The evolution of poker strategy is fascinating.
When I first started my journey into poker a few years ago, I began by reading every old book I could find. As I got more serious about poker, however, I realized that a lot of the strategy taught in these books is outdated.
So when I recently came across a 10-year old video about bluffing from Amir Vahedi, I was not expecting to hear advice that applies to the modern poker scene.
Within a minute of watching, I realized that my assumption was wrong. This four minutes, decade-old video contained so much good advice about bluffing, I just had to share it with Upswing readers.
With that in mind, let’s dig into the three main points from the video.
Who is Amir Vahedi?
Amir Vahedi was a professional poker player who grew up in Iran and passed away in 2010.
He was a widely beloved pro who won a WSOP bracelet in 2003 and recorded an impressive $3,276,428 in lifetime tournament earnings.
Amir was ahead of his time when it came to poker strategy. Here’s an epic quote from him referencing the tendency of players to tighten up too much on the money bubble:
In order to live, you must be willing to die.
-Amir Vahedi at the 2003 World Series of Poker
(Side note: Amir likely took his own quote too far, as he busted the 2003 WSOP Main Event in 7th after committing what one Upswing reader called “ICM suicide.”)
Now, let’s get into what Amir has to say about bluffing:
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Tip #1: Don’t focus too much on bluffing if you’re new to the game
When you are starting out in poker, you should almost completely forget about bluffing.
Instead of worrying about bluffing, beginners should instead focus on even more important and fundamental concepts. I’m talking about starting hand selection, the importance of position, hand reading, pot odds, and other “low-hanging fruit” concepts.
After you have gotten a handle on the fundamentals, you can shift more attention towards bluffing.
Attempting bluffs while not fully understanding the basics will result in many failed bluffing attempts. If you lack a fundamental understanding of the game, you’re going to end up firing bluffs when you shouldn’t, and you’re often going to get caught.
Related reading: This Is How You Should Study Poker If You Want To Win In 2020.
Tip #2: Discipline is a key trait for successful bluffers
Everyone has been there: you try to pull off a big bluff and your opponent calls. Getting your hand caught in the cookie jar can feel disheartening or even humiliating.
However, it’s crucial to not let getting caught bluffing deter you from bluffing in good spots in future hands. When you make a play that does not work out, don’t dwell on it. You can note it down and do some hand analysis later, but the failure of the last hand should not be top of mind while the next hand is dealt.
It is important to look at each hand of poker independently; the results of one hand have no correlation to what cards will come in the future. When you need to raise, you should raise. When you need to bluff, you should bluff.
Don’t get snake bit!
Tip #3: Bluffs work especially well when you represent a hand that you know your opponent doesn’t have
Some of the most profitable bluffing spots involve representing a strong hand (or multiple strong hands) that are not in your opponent’s range. Using modern poker terms, you could refer to this as attacking capped ranges.
A capped range is a range that contains no (or very few) strong hands, such as overpairs, two pairs, sets, straights, flushes, etc.
So, how can you determine that your opponent’s range is capped?
In order to understand what your opponent does or doesn’t have, you need to have solid hand reading skills. Then you will be able to identify when your opponent doesn’t have many (or any) strong enough hands to call down with.
To strengthen these skills, you should pay attention to ranges, position, player tendencies, and any other reliable and relevant information.
For example, let’s say you know that you are playing against a tight player that only 3-bets with premium hands (like TT+ and AK). Suppose you raise on the button, the tight player in the small blind 3-bets, and you call.
In a scenario like this, you can bluff heavily against them postflop on flops like 7♣ 6♠ 5♠ and T♥ 9♥ 8♣, knowing that they can never have the nuts on such flops. The tight player would have to commit a lot of money with one pair at best for your bluff to not work.
By focusing on what you know your opponent doesn’t have, your bluffs are much more likely to get through. The reason for this is because you can remove the top part of their range as hands that they will have to call down with.
- Hand Reading 101: How to Read Hands Better Than a TV Pro
- Intro to Capped Ranges: How to Take Advantage of (And Protect Your Own) Capped Ranges
Bonus: Why bluffing is harder than betting for value
This tip doesn’t come from the aforementioned video, but I think that it is worth including because it addresses a complicated topic that many players struggle with: knowing when to bluff.
I saw the following quote from an Upswing member in one of my poker group chats about a month ago (paraphrased):
People massively under-bluff.
The reason is because, to bluff, you need to think — think about what you’re representing, where your hand falls in your range, how strong your opponent’s range is, and so on.
Whereas to value bet, you don’t have to think. All you have to do is feel. You see a strong hand and feel that it’s good enough to bet.
In other words, value betting becomes second nature, of sorts, because it’s easy to have a general sense of when your hand is strong enough to get called by worse hands. But when bluffing, there are many factors to consider, and it can be very easy to forgo thinking and waive the white flag.
This simple advice about bluffing is the best explanation I’ve heard for why so many players struggle to bluff often enough.
Wrapping Up Amir Vahedi’s Bluffing Advice
Bluffing can be one of the most stressful parts of playing poker, especially if you’re a beginner. But hopefully these tips offer some solid advice and help you understand bluffing psychology from a few different perspectives.
To learn more about bluffing in general, read Bluffing in Poker Explained (by Doug Polk).
Good luck at the tables.
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