Bluffing frequency in small games

Over the past eight years I’ve played in games as low as $1-$2 all the way up to $50-$100. Even at the higher stakes, wi...

Posted Feb 25, 2013


Bart Hanson BW2

Bart Hanson

Owner and Lead Pro

Over the past eight years I’ve played in games as low as $1-$2 all the way up to $50-$100. Even at the higher stakes, with the exception of a few world-class players, people normally do not risk their entire stack running multi street bluffs. Occasionally, at the lower levels, if someone is short stacked they may put there entire stack in on the turn as a semi bluff but when they bet flop, turn and river with somewhat of a normal stack it is very rare that they are bluffing.

Let us take a look at an example. Let us say in a $2-$5 game with effective stacks of $800 a mid position player raises to $25, gets three callers in the field and you call in the big blind with A Q. The flop comes out A K 3. You check to the preflop raiser, he bets $75 and all fold to you. You figure that it is a little weak just to fold now as the preflop raiser could easily have a weaker or ace or be betting some sort of draw so you call. The turn brings the 4. You check and the preflop raiser now bets $200. Again, you feel that you still maybe good here and expect to get a free showdown if your opponent has a one pair hand on the river, so you call again. The pot now has $670 in it. The river brings in the 7 and you check again. Your opponent now moves all-in for $500 giving you over 2-1 on a call. You think that this bet is very polarized—that is your opponent is either bluffing or has at least AK+. There is no value range in between. Should you call then?

I see people get confused in this spot all the time. Just because our opponents’ bet is polarizing doesn’t mean that he bluffs as much as he has value hands. The simple fact of the matter is it looks like you have a hand when you call the flop and the turn and even the biggest idiot at $2-$5 rarely is going to try to bluff you when it looks like you are going to call down. This hand is going to be a monster a lot more than a bluff especially when he puts his entire stack in. People do not usually commit all of their money on a bluff. Now, of course there are some maniacs out there that may run this play but they are a lot less common than people think.

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