Bluffing Decision Tree

Most players understand that bluffing some fraction of the time is often good strategy, but perhaps don’t have any good heuristics on when to bluff and when not to, or also on how much to bluff. Jonathan Little shared a decision tree that I thought many might find helpful.

It starts with questions designed to decide whether or not you should bluff, and then if you reach a bluff decision, questions to decide whether to make a large bluff or a small bluff.

To bluff or not to bluff?

  • Is the opponent capable of folding?
  • Do I lack showdown value?
  • Do I have many value hands in my range?
  • Do my cards block auto-calls?
  • Do my cards un-block auto-folds?

Do I bluff big or small? (Affirmative answers support larger bluffs)

  • Do I have zero showdown value?
  • Does my opponent have a lot of marginal value hands in their range?
  • Do I block many of the strongest hands?
  • Am I trying to get my opponent off a strong hand?
  • Am I representing a nutted hand?

Good stuff, thanks.

I would probably expand on number three of the first part to consider what effect my current table image has on my perceived ranges.

One could argue that table image should factor into bet sizing too.

One example that comes to mind is when you have a LAG image and happen to have a top-of-range type hand. You can often bet low boards because your LAG image gives you better board coverage.


Ok need to find this auto-call button!

Good list

But a lot to process in the time allowed for thinking. I wish sometimes Replay allowed a time bank for such situations

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I always Bluff to push my opponents off their hands which one of those applies to my bluffs?

Yes, I also think that would be a great addition, though rather than perceived range, I think I might reduce it down to a simpler idea: if I’ve been betting a lot without getting called, or have had recent large bluffs called, bluff less, and if I’ve been really inactive, or if I’ve had lots of value bets recently called, bluff more.

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Well, at the very least it sounds like you are addressing the first bullet: do I have an opponent that is capable of folding?

Yeah, and we are pretty much talking about the same thing here.

Here’s something to think about…

“If I’ve been betting a lot without getting called… bluff less,”

What if I don’t want to bluff less?

I think I can selectively show my cards when they fold, so I can skew my table image to the point that I can still bluff. In fact, if I can convince them that I’m only opening very strong hands, I might be able to bluff a little more.

I would rather make them adjust to me, not the other way around.

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Yes, it’s just a question of table image. I never show my cards, and so any bet that does not get called tends to get perceived as a bluff.

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I notice that he doesn’t mention anything about effective stacks, SPRs, or ICM.

Surely he must at least consider some of these things. For example, he’s not trying to bluff the BB if the BB has less than 1 BB behind. Maybe an extreme example, but that principal is often at work in one way or another.

Someone mentioned that your list is a lot to think about in the limited time available, and it is. But there’s more to it than the list implies too.

Some seem to think that bluffing is just a matter of shoving some chips into the pot when you miss a draw, but a profitable bluffing strategy is a lot more complicated than that.


Exactly :+1:t2: Well said.


One thing I’ve been focused on a bit more recently is how to avoid over bluffing or under bluffing, and so I try to quantify the third bullet above, “do I have many value hands in range”, and think specifically about how many combos of value I have that would make a particular sized bet, and once I have the combos and bet size, that gives me the number of combos of bluffs I should have.

For example, if I’m thinking of making a pot sized bluff on the river, then I want 2 value bets for every bluff. So if I have 18 combos of hands I’d want to value bet with, I either need to have some way of deciding what the worst 9 combos of hands I get to the river with are, or use a randomizer with all of my bluffs that lack showdown value, based on the number of combinations (so if I had 16 low card bluff combos, I’d want to bluff with those roughly 60% of the time).

Yet another approach, which fits in well here, would be to pick the 9 bluff combos you want from the hands with lowest showdown value that also block auto-calls or unblock auto-folds. Here, knowing your own ranges well can help you better decide what cards you realistically arrive at the river with given prior action.