Bet with your Natural BluffsA natural bluff is a hand that is more suited to bluffing than most other hands in your range. Here are some factors that make a hand better to bluff than average.
- Lack of Showdown Value: When a hand has the ability to win at showdown by checking, it is usually less sensible to turn it into a bluff by betting. This is due to the comparative EVs of the two options: bet and check. If we risk a pot sized bet with a pure bluff, then we need our opponent to fold 50% of the time to break even since we are risking 1 unit to win 1 unit. If Villain folds 55% of the time, this means that bluffing is +EV, but that does not necessarily make it correct. If checking is also +EV, then it might be better on average than betting. The higher the showdown value of the hand, the higher its pot-share at showdown and the higher its checking EV. We bluff with a lack of showdown value not because it makes the EV of betting higher, but because it makes the EV of checking lower.
- Unmade Hand Equity: In other words, draws without pairs. A hand like an open-ended straight draw will win the pot around 16-20% of the time with just one card left to come. This means that it will benefit massively from making the opponent fold. If we do get called, we have the chance to get there and win a very big pot by betting again on the river. Therefore, these hands gain EV by bluffing the turn because they have a low checking EV due to poor showdown value, but a high betting EV because they sometimes win huge pots if Villain calls and benefit greatly when he folds.
- Blockers: If you have a hand that makes it harder for Villain to hold a strong hand, then you have a hand that weakens his range and increases your fold equity. On a board like K448, there are very few natural bluffs that meet the first two criteria, but there are available bluffs like QJ, QT, and JT, which make it hard for Villain to hold one of the better Kx hands (KQ, KJ, and KT). We should consider betting combos like these air hands when the board offers us little chance of having non made hand equity with which to bluff.
Attack Turns That Improve Your Range but not Villain'sLet's imagine we open to 2.5BB on the BU and get called by the BB. This is the most common pot that is played in 6-max cash games and so makes a fine template for investigation. The flop comes 832r (r stands for rainbow meaning all different suits) and we bet two thirds of the pot with a fairly wide array of hands – after all, we have a large advantage on this flop range vs. range as the pre-flop raiser because this is not a flop that allows the BB many chances to catch up to our range, which is richer in overpairs than his. Villains makes the call and the turn brings an off-suit K. Villain's range contains very few combinations that connect with this card as he was very likely to fold hands such as: [KJ, KT, K9 etc.] to our large flop bet. Therefore, we can bet very often here at a large sizing (and might even consider over-betting the pot) to apply pressure. Most players fold more of their range to a large turn-bet on this card than they should. We exploit this by bluffing with many more hands than just the natural bluffs we learned to recognise in tip 1. Meanwhile, we can hit this turn very often with many of the hands we C-Bet bluffed on the flop.
Check Medium Strength Hands to Bluff Catch RiversA hand like second pair has limited capacity to value bet multiple times. The value starts to run out if we build a huge pot as Villain's range filters, leaving us in the sad state of being isolated against mainly stronger hands. If we c-bet a flop of QJ4 with KJo in the same positions as above and are called, then we will usually choose to check behind on non K or J turns. This is because our hand is not strong enough to value bet multiple times but has enough showdown value to pick off bluffs on the river. We can of course also choose to value bet the river and get our second street of value that way, should Villain check again on the end. By checking the turn though, we achieve two important aims.
We punish Villain for calling the flop c-bet with draws and backdoor draws and then bluffing the river with them if he misses. Another way of looking at this is that we protect our turn checking range. There will be various air-ball hands that we give up with on blank turn cards and so we must ensure that we are not always surrendering the pot when we check behind.
Secondly, we keep the size of the pot under control, preventing any situation where we get raised on the turn and ensuring that we will always see showdown, since Villain will be unable to apply enough pressure to make us fold, after we control the pot in this way.
SummaryLook for the hands with the least showdown value, best blockers, and most improvability to bluff on the turn. These are known as your 'natural bluffs'.
Bluff a higher frequency than usual on turns that hit your range and miss your opponent's – typically these are large cards.
Check and bluff catch marginal made hands that do not want to bet three times for value. The turn is a great street on which to control the size of the pot. Being in position will facilitate this further.
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