How to bluff perfectly in poker - Tips from Jonathan «JCardShark» Little

Vladimir  «ABIVPlus» 
23 May 2024
Holdem Strategy
23 May 2024

Bluffing is the first association that we have when we hear about poker. But what is much more important is that this is its integral component, from which you can either earn a lot of additional profit, or, conversely, lose even more if it is used incorrectly.

Recently, well-known coach and current high-stakes professional Jonathan "JcardShark" Little shared valuable tips on how and under what conditions bluffing will bring you positive EV or very negative EV, so that you stop bluffing altogether.

If you don't want to read the whole article, then you can limit yourself to studying the flowcharts. Even with a basic understanding of the terms and concepts, this will be more than enough to learn the foundation for new techniques or refresh what is already familiar, but slightly forgotten.

If, for some reason, you don't know exactly the difference between bluffing and value-betting, we recommend you read this article: What is the Real Difference between Value and Bluffs?

The following text is in the words of this famous professional player.

People often write to me on social networks asking me to release more content on the topic of bluffs, because many do not understand where and how to apply pressure in order to win a pot without a strong combination. Well, today we will dive into the topic of bluffing. You will receive 2 specific flowcharts with detailed explanations and a specific example of deciding to bluff and choosing its bet size.


If you just want to wait for a good combination and to constantly cooler your opponents for a lot of chips/money, then here is my advice - stop doing this. At best, you will be a barely profitable player over the long run. Even at low stakes, where there are a lot of fish, if you practically do not bluff, then you will be paid worse with each new session. Even many fish get burned, remember you and no longer want to play without a big hand.

And if you want to win a lot at poker, you need to learn how to bluff in a timely and effective manner

Before we get to the main point, I need to give you 3 key terms that will come up frequently as you read the article.

  • Autocalls are hands that your opponent will call without hesitation and almost never fold. These are objective nuts, TPTK in low SPR and other hands that will not fold at all or extremely rarely.
  • Autofolds are hands that your opponent won't even think about calling and will fold very easily. These could be missed draws, bottom pairs, middle pairs in a huge pot and/or on a board where everything has hit/completed, etc.
  • Blockers are specific cards in the two that you were dealt (holecards) that reduce the likelihood of your opponent having a certain hand or even make it impossible to have it.

For example, when you have A♦️ in your hand, then on a board with X♦️X♦️X♦️ no opponent can have a flush with such an ace - that is, a nut flush. And when an opponent knows how to think, this will greatly influence his decisions in a huge pot. In addition, due to the fact that the largest group of flush draws even preflop is formed from suited hands with 'A', when you have the corresponding ace, you block a significant proportion of flushes in general.

Typically, having an Ace of the same suit as 2-3 cards on the board will reduce the number of flush draws and flushes by more than a full 1/3 of all such hands. Namely, they would be auto-calls on a 3-flush board.

How to decide - should you bluff or not?

In other words it can be called bluff frequency.

Here is a chart of your decisions about whether it is advisable to bluff and what size to bet, if so. We will go through it point by point - from top to bottom, explaining everything in detail. There are 2 blocks in the scheme: bluff frequency and bet size if you decide to bluff.

Here we will evaluate whether it is advisable to bluff in the current spot or not. These questions need to be asked on every street, and especially on the river. Now let's go through the questions.

#1. Is your opponent able to fold? 

Will he fold the bottom pair? If he is more likely to fold it, as well as A-high, then you can consider a bluff. If not, then you shouldn't bluff. 

#2. Do you lack showdown value (SDV)?

Would it be difficult to win with your hand by checking the river? For example, you have some kind of pair, but the board is not very coordinated and has no completed straights or flushes, then you almost always have some kind of SDV. Then you shouldn't consider a bluff. But when you bet and bet with a straight draw, and on the river after the draw busted, you just have a 6-high hand (63s, for example), which will always lose when checked, then this is a good reason to think about bluff.

#3. Do you have many value hands in your range? 

Are there many strong hands that immediately come to mind that you would play in the same manner? If there are many such hands - lean towards the bluff because it will be plausible. If there are just few such hands, you shouldn't bluff. 

#4. Are your blockers highly relevant in this spot?

For example, as already described in the example above, A♠️ on a board with three spade cards will be an extremely relevant blocker. K♠️ will also be an important card that blocks all flushes with 'K' - namely, they come next to Ace-flushes in terms of the number of combinations. 

Good blocker - lean toward bluffing. Bad blocker - slow down.

An example of terrible blockers - you have 9♦️8♦️ on the board A♣️K♣️Q♣️7♠️2♥️. - Your cards do not block any of your opponent’s value hands and other autocalls: neither X♣️, nor 'A', nor 'K'. This means that in this case he has the full number of combinations with the 2nd pair and everything that can be stronger. Then, obviously, there's no point in bluffing, even though you don't have any showdown value - especially when you've been playing passively the entire hand.

#5. Do you unblock your opponent's autofolds? 

This is when your hand doesn't block hands that your opponent folds easily.

