One of the most underrated and overlooked skills in Texas holdem, particularly no limit Texas hold em, is getting an opponent to bluff at a pot when you have a better hand. In many situations, if you bet a player with a very poor hand will fold, but if you play the hand correctly, you may be able to get them to bet in hopes that you will fold, gaining you an additional bet.
Attempting to induce a bluff is not always successful and requires a solid understanding of your opponents betting tendencies and playing style. Position also plays a role, but it is not always extremely important. Here are a couple examples of inducing a bluff.
The most common way is if you must act first after the flop and check to an aggressive player. Depending on how good they are you may have to check to them on the turn also, showing weakness two times in a row to get them to bluff. Of course it is always possible that they will check behind you twice, but in this case, it is very unlikely that they would have called if facing a bet, so you don't really lose anything by trying. The real danger is giving your opponent a free look at the turn and / or river to improve their hand to one that will beat you.
Another tactic in a no limit game is to make a small bet showing weakness to make your opponent consider raising you in hopes of making you fold. This works well against weaker opponents, but most better opponents will recognize a small bet as a trap and get away from the hand. Of course this means that you may be able to make a small bet as a bluff against a solid player at a later time. Everything your opponent does provides you with information you can use in the future.
All of this reinforces the discussions we have had in the past about paying attention and learning your opponents playing styles. Some opponents will bet every single time you check to them two times in a row, no matter what they have. Others will always check behind you unless they have a monster hand. By knowing what types of players your opponents are, you can pick up an extra bet or two every time you play. This increases your profitability a great deal over the course of your poker-playing career.
Start looking for situations where you have a strong hand and practice getting an extra bet from your opponents by inducing a bluff. You should quickly see an improvement to your bottom line.
Until next week, good luck at the tables!
The Poker Column is published weekly. Send questions for the author or subscription requests to firstname.lastname@example.org