When to Turn a Made Hand Into a Bluff in Poker

Turning a made hand into a bluff by accident can be a pretty serious poker mistake.

If a worse hand is never going to call and a better hand is never going to fold, you've successfully done just that - made a big mistake.

But quite often a better hand will fold and you can take the very bottom of your showdown-value range, turn it into a bluff and get a laydown.

Basically you take a hand that has some showdown value and give it more value as a bluff.

Some Showdown Value, More Bluff Value

$1/$2 No-Limit game; effective stacks $300.

You're dealt 78. Your good, hand-reading opponent raises to $8 and you call on the button.

turnign hand into bluff poker
Your hand has to be weak enough to gain equity.

The flop comes 8JK. Your opponent bets $14 and you call. The turn comes J. Your opponent bets $30 and you call again.

The river comes 3 and your opponent bets $70. You raise to $248 all-in and your opponent folds.

You took a hand that had some showdown value (a pair of eights) and turned it into a bluff to get a fold from a better hand (a pair of kings).

In a spot like this turning your hand into a bluff works especially well because your eights don't have a ton of showdown value. You basically can only beat a stone-cold bluff.

Calling here vs. his range is probably bad. If you look at your opponent's third-barrel range, it's much wider than just hands that can bet and profitably call a shove.

Our opponent can be barreling with missed draws, value-betting good kings, value-towning with aces and, of course, he could be firing with a jack. Of those hands, only the three jacks can really profitably call your shove.

The best part about this scenario is that you can't often be bluffing in this spot in your opponent's eyes. You flat-called the flop and flat-called the turn.

Generally that's a sign of a made hand, and opponents won't expect you to all of a sudden turn that made hand into a bluff. Your range in his eyes seems very strong, and with the second jack falling you can very credibly rep that jack.

Which is why it's such a profitable play. Your opponents don't expect it. You're bluffing in a spot where you can only have made hands. It makes your bluff that much more credible.

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Your Hand Has to Gain Equity

The key component in turning your made hand into a bluff is that your hand strength can't be so strong that you have more equity in seeing a showdown. Your hand has to actually gain equity when you turn it into a bluff.

If it meets that criteria and you're up against someone that can read hands, you have a great spot to do it. Your opponent will never expect you to ruin a hand with showdown value by bluffing it!

Turning Your Hand Into a Bluff

The other day I was playing in a $1/$2 game at the local casino when this hand came up. The UTG player raises to $15. UTG+1 folds, UTG+2 calls; it's folded to the cut-off who calls, as does the button.

The small blind folds and the big blind calls. The flop comes KK9. Everyone checks to the button, who bets $55. It's folded to UTG+2, who shoves all-in.

Everyone folds and he proudly turns over pocket aces. Successfully trapped the field, right?

Wrong. What he did was he turned his pocket aces into a bluff. No worse hand will ever call the check-raise and no better hand is ever going to fold. So effectively his AA is just as good as say five-high.

made hand bluff poker
What, me turn my hand into a bluff??

When you make a bet in poker you want to do it for a reason. What reason would our hapless hero have to shove all-in? It wouldn't be a value bet because he's not very likely to get called by any worse hands.

So that makes it a bluff, meaning he wants to make a better hand fold. Unfortunately for him there are no better hands, except for trip kings or a full house. None of these is ever going to fold.

So he turns his hand with decent showdown value into a bluff since the only way he can win is by having his opponent fold.

A Counterintuitive Way to Play

This is a counterintuitive way to play poker. If you adhere to David Sklansky's fundamental theory of poker you should play your hand the exact same way you would if you knew your opponent's hole cards.

When you think about that in light of the pocket aces hand, would you:

  • a) Blow everyone out of the hand that didn't contain a king?
  • b) Check-shove into someone who you knew had a king or a full house?

No; of course you wouldn't. So don't go doing the same thing now just because you don't know your opponent's cards.

Effectively it boils down to the same outcome. You'll still only win the pot by having everyone fold and those times you are called you're going to be waaaay behind in a big pot.

Related Reading:

Poker Math: What are Sklansky Dollars and G-Bucks

Know Your Goal

To ensure you're not turning your hand into a bluff you need to be fully cognizant of what it is you're trying to achieve. This isn't always as obvious as check-shoving AA on a KKx board.

Let's look at another example.

You're playing $1/$2 NL, effective stacks $200. Game is tight-aggressive, six-max online. You have AK.

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You raise to $9 from under the gun. It's folded to the small blind, who calls. (The small blind plays a fairly standard TAG game. He's a winner in the game and you have never seen him do anything too out of line.)

The big blind folds. The flop comes A67. Your opponent checks and you bet $15; your opponent flat-calls. The turn is 10.

Your opponent now bets $45. Should you raise? I would argue no. If you raise, what are you hoping to accomplish?

Would it be a raise for value? A tight, solid player is very rarely going to be calling with a worse hand in this spot. Thus if you were to raise it would be to make a better hand fold.

However, there are very few better hands outs there. 6-7 is one, as well as 8-9, and A-T and 66, 77, TT. Of these, not one is going to fold to your turn raise. Meaning if you raise the turn, your hand becomes a bluff.

Whether you call or not is up to you and is situation-dependent. However, here raising is counterproductive. When you're playing No-Limit Hold'em, you must realize turning a hand with good showdown value into a complete bluff is a grievous error that must be avoided at all costs.

Luckily for you, it is easy to avoid. If you ask yourself, "Am I raising for value or to get a better hand to fold?" before you act, you'll usually be able to avoid these troublesome situations altogether!

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Ryan
2017-05-09 06:40:27

That’s why you read your opponent. I’ve won more than a few hands because I smelled out weakness.

V
2014-11-16 00:39:30

Raj, even with what you classify as an overbet, you are offering 2.4 is to 1 odds to the villain – roughly the same odds the villain was offering you on the river.
A smaller raise by you and villain will have an easier decision.

Raj
2013-09-16 07:01:01

Shove in this situation would look like an overbet to me as the player with kings. The bluff you propose basically represents that you have trip jacks. The two flat calls support this. If the trips were real, they know they’ve won, and would make a raise for value instead of coming over the top all-in like that. The all-in reads as an overbet and would get called as an obvious bluff by a lot of players. On the other hand, a smaller sized raise that comes across as a being for value would get a lot of folds in the long run. I agree on coming over the top as a bluff here, but the amount is all wrong.

Mike
2010-02-07 03:39:31

Ha ha…… I would get called and he would show trip J.
I prefer to be a little more conservative than wagging my life in the wind on a hope and prayer.

Sean Lind
2009-10-02 21:06:00

Mobros,

You make a value-bet to take your opponent to value-town.

Howiedoit
2009-10-02 06:03:00

I would be sort of concerned that a card in my hand came out on the flop (8h) I would be calling for a misdeal…….

Smith
2009-10-02 05:20:00

Good article, but it should be longer.

Mobros
2009-10-02 02:42:00

What is the difference between value-betting and value-towning? Is it just slang?

kunnington
2009-10-01 22:27:00

What if your opponent thinks you have a busted flush draw and decides to call with a King, Queens, Tens or Nines¿

Is it correct to think that way¿

Daniel Skolovy
2009-10-01 19:39:00

Though that is possible. Most regs in this day raise their draws for max fold equity. So calling usually means a hand with showdown value. One that is unlikely you would turn into a bluff. Thus you would get more credit. Though of course if you get caught you just adjust to how your opponent will now perceive you.

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