Example of blockers working in the wrong direction when you bet for value

If your opponent has bottom pair, then the 'A', or 'K' cards in your hand reduce the likelihood that your opponent's pair will have such a kicker, and therefore reduces his solvency. Or when you have top pair with a top kicker, it is more difficult for your opponent to pay because he has much less top pairs and second pairs with a high kicker in his range. Do you understand?

#6. Does your bluff tell a credible story? 

Would you play your value hands the same way you plan a bluff? - This is extremely important. - Each player thinks differently, but you put yourself in the place of an adequate opponent who is able to think. If there is definitely some kind of inadequate opponent / calling station sitting on the other side of the screen, then there is no need to tell him any story. - He doesn't care.

So. The decision to bluff isn't always easy, and more often than not you'll have a few yeses and a few noes. Now you will need to evaluate how compelling the circumstances are in the hand and see what ultimately prevails. If the “no” amount outweighs, then don’t bluff. If the arguments in favor of bluffing turn out to be more compelling, then go ahead.

If you are curious to see how professionals bluff people out and raise their redline, watch this video: How To REDLINE (The Smart Way) | $200 Play & Explain

How to choose the bet size?

Let's say you come to the conclusion that it's worth bluffing.

#1. Zero showdown value? 

In the world of an ideal GTO, the same hands in the same situations can be bet either for a large size or for a small one - there balance and invulnerability to exploit are more important than monetary profit, even under a solid rake. Hands with a high SDV can be bet either for 25% of the pot or for 75%. GTO theory is incredibly complex, and you shouldn't dive into it too deeply right now. My goal is to help you learn how to mix the main basic frequencies and use logical hands in logical scenarios.

If you have 0 SDV, for example, 5-high on the river, then bluff with a large bet - you will not make fold top pairs and other auto-calls, but autofolds that are higher than your hand in SDV will rather fold that see the showdown. You don't want to get called against your small bets from A-high or K-high. Concerning top pairs and better hands - they are not the target for your bluff in this scenario.

If you have a good SDV in case of a call, then you can bet small. For example, having the same A-high.

Attention! This advice is more likely for a GTO game, because under normal circumstances you are more likely to check A-high. But a small bet is still not bad in itself. - Sometimes your opponent will call with K-high, Q-high, or even the same ace (but its kicker may be smaller).

#2. Does your opponent have a lot of marginal made hands that you want to make fold?

Explanation: The term "marginal" in poker means something borderline, uncertain, or a medium-strength hand, if we are talking about a made combination.

If your opponent has a lot of marginal hands, then you need to bet big. But the more dangerous the board, the fewer of them will continue to attack. For example, on a 3-flush board, a bet will not be large enough to bluff out your opponent's middle pairs, as on a dry board with an ace.

If he has few marginal hands in his range, but many weak hands and, conversely, strong ones (the range is polar), then you should bet small. You won’t make fold strong hands for any conceivable bet, but weak hands and complete garbage will fold even to a small bet. In fact, small bets against polar ranges on dangerous rivers are a great strategy because missed draws will almost never call or raise, and you won't overpay to straights and flushes.

#3. Does your hand block many nutted hands?

This point directly correlates with the quality of your blockers. The better they are, the more nutted hands and other autocalls you block. The worse the blockers, the more strong hands you unblock.

Example. On the 3-flush river K♣️Q♣️8♣️7♠️2♥️, having A♣️2♦️ in your hand is a great reason to bet big. Here are the arguments:

Since you have the ace to the nut flush, your opponent cannot possibly have the nut flushes - even though you yourself now have a trash hand with some SDV.

You represent the nut flush yourself. And a thinking opponent is quite capable of throwing away all his (obviously non-nut) flushes against a major attack or (check-)raise.

#4. Do you want get your opponent off strong hand?

The word strong can be put in quotation marks, because in the same situation different players will consider different combinations a strong hand. Where for one a strong hand will start from a straight, for another a top pair without a kicker may even be the whole nuts.

If you want to force your opponent to fold two pair or TPTK, then it is better to either bet big or not bet at all. If the target of your bluff is a weak pair, A-high or K-high, then even a small bet will often do the work.

#5. Are you representing a nutted hand?

That is, how often will you show your opponent the nuts or another strong hand in the same betting line that you played in the hand? Yes - big bet, no - small / refuse to bluff.

There are also situations where you have a lot of good hands in your range, but not the nuts, and then you need to bluff with exactly the bet size you would bet with for thin value. For example, take the board K♣️Q♣️8♣️7♠️2♥️. If you had TPGK-TPTK-OverPair, how much would you bet for value? Half-pot? 2/3 of the pot? 40%? - This is the same size you would have to bluff with with a hand suitable for bluffing (the criteria are indicated above).

Draw yourself a similar flowchart or print out this one, and then practice determining the frequency of bluffs and its bet size using several examples of your own. And now I will show you how.

An example of deciding to bluff and choosing its bet size

You open on the BU to 3 bb with 7♣️5♣️ and get called by a weak tight opponent on BB.

