The California Poker Players Conference held Oct. 20-21 at Hollywood Park Casino, was a fantastic event. We all learned to become better players from it.
During the Panel Discussion, I was asked about the Esther Bluff. In a subsequent discussion with an attendee, I suggested it as a great tactic when trying to steal the pot on the flop. So I experimented that evening. In two attempts, I batted 100 percent.
As explained previously, the Esther Bluff was created by my now 12-year-old charismatic granddaughter Esther Fayla Epstein when she used to beat me up when we played poker at home. Her success-until I realized she bluffed too often-was due to the fact that she bet with a monster hand and bluffed exactly the same way, convincing me she had the hand she represented. Somehow that message was transferred into my open mind until I realized that she bluffed too often. The Esther Bluff has been successful for me in 2 out of 3 attempts. That's fantastic, because break-even for bluffing is about 1 out of 4. Of course, I am very selective as to when I attempt it, so I don't have an image as a frequent bluffer.
Here's my strategy for stealing the pot on the flop: In a limit hold'em game, in middle or late position with a hand that meets the criteria of our Hold'em Algorithm, you call the blind to see the flop. Two or three opponents-but no more than three-also limp. There are no preflop raises, so you expect that there are no high or middle pairs out against you. The flop doesn't contain any high cards. Perhaps there's a small pair and an offsuit middle card. There's little chance that someone has caught three-of-a kind or a draw to a flush or straight.
On the flop, all opponents check to you. Perhaps there is one more opponent to declare after you who is a fairly conservative player, and not a calling station. At that point you try to steal the pot. You actually may have the best hand, but probability tells us that you are more likely to be an underdog, especially if three opponents see the turn with you. Indeed, you probably will lose if you just check to see a free card on the turn. On that basis, trying for the steal is good strategy with a long term positive expectation. So you bet. Use the Esther Bluff to be convincing, so your opponents are more likely to fold. If they all fold, you have taken a small pot you probably would have lost otherwise. Don't show your hand as you gather the chips.
If one opponent calls, since you have two overcards, it was like a semibluff. Let's assume the turn doesn't help you, nor did it put a face card on the board that may have helped your remaining opponent. Most likely he will check to you. By all means, make another Esther Bluff bet. He has no idea that you don't have a strong hand. In fact, he assumes that you do because, after all, you did bet on the flop after everyone else had checked. Your opponent respects, and perhaps fears, you. With only the river to come, he will fold unless he has a strong drawing hand. He doesn't suspect that you are trying to bluff him. Yes, the Esther Bluff is powerful-and can help you to steal the pot on the flop and afterwards. So, readers, what's