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Post Oak Bluff

Strategic Plays: Post Oak Bluff
By Loki Luchs of

There are times where the moves that a professional poker player makes baffle the naïve on-looker. This is due to the fact that most amateur players are looking at a smaller picture. They play once a week or once a month and they think about the outcomes of just that session. A professional player concentrates on making the correct plays, because their livelihood depends on the outcome of months of sessions. After playing thousands of hands, similar situations will arise and plays will be ambiguous as to what is and isn’t correct, so they ask whether an individual play will be correct a high enough percentage of the time. This will occasionally lead to strange circumstances that will leave amateurs (and occasionally other professionals) baffled by why a player made the play they did.

One play that confounds many is the post-oak bluff. This type of bluff is a river bet that is roughly 1/10th of the pot. You’re giving your opponent ample odds to call, so in theory they almost always should. The obvious question of why this is a profitable play is shouldn’t the objective of a bluff be to get them to fold? Yes, it should! If you’re betting a tiny amount of money, your opponents will obviously call you a fair amount of the time! You’re giving them pot-odds to call so if they think they’ll win one out of ten times (okay, fine, one out of eleven times for those math Nazis out there), they will. So why would this play have a positive equity? What most players never consider, though, is that this play only needs to work for YOU one out of ten times for it to be profitable. The real benefit is that you risk very little in order to win a pot. While you’re going to get caught bluffing more times than if you make a pot-size bet, you also don’t lose nearly as much when you’re caught.


One time that you might want to try the post-oak bluff is when the board looks extremely dangerous and (you believe) your opponent is afraid of the many potential hands available. I particularly like this when the board is four to a straight and when the board is three to a flush. (If the board is four to a flush, I prefer a slightly larger bet, because it eliminates the weak players’ baby flushes more easily. Some players, however, believe this is the absolute best time for the post oak because it’s represents the nut flush.) One important aspect of the play is that your opponent has to be smart enough to assume that if you bet so little on a dangerous board, you’re probably desperately wanting a call. If this is the case, then he will have to assume that you’re super-strong and will fold.

Another instance would be against a good player who you have a good read on. If you happen to catch a tell when they’ve missed their draw, there’s no reason to not fire a post oak bluff here. It won’t matter that you also have missed your hand, because whoever bets will win. The argument is that if they’re going to fold 90% of the time here, a small bet is just as good as a large one. However, on the off chance that you’ve caught a false reading, when they check-raise your bluff, you can fold with less of an equity loss. They may, in fact, have only the option of re-raising you if they feel that you’re weak and will lay the hand down to a bigger bluff. If they have the stones to bluff back, they win the hand, but they lose less. This actually can even be good for setting traps when you’re strong.

Another benefit of this is when you lose this bet, you can get free advertising about your play. Two or three post-oak bluffs will result in an outstanding reputation for being a loose player for a very low profit. With this kind of advertising, you can quickly convince people that you’ll bet nothing on the river a good deal of the time. Most beginners and many intermediate players won’t remember HOW you bluffed, only that you did! When you have the goods, you’re going to get more action and make a great deal more money than you lost on those small hands.

The post-oak bluff is becoming a rare bullet these days, but it still has its uses. With as many players as there are in the game today, the overall number of calling stations minimizes its quality. However, when a table is filled with rock tight players, it will reduce your risks and maximize your profits on worthless hands.


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