The key to both is to bet an amount that represents a hand you don't actually hold. When you bluff, you bet it like you have it, and when you're trying to induce a bluff, you bet it like you don't.
Those are generalities, of course. The given is that you always consider who your opponent is – tight or loose, aggressive or passive – and his stack size.
In the $3,000-buy-in no-limit hold 'em tournament leading up to the World Poker Championship at Las Vegas' Bellagio in 2006, stylish Dutch pro Marcel Luske was the chip leader with almost $700,000 even after a player sucked out to win a big pot.
The next hand, with blinds at $6,000-$12,000, Luske drew aces on the button and raised to $40,000. He was called by the big blind, the player who had beaten him in the previous hand.
The flop came Q-7-2, rainbow. The player in the big blind checked. Luske checked behind him.
“I checked because I know I have the best hand and I want him to get his entire stack in,” says Luske, an aggressive and tricky player known for his “Flying Dutchman” nickname and for wearing suits and ties at the tables. “He had about $350,000 from the hand he beat me before.”
The turn came the 9 of spades, putting a flush draw and some straight draws on the board. The big blind checked again. Luske bet $80,000, a pot-sized bet that could be interpreted as a made hand or a move to take down the pot on a semi-bluff.
“I thought he must have something,” Luske says. “He's drawing to something or he must have a piece of the board, maybe a pair. Maybe he has 7-8 in his hand and figured he could beat me with any pair. So, I bet $80,000. I acted like I had a big draw and was trying to steal the pot on the turn. He called it.”
The river came the 4 of diamonds. The big blind moved in for his remaining $270,000.
Luske called and showed his aces. The big blind mucked his hand before leaving the table.
“I knew when he put in his money, I had put in his mind that I'm drawing to something, not that I had a good hand already,” Luske says of the way he set up his opponent to induce the bluff. “I acted like I didn't have a draw on the flop, but [when the 9 of spades came on the turn], I acted like I had a draw. When the blank comes on the river, he wants to bet it all to get me off the hand, even when he had nothing, and that's what I wanted him to do.”
Suck out: To win a pot with a lesser hand by drawing out on an opponent.
Semi-bluff: A hand that is not the best at the time but could draw out to be.
© 2007, Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.