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Limit Myths Part 2: Bluff after Reading
Part one of this two-parter debunked the idea that aces are worthless in Limit; part two will tear into the second most popular Limit myth: you can't bluff in Limit poker.
I'm not sure how this myth is still so widely believed. Poker began as Limit, and bluffing has been part of poker since its inception.
No matter what betting format you're playing, whether it be Limit, Pot-Limit or No-Limit, bluffing always has been, and always will be, an integral part of the game.
Believe it or not, the myth that Limit isn't conducive to betting came to be mostly thanks to Chris Moneymaker.
The Moneymaker-driven poker boom brought thousands of new players into the game, the vast majority of those stepping directly into the No-Limit forum. Until very recently in the history of poker, No-Limit Hold'em was a very rarely played game.
One of the traits of No-Limit is that it provides opportunities for an amateur to make "dark tunnel" or "donk" bluffs. At any time, an amateur can drop all their chips across the line in a bluff for the pot.
This is called a donk bluff because only donkeys make it. They have no feel for the texture of the board, no reads on their opponents, no idea of their opponents reads' on them and no inkling of what their table image truly is.
These bluffs are often successful, simply because of the lack of attractive odds. Even if a pro feels that the amateur is bluffing, calling a $500 bet into a $35 pot just seems like a poor idea. The pro has no problem cutting their small losses and waiting for a better spot to get the money in.
In Limit, the donk bluff will almost never work. With the bluff being $10 into a $35 pot, the pro can easily call on a read that the amateur is running a bluff. The risk versus reward equation of it being a profitable call is favorable.
So the idea that you can't bluff in Limit isn't exactly false, but it only scratches the surface of the truth.
Bluffing at Limit requires lining up all of the elements in the poker bluff equation flawlessly. You must align the texture of the board, your image, the perception of your hand and the perception of your read on your opponents' hand perfectly.
If any one of these elements is askew, there will be enough reasonable doubt for the player to call.
Here's an example:
Situation: Your opponent raised pre-flop; you called on the button going to the flop heads-up. On the flop he bet and you called. On the turn he bet again and you raised him. Action is on him.
Opponent's thought process: The texture of the board is horrible for his hand. Anyone holding a three or any pocket pair has him beat. He can't beat anything but a bluff in this hand.
He has been playing with you for five hours and has a very good idea of how you play. He knows you're a solid player who plays solid hands, and that you're very tight and unlikely to be caught playing with weak holdings.
So far all the elements are lining up, but there are still a couple of things that just don't make sense.
First of all, you called a raise pre-flop - there is no way he can put you on any hand with a three in it. Even with ace-three, chances are you fold on the flop, being as tight as you are. This means he only loses if you have a pocket pair.
Since you didn't three-bet pre-flop he doesn't believe you have AA, KK, QQ or JJ. So the only hands he can put you on that he loses to are 77-88-99-TT or a set.
There is a good chance you'll raise any of those on the flop. Although he can't be sure that he's ahead, he is getting 6-1 on his money to make this call.
You only have to be bluffing here once out of every six times for this call to be profitable. Given his doubt, even though it's scant, the doubt plus the odds makes calling here an easy decision for him.
If, on the other hand, you had the table image of a player playing any two cards, your opponent now has to add all two pairs and straights into your range.
In this scenario the elements are all lined up: if he calls the turn and doesn't improve on the river, there is a chance that another bet will take it down for you.
Bluffing in Limit is a huge part of the game. It's just a very advanced part of the game that requires a large amount of experience and skill to understand, evaluate and manipulate the elements and your opponents' reads of them.
As a hater, the next time you're about to say how much you hate Limit, or how Limit is just a big game of bingo, think about this and save yourself from looking like a fool.
Just say that Limit is not the game for you. There is nothing wrong with only wanting to play No-Limit; just make sure you've made that choice for valid reasons.
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