How to Bluff in Poker: Probe Bets, Blocker Bets & Float Bets

Patrik Antonius

There are two basic types of bluffs in poker:

  • The "Semi-Bluff" - essentially betting with some outs to the best hand
  • The "Pure Bluff" - essentially betting with almost no outs but playing the situation and your read on your opponents

Of course there are variations of each of these. Some are fairly routine and some far more subtle.

The options available to you as well as the techniques you can employ will vary depending on whether you have position and on the number of opponents involved in the pot.

The amount of pressure you can apply with a bluff (of either variety) also depends, to a certain extent, on your position.

Float bets in poker
When is it time to Float?

Bluffs made in position tend to be more intimidating than their counterparts because your opponent knows he'll have to act first on the next street as well.

Here's a closer look at some of the variations of the "pure" bluff. Learn how to execute perfect Semi-Bluffs here.

What is a "Float" Bet

For most poker players nothing feels better than executing a pure bluff - reading an opponent correctly, having the courage to act on that read and then dragging the pot as your opponent lays down his hand.

In today's game the most common example of a pure bluff is the increasingly popular "float" bet. The floater is a newer term for a delayed Continuation Bet (c-bet). You delay your c-bet until fourth street, or let it "float."

Essentially, "floating" means calling your opponent with nothing with the intention of taking the pot away if he or she shows weakness on a later street.

Typically, this move is attempted when you have position against a single opponent who has raised pre-flop.

After raising pre-flop most players make a standard Continuation Bet on the flop - whether they've improved their hand or not. However, comparatively few players are willing (or capable) of firing a second bullet (on the turn) without a real hand.

Against opponents such as these floating the flop can be very profitable.

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How to Make a Good Float Bet

To execute a good Floater bet simply call the continuation bet on the flop (independent of the strength of your hand - this is a pure bluff, remember!) and wait for your opponent to act on the turn. 

For a more detailed look at Floating the Flop including a video showing how it's done, check out:

probe bets in poker
Jacob: You're beginning to feel the effects of my probe bets.

What is a "Probe" Bet in Poker

A good example of a pure bluff is a "probe" bet. It's an under-utilized tool in most poker players' repertoires. A probe bet is:

  • A bet by a player out of position, usually by the first player to act after the flop

As most flops miss most hands, probe bets are a means by which the player acting first (or the first player to bet in a three- or four-way pot) can capitalize on this fact and steal the pot.

Essentially, the basic concept behind the probe bet is to simply take a stab at the pot when you think the flop may have missed your opponents.

This is done by making a small bet - usually around a quarter or a third the size of the pot. If you bet only a small percentage of the size of the pot your probe bet doesn't have to be successful very often in order to show a profit.

A probe bet can be used in both raised and unraised pots and is a common tournament technique in both multi-tables and sit-and-gos. However, in cash games, you'll often need to bet slightly more - perhaps around half to two-thirds of the pot - to successfully steal the pot.

When to Make a Probe Bet

The key to profitably wielding the probe bet is to use it in the right situations.

Knowing when a flop has likely missed an opponent is difficult but careful observation can give some insights into the types of hands they're likely to raise (or limp) with.

Often, flops with either all low cards or low cards and an ace are good opportunities to attempt a probe bluff.

blocking bets in poker
You've. Been. Blocked.

What is a Blocking Bet?

A blocking bet is simply a bet designed to stop your opponents from betting.

Blocking bets are a great tool in an online game. They're still very useful live but online has fewer options for exploiting a skill edge and this is one of them.

For example: You have J Q on a flop of K-J-9 with one heart. You have second pair with a gut-shot and a back door flush draw.

You're not sure you have the best hand and are worried about a rather aggressive player. There is $20 in the pot and you're first to act.

Now it's an unraised pot, and you're pretty sure if it starts getting checked someone will try to steal it. You're sure anyone with top pair is going to bet out. If they bet large enough, you simply cannot call. But you have a big enough hand you don't want to sign off just yet.

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A Good Way to Draw Cheaply

This is where you put in a blocking bet. You bet $12 into the pot. This bet is around the smallest bet anyone would make if you were to check-call. But it's also big enough someone's going to need a strong made hand to want to raise.

Player
Nice way to draw cheaply.

The pot's not big enough to warrant a big bluff so chances are no one will raise. Even if your opponent has a weak to moderate top pair, most players here will simply call.

If your opponent flops the straight most players here will just call to trap you as there is no legitimate draw out there to threaten them.

If you don't take down the pot you've bought yourself a cheap turn. And if you're behind on the flop the turn gives you the chance to catch up.

Blocking bets are a good way to draw cheaply. The professionals use them frequently when playing against a hand they know has them beat.

If you block properly, and keep the initial investment small, the implied odds against cracking a slow-played monster can make this a very profitable maneuver.

For a more detailed looked at Blocking Bets including an instructional video, check out:

More on Poker Bluffs and Betting:

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John Peace 2009-04-07 11:00:00

Isn't the probe bet also called a "donk bet"?

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