Can You Win at Poker Without Bluffing? It Might Shock You

Can You Win at Poker Without Bluffing?
People often ask me can you win at poker without bluffing and I think my answer is a little bit shocking to some of them.

Yes, you absolutely can win at poker without bluffing! In fact most big winning poker players actually do very little bluffing. Televised poker in particular tends to skew our perception of the game by hand picking a lot huge bluffs to show us.

But the truth is that most of the time people are not bluffing in poker anywhere near as much as you think and you absolutely can win at poker without bluffing. This is even more the case if you play online poker.

But there is of course a lot more to it than this, and in order to achieve the highest winnings possible in your poker games, you should work at least a few bluffs into your game plan.

Don't worry though because I am going to cover it all for you below in this article!


Do You Need to Bluff to Win at Poker?


So as I just mentioned, no, you absolutely do not need to bluff in order to win at poker. This is especially true at the lower stakes which is likely what you stakes you play.

My name is Nathan "BlackRain79" Williams I am the guy who is well known for having played millions and millions of hands at the lowest stakes online with some of the highest winnings in history.

Now, I am going to let you in on a little secret. I am very, very rarely bluffing at the poker tables. Many people have found this out the hard way over the years.

Heck, I just don't even have the time to be bluffing you when I am playing on 10 or 20 other tables! So when I am betting big and raising it is usually because I have a big hand.

But still to this day people call me down all the time just to see it. This is the one time they are going to catch me in a big bluff they convince themselves. Nope, he has the nuts again!

You won't see me doing this for example very often:




And the reason why I don't bluff very much at these stakes in particular is because of what I just said, they love to call me down.

Why would I try to bluff a bunch of guys who just love to call me all day? I have literally made a career out of these guys.

So if I suddenly decided to start bluffing them then that would just be like lighting money on fire. Poker is all about reacting to what your opponents do.

If they are going to call me down like crazy, cool. Then I will just show up with the nuts every time when I am betting big.

Play money poker is the most extreme example of this. You should never, ever, ever, ever bluff in play money poker ever. Because they do not fold anything for any amount!

If on the other hand I am playing in a game full of weak players who fold too much, then I am going to be bluffing these guys all day. And you will encounter these games as you move up the stakes in real money games.

I think you catch my drift. It's all about adapting to the game you are playing in.

Most games at the lower stakes though (live or online) are full of calling stations. You don't want to be bluffing these guys.


Don't Confuse a Continuation Bet With a Bluff


Now a point that trips a lot of people up is continuation betting. A continuation bet is when you raise before the flop and then "continue" your aggression on the flop with another bet.

You need to know that a continuation bet is NOT a bluff. A continuation bet instead is actually a standard play in poker that you should be making most of the time especially against a single opponent.

As I discuss in my poker strategy books, you should be continuation betting on the flop somewhere around 60% or 70% of the time. Against, some really, really weak/tight players you can even go higher than this sometimes.

So this means that a good portion of the time when I am betting the flop as the preflop raiser, I don't have much of anything on the flop, maybe ace high or a weak draw, sometimes nothing at all.


Example:

I have AJ♣

I raise preflop and a random opponent calls me in the blinds


Flop:

36♣T♠


Random opponent checks to me

I am continuation betting almost every time here!


The reason why this bet is not a bluff and you should be doing it often is because it is very profitable. Also, you need to remember that Ace high is often actually the best hand here.

Lastly, most people tend to give you too much respect as the preflop raiser anyways and fold too much on the flop. For instance, a lot of people will fold their pocket 4's or pocket 5's here when you bet.

This is just free money that you should always be picking up.


A Double Barrel Isn't Necessarily a Bluff Either


Another play that you might see me making at the poker tables a lot is a double barrel. This is when you raise preflop, continuation bet on the flop and then bet again on the turn.

If you don't know when you should be doing it (what opponents, what turn cards etc.), check out my double barrel cheat sheet right here.

Now most of the time when I am double barreling at the micros, I have the goods.

As I mentioned before, I am not screwing around at the lower stakes in particular. I know most of them love to call me down, so when I am betting, they are going to lose.

However, there are some occasions where it can still be a good idea to double barrel even when you only have a draw for example. And this is the case versus weak opponents.


Example:

You raise on the button with 98

A tight reg calls you in the big blind


Flop:

36J


Your opponent checks

You continuation bet


Turn:

A

Your opponent checks

You should double barrel!


