fifty-five runners advanced to Day 2, at which point Holloway ranked third in chips. Holloway continued to rank among the top stacks for most of Day 2, and he was mostly able to stay out of situations in which he was all in and at risk.

The final table contestants were barely seated when the first player was eliminated. Hieu Le jammed after it was folded to his small blind, eventual second-place finisher Allan Kwong made the call with . Le held and failed to improve.

Shortly thereafter, everyone folded to Michael Trivett on the button, who raised to 27,000. Holloway three-bet to 77,000 in the small blind, and the big blind got out of the way. Trivett went into the tank before pushing all in for about 200,000 more. After some thought, Holloway called.


The flop came , and Holloway supporters cheered from the rail. A  on the turn left Trivett drawing dead, and he got up after the dealer rolled out the  river.

Tyrone Smith was the seventh-place finisher. The action folded around to him in the small blind. Bobby Rooney called from the big blind with  against Smith’s .

The board ran out  and Smith was eliminated.

Sean Small, who finished third at the WSOP Circuit Main Event in Council Bluffs, Iowa, for over $54,000 this April, was next to go. He shoved his last 89,000 in from the button and was called by Holloway in the small blind. His  failed to improve against Holloway’s .

Daniel Ellery went out in fifth when he called off his stack with  against the  of Brian Pingel on a board of . Pingel flushed him out with an  on the river.

Pingel’s good fortune wouldn’t last long, as he called a raise from Rooney and they took a flop heads up. The flop brought the , and Pingel checked. Rooney continuation-bet 55,000, and Pingel shipped all in. Rooney snap-called, and the players showed.


Rooney’s bottom two pair was in the lead, but he had a lot of cards to fade. A harmless  fell on the turn, and Pingel needed a heart or a seven to complete his hand. It wasn’t to be, as a  river ended his tournament run in fourth.

Three-handed play lasted over an hour, and the chiplead changed hands multiple times. Finally, Kwong raised all in from the small blind and Rooney instantly called off from the big blind.


 flop helped nobody, as did an  turn. On the river, heartbreak arrived for Rooney in the form of the , and he finished third for $33,903.

Kwong and Holloway battled heads up for more than hour. Both players seemed content to play small pots, and a halfhearted observer could have easily followed the back and forth with only an ear to the proceedings. Every time Holloway would scoop a pot, his deep rail section would clap, cheer and activate their screaming eagle sound effects. When Kwong took down pots, the only sound was the clinking of the chips as the dealer pushed them to the man from Oakland, Calif. The heads-up war was slow and close, as neither player could push far past a three-to-two chip lead.

Finally, the deciding hand took place. Kwong raised to 75,000 and Holloway called.

The flop came . Holloway checked and Kwong bet 85,000. Holloway reraised and Kwong shoved all in. Holloway snap-called and showed  for trips. Kwong tabled .

The  turn and  river did not improve Kwong’s hand, and he was eliminated in 2nd place and quietly exited the feature table area after shaking Holloway’s hand.

Holloway’s supporters mobbed him as he grinned with joy. Reports May 29 2013 ~ 44th Annual World Series of Poker

The 44th Annual World Series of Poker officially kicked off earlier today with the start of the $500 buy-in Casino Employees event and will be fully underway come 5 p.m. PDT with the start of what’s sure to be a star-studded $5,000 no-limit hold’em event.

2013 marks the seventh consecutive year that PokerNews will be live at the Rio in Las Vegas bringing you all the excitement from the tournament floor. You can expect a hefty dose of live updates, chip counts, interviews, videos, photos, podcasts, and much more.

During the past 10 years, the WSOP has seen an astronomical rise in attendance, and in turn, overall prize pools. Will the numbers continue to climb in 2013 thanks to the birth of regulated poker in both Nevada and New Jersey? Or will the lingering affects of Black Friday still dampen the field sizes? Keep your browser locked to PokerNews to find out.

Year # of Entrants Total Prize Money Awarded
2003 7,572 $21,789,060
2004 14,054 $45,973,770
2005 32,341 $106,055,907
2006 48,366 $159,616,588
2007 54,288 $159,796,918
2008 58,720 $180,774,427
2009 60,875 $174,013,215
2010 72,966 $187,109,850
2011 75,672 $192,008,868
2012 74,766 $222,045,377

Be sure to head to the PokerNews live reporting pages to get your daily fix of all the WSOP action!

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