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Bluffing from Late Position

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Bluffing from Late Position in Poker Tournaments

Another article on bluffing in poker tournaments. This time focusing on bluffing from late position ie. LP and CO.

It is well known that the best and most profitable position to bluff in is late position or the cut-off, however you’ll find that most TAG nits fail to take advantage of it.  From late position the game really opens up and you can be playing a much larger range of starting hands pre-flop, including stealing hands such as 56o which enable you to see loads more flops and opportunities to hit a monster. 

For example, say you limp from late position with 5d-6d.  The flop comes 5sJd5s.  Any player with a Jack or even Ax from middle position is going to believe that he has the best hand and you’ll get a lot of c-bets and calling equity for monsters.  It’s very easy money getting on flops like these which is why limping into pots from late position is encouraged so much.  From CO or the button, you also have relative position on all the other players at the table which makes bluffing/stealing more +EV.

Your opponent has no clue about what you could be holding; you also have position so in effect as long as he misses the flop you have a massive speculative advantage.  You can semi-bluff and float marginal hands to make your opponent’s Ax or underpairs fold.  This is the complete opposite to playing a hand from early position because then your opponent can put you on a pretty small and accurate range of hands. 

Keeping a balanced hand range to prevent iso-raising is also important.  Players using a tournament hud will have a huge edge on you and will be able to view how often you raise from the CO.  By bluffing and stealing boards with a spectrum of hands you become harder to read.  You get greater calling equity when you’re dealt AA/KK and raise from LP.  Against LAGs or short-stacks you can simply limp-shove these more often, and even slow-play them post-flop to extract more value.  I always try to acheive a PFR% (pre-flop raise) of 15%+ towards the middle and late stages of the tournament, which is a combination of steals and pre-flop value bets.

The best opponents to bluff against post-flop are LAGs with a VPIP% above 20%.  A lot of the time you’ll come across hyper agressive players with an AG > 1.5 in tournament indicator which shows a very high betting/raising frequency%.  The best way to bluff these opponents is to float them and aim to bluff them on a later street.  By the turn and river, you should be comparing an opponents WSD% (went to show down) with their WSDW% (went to show down and won).  When WS% > 39% it means they’re overplaying and great opponents to bluff against.  If the WSDW% if anything near 100% then you know they usually have something strong at showdown.

Bluffing and Good Stealing Boards in Late Position

Calling raises preflop from late position pays dividends on dry boards post-flop.  Your positional advantage is what makes calling with non-premium hands +EV because you can cbet and double-barrel if your opponent misses.  Say you are in late position with 5h-6h and the blinds are 1,000/2,000.  Your opponent raised 6,000 from early position and everyone folds, so you decide to call.  The board comes 3h-7h-9s.  It’s extremely unlikely your opponent who raised UTG preflop will have hit anything here, so he will cbet most of the time.  However, he will also be aware that you know this so any early continuation bet or steal will look too suspicious.  However, if the turn still doesn’t improve his hand or brings a scare card (such as 8c), your double-barrel raise will look much stronger and he will have to fold.

This situation has shown that there is a massive situational advantage from playing/calling marginal hands in late position post-flop.  There are two fundamental principles that make the play profitable. 1) You can narrow an early position’s hand range and subsequently tell whether he has missed the flop and 2) you can cbet or double-barrel him .  It was extremely unlikely the flop or turn could have improved his hand unless he was holding a hand like Ah-Kh.  However we also know that if he called our bet on the turn, it would probably rule this hand out.  Thus, the bluff/limp from late position was effective, simple, and had easy exit routes.

In this situation we decided there was only one opponent.  The advantage calling him was that there was a big chance he would miss the flop.  However calling or limping from late position is also very +EV with multiple opponents.  There is massive implied odds if we hit anything big on the flop.  The difference, however, is that if we miss we cannot afford to bluff.  We should fold.

Conclusion on Taking Advantage of Late Position

The player who wins the tournament will always be the one who accumumlates the most chips and creates as many opportunities as possible for himself.  Taking advantage and exploiting positional advantages in every single hand possible is crucial.  In the above example we won both the blinds (plus any antes), and an opening 3BB raise.  What this should tell you is that there is far more to tournaments (or poker for that matter) than waiting for premium hands or AA.  You should be playing the game, your opponents and your position.  Not just your cards. 

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