Flop: T♦️9♦️4♥️. You c-bet 1/3 of the pot and your opponent calls. Against such opponents as in the hand, continuation betting for 1/3 of the pot with air is absolutely normal, because they (1) will overfod extremely often and play in the fit-or-fold manner, and also (2) will extremely rarely check-raise you as a bluff.

Pay attention to the description of the opponent. - A weak tight player is, by definition, capable of folding a lot. - Therefore, this is an argument for bluffing if something happens. If this was a calling station, then you wouldn’t even have to think about bluffing. 

He called - OK, there is some kind of hit into the board from top pair to A-high and various draws. Let's move on.

Turn: 9♠️ - check-check. After calling the flop, such an opponent will throw too few hits on the second bet for your bluff to be profitable in the moment. Let's look at the situation on the river. 

River comes out 6♣️. BB checks again.

Question: should I bluff here and with what size? - To answer, let's turn again to the main diagram.

Search and compare arguments for and against

Bluff frequency

Let's start by determining our bluff frequency in this situation.

  • #1. Is your opponent able to fold? - Yes.
  • #2. Doesn't your hand have enough SDV? - Yes, 7-high doesn’t have it at all.
  • #3. Does Hero have a lot of value hands on the river? - More likely no than yes. In this scenario, you probably won't want to bet thin value often with 6x or 4x against a tight opponent because hands weaker than your bottom pair will almost never call.
  • #4-5. Are your blockers good and are you unblocking your opponent's autofolds? - Which hands fold easily on a T♦️9♦️4♥️9♠️6♣️ board that came to the river? - These can be KQ, KJ, QJ, J8 and Q8, as well as missed flush draws with X♦️X♦️. Since you don’t have cards of these ranks and suits in your hand, => you unblock your opponent’s autofolds, because he has a full number of these combinations. =>
    Yes, this means that the effectiveness of bluffing increases. 

If you were sitting with K♦️Q♦️, it would be one of the worst hands to bluff in this situation because (1) it blocks a bunch of Kx, Qx, and X♦️X♦️ in your opponent's autofold range, and (2) it has some SDV against his gutshots, OESD and low FDs. - Not like your actual hand is 7♣️5♣️.

  • #6. Are you telling the credible story? - This is the most controversial point. - No one thinks absolutely identically, and for one player your story will be more or less convincing / he will not want to take risks regardless, while the other will find / come up with many inconsistencies in your line or will go on principle and call you, just to be convinced of your honesty . 

We are also talking about players of the same type. Nobody knows what a particular opponent is thinking at the moment, but usually weak tight players believe their opponents: if someone bets on the river, it means they have made something worth betting.

As a result, the arguments in favor of the bluff outweighed, and now we need to choose its size.

Choosing the bet size

  • #1. Does the hand have zero SDV? - 7-high doesn’t have any SDV => Large size.
  • #2. Does your opponent have many marginal made hands that you want to make fold? - I think that from the marginal hands the opponent has on such a board and with his passivity, there are many 4x, few 6x, and also few A-, K- and Q-high. This very much depends on the specific opponent, and if you have serious doubts, you can skip this point. But he would have shown trips+ one way or another, and we’re not even thinking about beating out top pairs here. 
  • #3. Do you block many nut hands? - Which hands are the nuts here? - Hands with 9x, and will often have a high kicker. - What about blocking them with your hand? - It blocks them only slightly. => Small size.
  • #4. Are you trying to get opponent off strong hand? - This is a very important point, and you can’t skip it. - You don’t need to try to make fold your opponent’s top pair or something better here, because they will only fold here if you bet half a stack+ out of the blue, but that’s also without guarantees. - You shouldn’t get involved in such an adventure. - For an adequate bet or even a small overbet, TP+ will not fold so easily. => Small size.
  • #5. Are you representing a nutted hand? - Does your behavior in the hand indicate the presence of trips / full house from 9x? - Not in any way. - Your game looks like a weak top pair or some pocket pairs like 88. => Small size.

So we have arguments for both large bet sizes and small bet sizes. Now you need to logically weigh them and make a final decision on the size of the bet. Moreover, its choice does not have to be polar - you can bet half a pot if the weights of the arguments for and against are approximately similar.

Sure, in order to be courageous enough to make the bluff whenever it's the +EV decision, you need a solid bankroll to sustain losses when it doesn't work and keeping doing the best actions. More details on your cash game bankroll - in this article:

Francesco Campioni: Which cash game bankroll strategy is the best for you?


In my cash and tournament courses and masterclasses, I recommend betting at least 50% on the river with any hand, if you have already found the reason for the bet. In the GTO world, a small bluff bet in this situation could be a bet of as much as 75% of the pot, but in the realities of low stakes I would advise limiting the bet to exactly 50%. You can bet 40% or even less if you are sure that your story in the eyes of your opponent should end with such a small “thin block bet for value.” After all, it looks exactly like we are trying to get something more, having top pair or pocket pairs like 88 or 77 in our hands, as well as rare pairs of 6x.

  • The results of this example: yes, we are bluffing and choosing a small bet size of 50-33% of the pot.

This article is made from How To Bluff PERFECTLY video by Vladimir «ABIVPlus».

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