This is an example of a hand where I am going to be betting again on the turn (even though I only have 9 high) a very large amount of the time.

The reason why is because the ace is a great scare card and my opponent has also shown weakness by checking to me again on the turn.

And to sweeten the deal even more, I still have the flush draw in my back pocket even if he decides to call my double barrel here on the turn.

So this is a slam dunk bet on the turn even though we are technically "bluffing."

As I talk about in The Micro Stakes Playbook you can also use tons of different HUD stats like WTSD% to find out which players are most likely to fold in a spot like this.

Bottom line though is I still don't even consider this to really be a bluff. It is simply a profitable poker play against the right players, on the right turn card.


Bet Big When You Have It - Don't Bluff the Calling Stations


The real key to success at the lower limits (either online or live) is value betting strongly and frequently with your big hands like top pair, two pair, trips, a straight or a flush.

A lot of people do the exact opposite though. They try to trap their opponents with these hands. I blame televised poker once again for this, giving people a distorted image of how poker works.

As we already discussed, you don't want to try and bluff a calling station. But you have to remember that the exact opposite applies as well!

That is, you never, ever, ever want to slow play versus a calling station. Because once again, they love to call. And you like money right?

This is one of the biggest mistakes that I still see so many people making at the micros in particular these days is just throwing away their money trying to slow play against calling stations.

So this is why when I hit a strong hand versus one of these players who like to call too much at the lower stakes I will often just go ahead and bet all three streets with it.

In other words, I will do the most painfully obvious thing in the world: Bet with my good hands.

It sounds so simple right? But many people try to complicate poker. There must be more to it than this they try to convince themselves.

They tell themselves that they need to play more tricky because that is how Daniel Negreanu plays on TV in heavily, heavily edited high stakes poker tournaments.

But this isn't how your $10 games on the internet play and you aren't Daniel Negreanu either. The way to beat the low stakes games that you play in is very simple actually.

I have made obscene amounts of money in these games (relatively speaking anyways, 6 figures+) by simply making the most braindead obvious plays over and over and over again.

Now of course not everybody is a calling station at the lower limits any more and you do need to adjust your game like I mentioned before versus some of the better aggressive players for instance.



However, one of the biggest keys to your success in most low stakes loose passive games is to just keep everything as simple as possible. And this means not bluffing very often and simply making the most obvious play possible with your good hands, bet them.


But I Just Love to Bluff!


Now some people might say, but Nathan, I just love to bluff so much, I get a thrill out of it, I can't control myself!

Ok cool. Believe me I get it. And this is actually a good thing. It will serve you well in higher stakes games where you need to out-think much stronger opponents and have lots more tricks up your sleeve.

But for now, if you are playing low stakes (which you probably are if you are reading this article), then you really have to cut most of this bluffing out of your game.

As I have mentioned all throughout this article you do not win at poker by bluffing a lot in most low stakes games. In fact you honestly do not need to bluff at all in most loose passive games.

And this is just part of the discipline and the ability to adapt that comes with being a strong poker player. You have to understand what kind of environment you are in and adjust to that.

As I often mention on this blog and in my books and poker YouTube videos, winning poker at the lower limits is actually pretty damn boring.

Seriously, it's mind numbingly boring at times. If you want to win that is.

There just isn't much you can do except sit around and wait for the nuts against many of these people. So if you want to win you need to control your urge to bluff so much.


Final Thoughts


So can you win at poker without bluffing? Well, to finally answer this age old question once and for all, the answer is yes, you absolutely you can win at poker without bluffing!

In fact in most low stakes loose passive poker games you should actually do very little bluffing if you want to win at the highest clip possible.

Now there are a few situations such as flop continuation bets and double barrels which should definitely be a part of your game. But these aren't really even bluffs, they are just good poker plays.

The bottom line is that you need to value bet strong and frequently at the lower stakes with your good hands and keep the bluffing to a minimum. This is how you will have the most success in these games.

If you want to know how I quit my job over 10 years ago to become an online poker pro and travel the world, (while doing very little bluffing at all), make sure you pick up a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.


Do you think you can win at poker without bluffing? Let me know in the comments below!

Can You Win at Poker Without Bluffing?




You Need to Fold a Premium Hand in These 5 Situations

You Need to Fold a Premium Hand in These 5 Situations
Folding a premium hand in poker before or after the flop is not something that anybody likes to do. I bet you hate it, I know I sure do!

