The Art of Executing Successful Non-Standard Bluffing Lines in No-Limit Hold’em Poker
July 9, 2015 Leave a Comment
Executing well timed bluffs in no-limit hold’em will ultimately have a positive effect on your overall long-term results at the tables.
While the art of successful bluffing can be very difficult to truly master, we can learn a lot from studying the execution of successful bluffing from highly skilled professional poker players.
In the following video, we find hyper aggressive professional poker player Tom “durrrr” Dwan pulling off a massive bluff with “8 high” against successful businessman/high stakes poker amateur Bob Safai:
The In-Depth Hand Analysis
The hand starts off with Bob Safai raising pre-flop to 2k, signaling he has a strong hand.
Bob, and many amateurs alike, will only get involved in hands with strong pre-flop holdings. Dwan recognizes that he will be in position for the entire hand, and he has a hand that can flop very big against his opponent’s perceived range of hands.
Dwan also has no problem playing this hand in a multi-way pot, if opponents decide to call behind him. No one else decides to enter the pot, so Dwan and Safai are left to play the pot heads-up.
Even if Dwan does not hit a good flop for his hand, he will be in position the entire hand against Bob, and as we know in no-limit hold’em poker, the power of position is extremely crucial for a variety of reasons.
We get to act after our opponent, enabling us to gain information from our opponents actions, before we have to act on every street (flop, turn, river) in the hand.
The flop comes queen high with 2 clubs, giving Bob top pair-top kicker, and Dwan a flush draw, with backdoor straight possibilities as well. Safai puts in a standard continuation bet size of 5k, and Dwan decides just to flat call.
Tom knows Bob is most likely strong here, and elects to see how he acts on the turn, instead of raising this flop, and possibly having to commit all of his chips if he gets re-raised, which Bob would most likely do if Tom were to raise this flop.
You can bet Tom is aware of this angle.
The turn brings a 10 of spades, a blank for Tom, and Safai continues his line with another bet of 12k. Dwan decides to call for two reasons. He can still hit his flush on the river, or he can attempt to bluff Safai on the river if he feels he can blow him off his hand.
If Dwan were to decide to raise this turn, he would most likely end up having to get all of his chips in the middle as a slight underdog, if Bob were to come back over the top with another raise. Bob would want to defend his top-pair top-kicker hand if he thinks Dwan is on some type of draw (which he is.)
The river comes a “blank” 2 of diamonds, and Bob decides to check over to Dwan. Dwan knows that Bob has a strong hand most of the time when he raises pre-flop, and continues to bet on two streets. Knowning this, Dwan realizes that a lot of his bets that are relatively close to the size of the pot will get called almost 100% of the time. Dwan figures he can check and lose, or attempt to pull off a massive, well-timed bluff, that he knows Bob will have a hard time calling.
Since Dwan is so aggressive, he is capable of having any two hole cards at any time. The 2 on the river, as blank as it may seem, completes the “wheel” straight that Tom could have if he is in this hand with ace-four suited of clubs. Tom could have been calling the flop and turn with the nut flush draw with ace-four, and Bob will soon realize this is a strong possibility when he is put to the test.
How is Tom Dwan capable of successfully bluffing this river?
Dwan is able to gather information about the strength of Bob’s hand when he asks him “How much do you have left?”
Many professional poker players are masters of communication. Skilled poker players will get a gauge of the strength of their opponents holdings by asking questions during a hand. The tone of the response, along with the body language of the opponent, can help good players determine how strong or weak their opponent’s hand may be.
Bob’s reaction practically gives away the strength of his hand. He reacts with a laugh, and tells Tom “150 thousand.” $150,000 effective remaining stack size, and about $40,o00 in the middle pot.
Bob is giving away that he is comfortable with his holding, but perhaps not comfortable enough to commit every single chip in front of him. He assumes “durrrr” is joking when he asks, and he knows Tom likes to play around with opponents by asking them how much they have left.
Bob figures there is a small chance that he will have to put $150,000 into the middle of this pot to win, but it turns out that is his only option once Tom pulls off his massive all-in bluff.
On the contrary, if Bob refused to answer Tom’s question, or if Bob answered in a more serious manner, Dwan might reconsider bluffing him altogether. The pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together for Tom in this hand.
Since Bob check the river, and didn’t continue to bet, Dwan realizes that he probably doesn’t have a set or two pair, hands which would bet the river for value most of the time by an amateur player.
Dwan pins Bob for top pair at best, and knows that his all-in bluff, which is about 4x the size of the pot, simply wont get called very often by 1-pair hands from an amateur. Dwan certainly would reconsider this move against other opponents who are capable of calling this bluff.
There are a lot of possibilities that open up for Tom on the river which completes two possible straights for holdings Tom is certainly eligible to have in his hand.
Bob realizes that any two-pair hand, set, or ace-four/six-four for a straight, has him beat. The most likely holding of Dwan is a straight that completed on the river, or a complete bluff. While we recognize it is the latter, Bob is put to a huge decision for everything in front of him.
This concept is known as polarizing your hand range, and Dwan exploits this time, after time, after time, against weaker opponents who don’t want to take a big risk by calling and being wrong for their entire stack of chips.
Because Dwan is so aggressive, it is tough to pin him on a narrow range of hands, and therefore he is eligible to have any two cards in his hand at any time.
Bob ultimately doesn’t want to risk his entire stack, and Dwan wins the pot the only way he can, by jamming all of his chips into the middle as a bluff. The play works, as Dwan expects it to work a high percentage of the time.
The big risk is worth the reward, and more often than not in this scenario, Dwan is going to win by getting his opponent to fold the better hand.
While this play may seem extremely reckless on the surface, it actually makes perfect sense, given the incredible reading ability Tom Dwan has. Dwan’s play at times is extremely erratic, and appears reckless to most observers watching some of the hands he gets involved in.
Because of his maniac table image, few opponents dare to test him in big pots. Bob was hoping to win a small pot off of Tom here, but ended up being put at a decision for every single chip in front of him.
The key to successful aggressive play is to put your opponents at a decision for all of their chips, rather than being at a decision for all of your chips yourself. Tom Dwan is the perfect example of how to execute this strategy successfully a high percentage of the time.
Successfully bluffing in key opportunities where you know you will win a high percentage of the time will net you profit in the long-run, provided you maintain a well-balanced approach to the game of poker.
For additional poker strategy and discussion, please visit our extensive poker strategy section for more tips and advice!
Good luck at the tables! 🙂