In theory, you could play online poker without ever bluffing and still make money. But as the players around you get better, your poker strategy should include more and more bluffs. Sometimes you’ll win by getting them to fold; even if they don’t and you lose, they’ll be more likely to call you the next time you’ve got a big hand.

As with everything in poker, picking the right situations to bluff is key. Start by understanding the two basic types of bluffing hands:


Some hands you bet for value, others you bet as a bluff, and still, others fall in between those two categories. A semi-bluff hand is one that contains some value, but when you bet or raise, you’d really prefer your opponent to fold. For example, in Texas Hold’em, you could have Ace-Three suited in Spades, on a rainbow flop of Ten-Five-Three with one Spade. This could be a good spot to check-raise if you’re out of position; it’s partly for value with third pair-top kicker, but you also have a backdoor flush and straight draws to help you out, plus the Ace overcard.

Draws can also be considered a semi-bluff, when you don’t have a made hand, but you’ve got cards that draw to something good, you might consider betting or raising to get your opponents to fold their marginal made hands. Take the above example, but make the flop Ten-Five-Four with two Spades, and you’ve got both a nut flush draw and a wheel draw (to the Five-high straight). Combo draws like this are extra-spicy. In general, the more outs you have, the more likely you’ll end up with the winning hand if your opponent does call.


Naked Bluffs

Stone-cold bluffs are more common in poker movies than in real life. But modern poker players are becoming more familiar with the concept of blockers, and how important a role they play when bluffing. Let’s take our Ace-Three starting hand, but make it the Ace of Spades and the Three of Diamonds. If the board runs out with exactly three Spades but doesn’t otherwise connect with your hand, you might be able to pull off a bluff, since everyone else is blocked from holding the nut flush – only you can have the Ace of Spades. Recognizing and using blockers like this in the right spots, especially when you’re playing Pot-Limit Omaha, will protect your naked bluffs from overexposure.