But sometimes it is simply going to be necessary. And this is the kind of stuff that separates the amateurs from the pros.

By the way, just so we are on the same page here, when I say “premium hand” I am referring to these hands: AK, JJ, QQ, KK, AA

These hands will be among your biggest moneymakers at the poker table over the long run, but knowing when to fold these premium hands is also just as important.

In this article I am going to lay out 5 key situations where you need to be folding a premium hand at the poker table.


1. The Nit 4Bets You Preflop


First off, what exactly is a Nit? A Nit in poker is a term we use for a really tight and risk averse player.

This is the kind of player that you will find frequently in low stakes poker games online or in your local casino these days.

Typically these guys are playing a bunch of tables (in the case of online poker) and they are basically just waiting for the nuts.

If you are using a HUD and playing online poker then you will want to look for stats like this:
  • 9max - 12/10/3
  • 6max - 17/15/3

These HUD stats refer to VPIP, PFR and AF by the way. If you don’t know what these mean (or even what a HUD is), go check out this article of mine.

These players will also typically have a WTSD% in the mid 20's or less. What all these HUD stats indicate is a very tight player who basically only gets aggressive with a really strong hand.

And the main point here is that when you get into a raising war with one of these guys before the flop, they are almost never messing around.

Poker players love to joke that "The 4Bet always means Aces." Well, with Nits it really often does mean AA! That or pocket kings.

Therefore, I will routinely lay down hands like AK, QQ, JJ and TT versus these guys when they put in the 4Bet against me before the flop.

I will be even more inclined to fold these premium hands versus a Nit who 4Bets me in a full ring game and/or when the action takes place from early position or middle position.

And this is because ranges are extremely tight in these situations, regardless of player type.


2. The Nit Raises Your Flop CBet on a Dry Board


As you can probably guess by now, most of the situations where you should be folding a premium hand in poker are going to come against these tight risk averse players, the Nits.

And this is because of what we already mentioned, they aren’t bluffing very often when they decide to commit large portions of their stack to the pot.

Versus a wild loose maniac on the other hand, I am very rarely folding a premium hand. I just want that point to be extremely clear. The actions you take in poker are always heavily dependent on the player type you are up against.

So another spot where I will routinely lay down a big premium hand is versus a Nit who raises me on a dry flop. Here is an example of the kind of flop I am talking about:

259

There are pretty much no draws at all on a flop like this. This means that when a Nit raises you on a board like this he is pretty much screaming from the mountaintops that he has:
  • 22
  • 55
  • 99

So when I have a hand like AK, TT or JJ and the Nit raises me here, I will often just make a tight lay down right then and there.

With premium hands like QQ, KK or AA it gets a little bit more tricky because you now beat a few more hands. So I will often make the call here but I will be playing it very cautiously on the turn.


3. The Nit Raises Your Turn Double Barrel


A double barrel in poker is when you raise preflop, get called, bet the flop, get called again and then bet the turn as well.

When you take a line like this it shows a lot of strength. It basically means “Hey, I have something really, really good. You should fold now!”

So this is why when I double barrel a Nit and he raises me on the turn all sorts of alarms bells are going to be going off in my head even if I have a premium hand!

Why is this guy raising me? Remember that Nits are by definition risk averse players. This means that they do not like to put a lot of money into the pot unless the odds are heavily in their favor.

And when you raise a double barrel this commits a significant portion of your stack, roughly around 50%. Does that sound like something that a highly cautious player likes to do with a bluff or even a draw?

No, definitely not.

So once again, this is a spot where I will routinely fold a premium hand. Yes, even with QQ, KK and AA this time when they are over pairs to the board. And this is because I think there is a very good chance that I am way behind versus this particular player type.

Nits can sometimes be messing around with a draw or over-valuing an over pair when they raise your flop CBet and that is why I mentioned before that I will often call with QQ, KK and AA.

But when they raise your turn double barrel, that's a totally different story. That means they have a nut hand literally every single time and you really, really need to be folding all of your unimproved premium hands.

Now folding a premium hand in a situation like this is still very hard. I am not going to lie.

For example you have AA and the board is 357T.

You double barrel the turn and the Nit raises you.


The Cold Hard Evidence Never Lies


So this is why I always suggest using a program like PokerTracker to simply go check your database and see the actual evidence for yourself.

