Everyone gets dealt the same proportion of good and bad hands in poker over the long run. You’ll find your Kings run into Aces just as often as the other way around. People who end up big winners in this game do not already rely on the strength of their hands to win pots. Making moves at the table is an art form which requires a keen awareness of the situation – as well as an understanding of poker math. This article shows you how to make moves like bluffs, check-raises and slowplays in such a way as to minimize your risk and improve your chances of making a profit.
First up you’ll find information on bluffing, the best known ‘move’ of all, explaining how successful players like to bluff when they have a little in the way of backup. Next the check-raise is covered, followed by the slowplay. Finally I have covered some more advanced moves including the ‘float play’ and how to induce a bluff from an aggressive player.
Many new player think that successful bluffing is all about going all-in with no hand and hoping your opponent sees your big stack of chips and folds their hand. This bluff might be daring, but it will cost you a lot of buy-ins very quickly indeed in today’s online poker games.
Nowadays, poker players like to make sure that the odds are in their favor before starting a bluff. There are many factors to consider including how likely the flop is to have hit an opponent’s hand, your position in the betting and whether there has already been a bet ahead of you.
Bluffing is at its most effective when you have some backup. This can take the form of a draw to a flush or straight, or maybe a small pair and an over-card which might improve you to the best hand if you are called. Bluffing when you have outs is known as a ‘semi-bluff’. You are happy for your opponent to fold and to take the pot, and those times they call you still have chances to improve to the best hand. The best thing about the semi-bluff is that this move can be profitable even when the individual components (bluffing with nothing and calling to try and make your hand) would not be.
Looking out for flops with few potential straight and flush draws, straight forward opponents and position (acting last) will improve your chances of successful bluffing even more.
Check-raising is a power-move in poker, you are telling your opponent loud and clear that you have a great hand and that you intend to build a big pot with it. This move works by first feigning weakness by checking, then, when your opponent bets to try and take the pot away, you jump in with a re-raise. This will often win the pot immediately, and when it does not it will increase the pot size so that you can bet significantly more on the next betting rounds.
The problem with check-raising is that you are relying on your opponent betting to make it work. If they do not bet then not only have you failed to get any more chips into the pot, you have given away a free card which they can use to try and beat you.
The best time to try a check raise is actually when you think your opponent does not have much of a hand and is the type to take a stab at the pot to see if they can win it. Since they were likely to have folded when you bet out, the extra ‘stab’ bet can be seen as a bonus – you expect them to fold to your check-raise. If you find a stubborn opponent who calls a lot, then you could have found an ideal situation to get more money into the pot.
Slowplaying is more or less the opposite of bluffing. Instead of betting out when you have a weak hand, you are checking and calling when you have a very strong hand. Your intention is to let your opponents build up the pot for a couple of streets, then you bet big on the river when the pot is so large that your opponents do not want to give it up.
This move works best when you have aggressive opponents and when there are few flush and straight draws possible on the flop. If there are draws then it can be dangerous to slowplay, and you are more likely to get called by someone who feels they have some winning chances – so you should bet out. On a safe flop, letting someone try and push you out of the pot for a couple of rounds can be one of the most satisfying moves in poker.
Once you have mastered the 3 moves above, there are some more advanced moves waiting for you to try. One I personally love is known as the ‘float’. This is a form of bluff where you call a bet while in position on the flop with no hand (or not much of one). Your intention is to see if your opponent gives up on the hand on the turn, at which point you will bet to take the pot away. If it is not overused this is a useful weapon to have in your armory. You can also try checking behind on the turn when you do have a good hand, this can make your opponent think that you are weak and induce them to bluff into you on the river.
Remember that if you make moves every time, observant opponents will soon spot that you are acting inversely to your real hand strength. This is very easy for a good player to exploit, and the situation should be avoided where possible. Simply mixing up your moves with more honest betting according to your strength can sew enough confusion into the minds of your opponents to allow you to get away with stealing a few extra pots.