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03/02/2006 No.33
he Guardian Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Friday February 3, 2006
How to play poker
(How to play has been running from issue 16)

Last week I talked about the general principle of bluffing: that a good player is not just randomly betting with nothing, but representing a particular hand. To show you exactly what I mean, let's look at some specific examples. Regular readers will know that I advocate entering the pot with a decent hand in the first place. For the purposes of this week's exercise, let's assume, in all the following situations, that your hand is a pair of fours. This is not a brilliant hand, but it's often a playable one.

Situation one: You raise before the flop. You may be in front with a pair, and you want to take control of the action. The flop comes AK5. You've missed it completely. But you follow up your pre-flop raise with a bet. You are saying (untruthfully): "I raised because I have a strong ace in my hand. This flop is good for me."

Situation two: Someone else raises before the flop, and you call in the hope of hitting a third four. The flop comes AK5. The pre-flop raiser bets out. You raise. You are saying: "I called you with an ace in my hand. If you've got a smaller pair, you are now losing. Throw it away."

Situation three: The flop comes AK5 with two clubs on it. You bet out as a bluff, but get called. This doesn't look good; now you're really praying for that third four on the turn. But the turn card is the jack of clubs. Rather than weakly check and pass (which would of course be the safest play), you could now have another go and bet again. You are saying: "I bet the flop with a flush draw. I have now made a flush."

These are three simple bluffing scenarios to illustrate the basic principle: if you're trying to steal a pot, make sure you are representing a particular hand which you think is winning. And you have to bluff like you mean it, but don't get too stubborn. Be alert to the main danger: if you get raised or reraised, consider the possibility that your opponent has actually got the hand you're representing.