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Is bluffing more useful and effective in a two player game, compared to bigger tables? When playing one single player, the possibilities of your opponent having good cards is smaller than if playing on a 6/10 player table. So I guess it is easier to frighten 1 player than more players at one go...

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  • Bluffing is way more effective heads-up but it depends on the looseness of player. You can't bluff 3 other players, you need a hand or a pack of nit players. – user1165 Nov 3 '15 at 18:49
  • I think this could be a useful question as people flesh out their reasoning about what makes them more or less inclined to bluff, depending on a critical point in the decision, how many opponents are left in the hand. Rather than closiong these questiopns, downvoting them might be more appropriate if thats your inclination. – Toby Booth Nov 5 '15 at 21:22
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So you've got the question, the answer, and the reasoning behind it. Yes, bluffing is more useful and effective in a two player game (heads-up), compared to bigger tables. The only thing left to mention here is that your opponent probably knows this fact. The thing that can make bluffing in heads-up a bit more "complicated" than bigger tables.

And as a side note, the stack sizes in a heads-up game are also more effective than bigger tables, in regard to the game play, including bluffing.

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The heads up game is much more complex than this. you need to adapt to your opponent. Effective is probably not the right word. In heads up bluffing is necessary. You need to play more hands. the tighter your opponent is, the easier it should be. Better even is a loose opponent preflop and tight post flop :)

Also bluffing requires a good understanding of ranges and behaviour.

Good luck

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Yes, the more players you are up against, the less inclined you should be to bluff. Not only is there a chance that one of them might have hand, but also even if you know they don't have a hand (and neither do you), they might just decide to float you (i.e. call with nothing to see if they can steal the pot or catch a card). Since there's some non-zero chance of this happening for each player as well, that's going to cut your odds.

Say there's three other players, all limped, and let's assume no one was paired pre-flop. You are on the button, last to act, and everyone checks the flop. You want to bluff, and let's say you are almost certain no one hit or has a pair.

That doesn't mean a bluff will work, because people might call your late-position bet. Let's say that each player will call you 1 time out of 5 (not unreasonable against a late-position obvious bluff). That means 1 - .8*.8*.8 = 49% chance you will get a call.

Watch what happens with more players, assuming the don't adjust their style based on number of players just to see how the math works:

Heads-up: 80% fold percentage
2 opponents: 64%
3 opponents: 51%
4 opponents: 41%
5 opponents: 33%

So, decent odds with 2 opponents, but barely above even odds with 3, and 3:2 against with 4.

In general, factors that argue against bluffing are:

  1. Previous aggression in the hand
  2. Multiple opponents
  3. Loose and/or aggressive opponents, including calling stations and angry people on tilt
  4. Poor position
  5. Poor table image
  6. Flops likely to hit your opponent (lots of high cards and draws).
    Good flops are flops like J-7-3, 5-5-10, and 9-5-4. K-Q-10 of hearts is awful.
  7. Shorter stacks. When you bluff, a lot of the actual bluff is the threat of the rest of your money getting bet on subsequent streets, in addition to what you've actually bet. If you are short-stacked, you don't have as much of a threat behind that bet. If your opponent is short-stacked, he may decide he's pot committed and re-raise all-in.

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