Calling Bluffs in No Limit Hold'em

After you master basic no limit Hold'em strategy, the next step is to add bluffing to your repertoire. Most seasoned players consider bluffing one of their most profitable moves, and it can certainly win a ton of pots where you would have lost a showdown. Since bluffing can be so worthwhile, it is even more worthwhile to learn how to counter bluffs. To counter a bluff, you have to first spot it, then make a play that will force the other player out of the hand. This article will examine the first part - how to spot a bluff at the poker tables.

Betting Patterns

Spotting Bluffs CartoonWhen you're playing online poker you won't have any live tells to clue you in on your opponents, so you'll have to rely on your opponents' betting patterns. There are a lot of great indicators that will clue you in to what cards everyone is holding, and all you have to do is pay attention to how the hand plays out. Follow these tips so you can always recognize bluffs at the poker tables:

Continuation Bets

One spot where players are often bluffing is when they make a continuation bet on the flop after raising preflop. If a player raised preflop, they're indicating that they have a premium hand - most likely a couple high cards. If the flop comes out rags and they fire into it, you should consider at least calling if not raising to see if they're stealing the pot. A lot of the time the player will only have AK or AQ for two over cards and will fold to your raise.

Occasionally you'll run into an over pair in this situation, but it is still a profitable play because odds are the other player just has two over cards, or perhaps a small pair that isn't worth much at all.

Betting a Scare Card

Another really common spot for bluffing is when the flop has two to a draw, and the turn completes the draw. For example, imagine the flop is 10JQ, you bet, and your opponent calls. The turn is a King, and all of a sudden your opponent fires out a large bet. In this situation, there's a good chance he/she is bluffing. Think about it - if you just hit the nut straight, would you come out firing? Most likely not.

Besides draws hitting, another common bluff spot is when an over card hits on the river. Imagine that you have KK and bet the whole way on a board that has a few draws. All of a sudden, the river brings an Ace, and your opponent fires out a large bet. If your opponent is very aggressive, I'd call him/her down here because it's likely they missed their draw and are trying to represent the Ace. However, if they're passive I'd have to think harder because they could have been in with a pair with an ace kicker (and now have two pair).

Bet Sizing

Another way to spot a bluff is through the size of your opponent's bets. If a player makes an unusually large bet, you should consider if they might be bluffing. Most players value bet with a winning hand, and when someone over bets a pot it usually means they're weak and want to take it right there. As a general rule, the larger a bet is relative to the pot's size, the more likely it is an over bet bluff.

Desperation Bluffs

Desperation bluffs are usually very easy to sniff out. A desperation bluff is any situation where another player all of a sudden shows extreme strength after appearing weak throughout the hand. An example of this would be a tilting player who check/calls all the way, then shoves their entire stack on the river. Odds are that the player is steamed and missed their draw but can't afford to lose any more chips. I recommend calling and teaching them a lesson.

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