Remember, your mind and your emotions will often try to trick you at the poker tables. But the cold hard data never lies!

So go hop into PokerTracker and simply filter for all the times you called when your double barrel got raised. I absolutely guarantee that you are losing big time.

You do this by bringing up the cash game filters, clicking actions and opportunities and then selecting options for the turn as seen below:

pokertracker cash game filters

Once the results come up, look at the actual numbers staring you right in the face and take a few moments to let that all those massive losses fully sink in.

This is what it took for me to finally change my mind about these situations and start making the right play each time, which is to fold.

Believe me, when the Nit raises your turn double barrel he is crushing your one pair hand every single time. Calling is simply lighting money on fire.


4. Fold a Premium Hand When You Get Raised on the River


Another situation where I will routinely fold a premium hand in poker is when I get raised on the river.

And just to be crystal clear, throughout this article I am only talking about situations where you have an unimproved premium hand (i.e. your AA is still just one pair on the river).

If you manage to improve to a set, flush or something like that with your premium hand then this changes absolutely everything.

So let's look at a river raise situation. Say you have KK and the board by the river is:

J9853

And let’s further assume that the action went like this:
  • You raised preflop
  • Villain calls
  • You CBet the flop
  • Villain calls
  • You checked the turn 
  • Villain checks back
  • You value bet the river
  • Villain raises!!!

Now let’s also just assume that villain is a random opponent. In other words you have no information on him/her at all.

So what's the correct play here? You guessed it. This is a spot where you need to be folding your pocket kings.

Here is why.

We checked the turn because that 5♥ is a really bad card that completes a ton of draws. However, when he checks back the turn we then need to go for some value on the river because our hand is under-repped and there are a lot of worse hands that will call us such as QQ, Jx or 9x.

However, when he then goes ahead and raises us on the river, this changes everything. Once again you can just load up PokerTracker and go see the huge losses for yourself.

Filter for all the times when you bet the river, somebody raised you and you called. Look at all that money you threw down the drain!

Here's the thing. Most poker players at the lower stakes in particular are very rarely bluffing when they raise the river. And by very rarely I mean almost never.

Honestly, it's usually not even worth bothering to put them on a hand. Does it really even matter whether it's the set, the flush, the two pair or the straight that got you?

Because all of these hands crush your lonely little pair of kings on the river. This is indeed another spot where you need to be folding your premium hand.


5. Fold a Premium Hand When Extremely Deep Stacked


The last situation where you need to strongly consider folding a premium hand is when you are super deep stacked. I am talking 200bb, 300bb or more.

And if you play live poker or Zoom poker online, then you will know that deep stack situations like this happen frequently.

In fact I reviewed a deep stack hand like this on my YouTube poker channel a week or two ago that generated a lot of intense debate.


This hand was played 425bb deep online (which is crazy) and as you can see the villain in this hand was ultimately unable to get away from his hand.

Now folding pocket AA in a situation like this is incredibly difficult and it is a massive, massive cooler. No matter how good you are, you are going to lose a lot here.

But a smart poker player never loses 4+ stacks here with the 4th nuts versus another competent reg. That's just totally crazy.

And I don’t think I even need to tell you how disastrous losing 425bb in a single hand is for your poker win rate. Or of course how good it is for your win rate to win 4+ stacks in one hand!

So this is why I highly suggest playing deep stacked poker not only against the recreational players, but against the other regs like this as well who simply cannot fold a premium hand to save their life.

Very few people at the lower stakes understand how to play super deep stacked poker. And therefore, as this hand illustrates, it can be extremely profitable.


Final Thoughts


So these are the 5 situations where you need to fold a premium hand in poker. And those are just the ones that I could think of off the top of my head. There are definitely many more.

The truth is that every situation in poker is unique though and any action you take really depends on the player type you are up against, the board texture, the board runout, any history you have with this player, the stack sizes, the positions at the table, the action in the hand and so on.

This is why there are so rarely any clear cut and dried answers for what to do in poker in all situations.

Sometimes you need to make a tough fold with a premium hand. But sometimes you also need to just ram it down their throat and force them to show you a better hand!

Being able to decipher which one is correct in each situation is the mark a great poker player. Hopefully this article gave you a few clues to look for.

Lastly, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet to learn all of the strategies I use to crush the micros.


Let me know in the comments below when and if you fold a premium hand in poker. Is this something that you struggle with?

fold a premium poker hand