Running a bluff to stop a bluff

Sometimes in poker you need to launch a bluff to stop a bluff. This poker strategy may sound confusing at first but not once you understand it and we will look at an example here to show you what I mean. It has been folded around to you in the cut-off in a $1-$2 game and you make it $7 with the 5c-4c. The button calls you and both blinds fold making the pot $17. The flop comes and is the 3s-3h-9d and you make a c-bet of $12 which gets called making the pot $41. The turn card comes and is the 2s giving you a straight draw and you check looking to check-raise. However your opponent also checks and now we see the river card which is the Jd.

Bluffing on the river

Here you have absolutely nothing but if you check, one of three things will happen. Your opponent will check with a weak hand and since you only have five high then their weak hand will beat your weak hand and they will win the pot. Or they will bet with the best hand and you will fold. However the third scenario is that they bluff at this pot and once again you will fold.

Looking at a different scenario

Poker games aren’t that simple, we can complicate this situation slightly because by giving you a hand that can win a showdown then the dynamic shifts somewhat. Now imagine that you have a hand like A-Q which would likely win if your opponent has a none pair hand. If you check and your opponent checks then they may have a weak pair that beats you and so you lose the pot. But there is another scenario if they bet because they may be betting as a bluff. This will lead to you folding or facing the consequence of having to call a possible big bet with nothing but ace high.

With $41 in the pot then if your opponent is brave enough to make a big river bluff of say $30 then you cannot call. In this instance you could have been better served by what is called a stopper bet. Here you could bet something like $20 and if your opponent has a weak pair then you could elicit a fold.

Taking control of the hand

However there is one very important reason to bet and that is to take control of the hand. Here you are betting to prevent your opponent from making a much larger bet when there is a possibility that your hand could win a showdown. If your hand is really the best hand then it is in your interests to see the showdown. However it is also in your interests to see the showdown as cheaply as possible and betting in this situation does exactly that. It really pays in poker to think ahead with your moves and try to think what your opponent may do and why in response to your action.