Swimming With The Sharks: The Four Card Bluff

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March 05 2009

Written to Poker Strategy by TheSharkBoy

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"Swimming With The Sharks: The Four Card Bluff"
March 05, 2009

One thing I really enjoy about playing live Omaha is the strange image I have. On one hand, there are many players that view me as a crazy, loose-aggressive player with nothing to lose and knack for knowing when to bluff into big pots. On the other hand there are players that think I'm an absolute rock, and that I only bet when I have it, and that I rarely make a play.
This, for me, is perfect, because it allows me to switch between these two types of players whenever I feel I need to. If I find the table is playing loose, I'm happy to tighten up and let them do the betting for me. Of course, if I find I'm playing with a bunch of rocks or people with scared money, I'm happy to loosen up and force them to play bigger to win big pots.
Today, I’m going to discuss the art of bluffing in Omaha. It is important to remember that unlike in Hold’em, there are a lot more combinations of hands in Omaha, therefore a lot more hands to bluff into, and it’s important to plan your bluff before going through with it. So, with that in mind, I would like to present to you TheSharkBoy's Four Stages to the Four Card Bluff:
Step One: Know Your Opponent
Similar to Hold’em, Omaha players usually follow a certain pattern. Whether that be loose, tight, passive, aggressive – they tend to stick to those patterns because they feel that is their best chance of winning. It is extremely important that before you start bluffing wildly into a player, that you know how he/she plays. Are they stubborn (and so could call you down with a weak hand if they sense you are bluffing)? Are they very tight, and thus will only play back with a massive hand? Try to define the player, well before the bluff hand. If you haven’t worked out all the players on your table, you should only try to bluff the ones you know. Otherwise you’re just throwing money into the pot and praying that you got it right this time. It doesn’t take much to figure out how your opponents play. Figure it out.
Step Two: The Bluffable Board
I hate when players try to bluff connected boards and walk into the nut straight or top set, and shrug their shoulders as they discover they’re drawing dead. They haven’t really done their homework, have they? For example, if you’re playing a tight player, and he leads out on a board such as Q diams10 hearts5 clubs, you raise, and he thinks for a moment before three-betting. Now, it would seem clear to most that at this point he’s playing a big draw (which he’s not folding) or a set (which he’s probably not folding, although folding 55xx here isn’t unlikely for a tight player). So at this point, we have to give up on the bluff. Know when a bluff will not work! If your opponent has indicated that he/she will not be folding their hand, don’t try and salvage your bluff, get out while you still can!
Now, on the other hand, if the same board shows up, and your opponent flat calls your raise, and the board runs out with let’s say 7 diams(you bet again, he calls) and then 2 hearts… we can assume he’s missed his draw. The only hand that could call you here is a set, but on a draw-heavy board he probably would have raised on the turn at least. So you can safely assume your opponent is either trying to be a hero with two-pair, or, what is most likely the case, he has missed his draw. The bet on the river is crucial to a bluff, because if an opponent has missed their draw you can often win big pots without a showdown. I love the whole “missed it all”, before they sigh, and muck their cards, as you quietly smile and realize they probably still had you beat. Remember, bluffing on the right board is crucial. If the board doesn’t favour a bluff, or if your opponent looks like they’re sticking with their hand, don’t bluff!
Step Three: Betting Patterns
Now, it’s one thing to know your player. And then to have the right board, but if you have it all and bet like you’re inept at poker, you’re not going to win this big pot. I like to remember how I bet when I had a big hand. Did I place the chips out silently? Did I announce my bet? Did I announce ‘pot’ and just throw some money into the pot? If you show the same sort of strength that you showed when you had a big hand, your opponent will put you on a big hand. Betting small often never works, and talking to your opponents will only confuse them. Remember, you want no confusion: you have a big hand and you want them to know about it. If players get confused, they are more often inclined to call; this is the same in Hold’em. So be confident. Not bluff-confident, play like you would the nuts on the board. Players will sense your confidence in your hand, and won’t want to get involved.
Step Four: The Non-Reveal
One thing I always stress to players is that you should almost never show a bluff once you win the pot. If you have bet like you’ve got a big hand, and you show your bluff, players will be more inclined to call you in future, which means you will [i]have[/i] to have it next time around. There are some situations where showing a bluff could be effective. Perhaps you’re getting little/no action in general, and you want players to see that you don’t always have it. But Omaha is an action game, so this happens only rarely. If players ask to see your cards, don’t smile, don’t show one, just calmly send your hand into the muck, and take your chips. The mystery behind the way you play will only help you bluff bigger later on, and perhaps win bigger pots.
If you’ve done all four steps correctly, you should probably be well on your way to pulling off the Omaha bluff. Remember the order.
Step One: Know Your Opponent: What are his traits? What style of play does he use? Can he be bluffed? Can he bluff?
Step Two: The Bluffable Board: Can I bluff my opponent off this board? Is this board too connected? Can I get out if my plan doesn’t work?
Step Three: Betting Patterns: Do I look strong with this bet? What does my opponent think of me? Can I get my opponent to fold? How do I bet to achieve my goal?
Step Four: The Non-Reveal: Should I show my cards? Have I kept my opponents in the dark? Do they think I was bluffing? Do they think I had it?
So now, equipped with some techniques and a few questions that could help you on your way, you should be ready to go out there and try the four card bluff. Remember not to bluff too often, and remember to actually to try and win a pot with the best hand every now and then. That too, is quite rewarding.
I would also like to let you know that if you have a hand or situation you would like me to discuss in this column, send me a private message on my PokerNetwork forum account: TheSharkBoy. Next week we will be looking further into some Omaha strategy, including position, hand selection and hopefully a bit more.
Michael "TheSharkBoy" Palti

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