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Matthew Hilger - Internet Texas Hold?em: Bluffing

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  • Matthew HilgerEvery great poker movie and almost every great poker story revolves around a great bluff. When talking with someone who doesn?t play poker, one of the first questions they inevitably ask is, ?Do you bluff a lot?". The next time you are watching the World Poker Tour, look at how excited the announcers Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten get when someone tries a bluff. Bluffing is glamorous and dramatic and as a player there probably is nothing more thrilling than taking down a big pot with a nice bluff.

    Unfortunately, the Internet is not the best place to try your bluffing prowess. In fact, one of the biggest pitfalls to online poker players is their propensity to bluff too often. The Internet game is different than a live game which explains why bluffing is generally not as successful online as in a live game.

    Let?s first review the two main reasons to try a bluff. Bluffing can increase your profits by winning pots when you don?t have the best hand, and by getting your opponents to call you in the future when you have the best hand. Realize that bluffs do not have the same advertising value online as they do in a live game. First, many players don?t pay as much attention to the game online as they do in a casino and won?t even notice your bluffs. They might be playing two tables, watching television, or reading email. In addition, you rarely play with the same opponents very long on the Internet to take advantage of your ?loose? image. You might try a bluff online and then 15 minutes later there are four or five new players sitting at your table. Of course, sometimes bluffing is needed in games where the players don?t move in and out of the game a lot or you are against regular opponents, but this is the exception rather than the rule on the Internet.

    The bottom-line is that bluffs on the Internet generally only derive value from the particular hand you are playing. Since the advertising value of bluffs goes down, bluffing in general is less profitable on the Internet than in a live game.

    You will probably find that bluffing tendencies are different in online games than in live games. Although not recommended, players tend to bluff a little more often on the Internet than they do in a live game. I believe this is result of two characteristics unique to the Internet. The virtual wall of the Internet makes many players play a little more deceptively than they would against a live opponent. Your opponents gain a little more courage and confidence to try tricky plays since they don?t have to look you in the eye. For those players who play the game for the thrill of making a successful bluff, the virtual wall gives them the perfect environment to seek their adrenaline rush.

    The virtual environment also makes it easier to commit your chips to try a bluff. If you are contemplating a bluff, all it takes is one click of the mouse. Compare this to a live game where you have to physically move your chips into the center of the table while your opponents are watching you. Many players become careless with these ?virtual? chips.

    Since your opponents will tend to bluff more, you will need to keep your opponents honest a little more often online than you would in a live game. Don?t get carried away with this, but always look for those players who are trying to win every pot with a bluff.

    Since there is a lot of bluffing going on in the Internet, your opponents will also tend to call bluffs a little more often than they would in a live game. When contemplating a call, that quick click of the mouse is easily accessible for your opponents to see what you have. Your opponents have a tremendous curiosity to see what hand you hold; therefore, choose your bluffing opportunities a little more carefully online than you would in a live game. In fact, in most low-limit games, profitable bluffing opportunities are far and few between.

    Matthew Hilger is author of the best selling poker book, Internet Texas Hold?em: Winning Strategies from an Internet Pro, which can be found at his website,, or purchased from using the link below.

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