Many pros say there isn't as much bluffing in no-limit hold 'em as people think. But then bluffing is about deceit, so you don't know what's true and what isn't.
One thing that is true, however, is that bluffing takes courage. Another thing is that the small blind can be a good place to pull it off.
At the 2007 World Series of Poker $10,000-buy-in main event at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas, with blinds at $600-$1,200 plus a $200 ante, action folded to aggressive pro David "The Dragon" Pham in the small blind. With the miserable holding of Q-2 offsuit, Pham raised to $3,600, a frequent and productive play when antes are involved. The big blind called.
Both players could have almost anything in this situation. Both also showed they would defend their blinds. The flop came A-4-7, missing Pham completely. No matter. He led out for $5,000. The big blind called.
"He could have an ace," said Pham, winner of two WSOP bracelets. "He could have a 4. He could have 7s. If he had an ace, he might raise me on the flop right away. He cannot have a medium hand because he just called."
The turn came the ace of clubs. Pham checked, which could indicate he was afraid of trip aces or perhaps represent that he was trying to trap with that hand.
"If he bets out," Pham said, "I'm going to check-raise him and make him think I have an ace. But after he checked on the turn, I know he's on a draw."
The river came the 10 of hearts. Pham checked again, allowing him to read his opponent's bet for strength and get away from his attempted bluff or read it for weakness and use his much bigger stack to complete his bluff with a sizable check-raise.
The big blind bet $9,000 into a pot worth close to $20,000.
"He didn't bet enough," Pham said. "I called the $9,000 and check-raised him $18,000 more. It was for most of his stack. I knew that if he called [and lost], he would worry about being crippled. I had him thinking that I might have pocket 10s or I have the ace. He can't call me unless he has the ace. I'm pretty sure he doesn't have the ace because if I check on the turn, he has to bet it. He can't allow me to free-roll the hand with two diamonds out there."
The big blind thought for a long time. A long time. At one point, he asked Pham if he would show his cards if he folded.
"Maybe," Pham said. "Maybe not." The big blind folded without showing his cards. Pham, however, showed his.
"He didn't bet on the turn and bet so small on the river," Pham said. "That told me I could run him off the hand."
Trap: To check or bet a small amount to feign weakness in order to lure an opponent into betting or raising. *
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