I trust my instincts when Iâ??m deciding whether or not a player is bluffing. I hone these instincts by practicing reading my opponents when Iâ??m out of the hand being played, to try to get a better read on them when I need it later. If someone has raised in front of me and I feel that he is weak, I usually fold anyway. But at the end of the hand, Iâ??ll watch to see if he exposes his hole cards, so I can confirm that he was weak or see that I was wrong. If I was right, then I will wait for him to do it again. Anyone who makes one weak raise can be expected to make more than one.

Philâ??s Strategy: Re-raise with Nothing

I like to use an example from the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in 2001. I had been watching Daniel Negreanu very closely during the championship on day three. In this particular hand, Daniel opened the pot for $10,000. I knew he had nothing, and when it was my turn to act I made it $30,000 to go with 10â?¦â??2â?¦ (bluffing). Now, John â??Worldâ? Hennigan decided to move all-in for $30,100, and Daniel quickly folded his hand. I called $100 more, but I would have called another $10,000 because of the size of the pot (I had about $210,000 in front of me at the time). After all, I already had $30,000 in the pot plus Johnâ??s $30,100 and Danielâ??s $10,000. Much to my embarrassment, the tournament director required us to flip our cards face up before the flop.

When the hands were announced, a lot of snickering was heard from the crowd, and most of the players left in the tournament came over to watch this pot. John had 9-9 and I had 10-2! Basically, I needed a 10 to win. The flop and the turn came 7-8-3-K and then a 10 hit on the last card! What a lucky card for me! I donâ??t know what John was doing putting his last $30,000 into a pot when it was raised and re-raised in front of him before the flop, and I didnâ??t like his play at all. I hadnâ??t been making any plays that day, and even if he suspected that I was making a play, pocket nines isnâ??t a very good hand to make a stand with, especially given that he couldnâ??t even raise me out of the pot.

Johnâ??s instinct was right, so I have to give him credit for his call, and perhaps for figuring out that Daniel and I were both bluffing! Anyway, here is an example of a pot that was won while someone was making a move.

If someone raises a very small amount before the flop, I will often call with suited connectors and take the flop. When I do this, I am putting a lot of pressure on myself to read my opponents. Sometimes it works out beautifully and sometimes I have to scramble in order to save chips.

I absolutely hate getting all my chips in with any hand. When you are all-in you can go broke! Of course, if I had the best possible hand on the last round of betting, then I love to get all my chips in. I try to avoid getting all-in in NLH unless it canâ??t be helped.

More often than I probably should, I will throw away the best hand when I play NLH. I will throw away very strong hands if I believe that theyâ??re beaten, no matter how much money is already in the pot. When you can do this, you can escape losing situations. I folded pocket kings before the flop at the World Championships in 2001 when my opponent opened for $1,200. I re-raised him to $3,800, and he then moved my last $12,000 all-in. I thought he had pocket aces, so I folded my hand, rather then risk my last $12,000. As he was throwing away his hand facedown, I said â??Show me pocket aces!â? Amazingly, he did show them. The ability to throw away strong hands is a mark of an NLH champion.

I often protect my hands with huge bets and raises. At the preliminary NLH event at the WSOP that I won in 2001, I moved all-in with A-A after I was check-raised on a flop of Aâ?¦-6â?¥-7â?¥. Even though I had the best possible hand and a good reason to suspect that the opponent who had check-raised me on the flop was drawing dead (had no wins!), I didnâ??t want to take a chance that my opponent might catch two perfect cards. This was the classic slow-play situation because we were the two chip leaders at the time. Instead of smooth calling my opponentâ??s $15,000 check raise on the flop, I went ahead and raised him his last $50,000, and he threw his hand away. Perhaps if I had slow-played my hand, my opponent would have caught an eight and a nine to make a ten-high straight with his A-10 and a board of A-6-7-8-9.

I like to play conservatively and hang around in the tournament until I smell blood or have a good situation come up for me. I wait for the chips to come to me. Eventually, my opponents start to make mistakes that I can take advantage of. When I feel the time is right, I will make some moves. I might call someone with a weak hand when heâ??s bluffing, or I might bluff someone when I smell weakness. I may even try to trap someone if I make the nuts, but generally I bet the nuts to give someone the chance to break himself against me in a pot.

I play by feel, with some discipline, to make sure I stay around for a while. And I trust my reading powers. I sit back and watch what others are doing, and then I make some adjustments to my play. Sometimes I play my style, and other times I play a style based entirely on my opponentsâ?? styles.

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Phil Hellmuth Jr. is an 11-time World Series of Poker Champion leading all poker players in the world. He has two New York Times best-seller books, â??Play Poker Like the Prosâ? and â??Bad Beats and Lucky Draws.â? Both books can be found at Amazon.com. Philâ??s books, blog, tips and more can also be found at PhilHellmuth.com. Learn about his new cell phone game at HellmuthHoldem.com.