AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 07.10.2021 · last updated 07.10.2021

Missing the Flop after a pre-fop raise can be annoying in itself, but at least when up against a lone opponent we can still win the pot by following up with a Continuation Bet. It’s a different matter entirely when the same happens and there were multiple callers.

Some games see this kind of situation more than others, particularly bricks and mortar and low(ish) stakes – essentially those populated to some extent by weaker, less experienced, and recreational players. And when it happens it’s yet another poker conundrum that has us asking ourselves ‘What am I going to do now?’ with a very tangible level of frustration…

Is it a good idea to bluff flops against multiple players? The answer to that question in a general setting tends to be no, but here there’s the not insignificant difference of us having been the pre-flop raiser, thus reminding the opposition that we are – or at least were initially – in the driving seat, holding the makings of an initiative.

With a weak hand, because we missed the flop, our only chance of taking down the pot in this scenario is to bluff. There’s simply no alternative means by which to get our hands on the booty. Raising pre-flop and then folding to a bet is obviously going to be a prudent way to go much of the time, but it would be a bad habit indeed to acquiesce so obligingly if we gave up the chase every single time the flop wasn’t kind to us after we raised pre-flop.

Clearly, there will be times when faced with this dilemma when we are justified in continuing the hunt for chips with a C-bet bluff because certain crucial conditions can be in place to allow our bet to have a positive effect. It’s just a case of knowing what to look for and taking the necessary action when applicable.

The aim of the exercise is, of course, to induce folds from our opponents. It won’t always work, but by understanding how to assess the likelihood of our bluff C-bet getting through we can be sufficiently selective to maximise our chance so that this strategy is, overall, a profitable one.

Perhaps, given that poker is inherently a numbers game, it’s not surprising to learn that there’s a way to estimate how often all players will fold to a bet. We do this through a simple calculation that revolves around what we consider to be the chance of players folding. For example, if we have seen Player A fold every time after calling a pre-flop raise to see the flop and then trashing their hand to a bet, we can safely assign them an 80% chance of folding. If Player B, who is in early position, has also backed down in similar circumstances we can reasonably put them on folding 60% of the time here. By multiplying these two we get 80% x 60% = 48% – so we could expect our C-bet bluff to pick up the pot almost half the time which, taking the odds afforded us by a standard C-bet, leads us to a no-brainer decision to bluff away.

Of course, the more players to contend with, the more problematic the mission to pick up the pot uncontested. For example, it can be a different picture if we double the number of players who came along with us for the ride. For instance, let’s say there are four players to beat, and we believe each is quite likely to fold and put that percentage expectancy at 75% – this gives us 75% x 75% x 75% x 75% = 32%. Again, an estimate of all four folding as much as a third of the time might seem higher than we would imagine, and in fact there are worse odds to put our faith in in order to have the courage to bluff. Note also that those times when, for example, all but one of our opponents fold, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve failed – there are still two streets to come that could see us have the best hand, and there’s still a chance of pushing them off the hand, too.

It’s well worth experimenting with this useful formula by plugging in different numbers of opponents and various fold expectancies, so as to have a good idea of what to look out for when we find ourselves in this tricky situation that nevertheless holds more potential than it would first seem. Poker is all about finding potentially advantageous spots that give us opportunities to pick up chips that otherwise would pass us by if we were to make the mistake of not constantly being open to and consequently seeking out such chances.

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