What is a ‘Strategic Bluff’?
A ‘strategic bluff’ is any application of bluffing to a poker game where it has the intention of furthering a longer term strategy. Players might bluff early in the game to create the impression of a certain play style, affecting the game in later turns when opponents cannot anticipate their next actions. In some senses, all bluffing is ‘strategic bluffing’ as it has an ultimate goal, but generally the term applies to a player who aims to mislead about their style of play.
‘Strategic Bluff’ Explained
In poker, having great cards will ensure you have a chance at winning the pot – but it is not the only thing to consider. Poker is a casino game based on betting that the strength of the cards held beats the hands of all other opponents, so that in a showdown it will be the best hand to take the pot. However, the game is set so that players can ‘bluff’ – essentially lie and mislead so that they can influence the outcome of the game.
Many bluffs are designed to influence a single hand or betting round. For example, if a player holds four parts of an outside straight and thinks they have a good chance of finding their outs, they might bluff that they already hold this hand and bet highly. If the gamble pays off and they get the hand they hoped for, they have also boosted the pot in the process. Other times, a player bluffs that their hand is weaker than it is, to prevent players folding early.
A ‘strategic bluff’ has a longer term goal – to mislead opponents on playing style or tactics. A player using a strategic bluff might act more inexperienced than they are, or give away easy hands early in the game. When they are sure that the table is fooled, they can pull out an aggressive and strong play that has greater impact through the element of surprise.