While it's certainly of benefit to have position on our opponents, when it comes to bluffing, the tables turn somewhat, and initiative becomes a very important consideration. And this isn't just the case in bluffing, it's true whenever we're not very sure we're ahead in the hand.
While there is more risk involved in acting first, there also are benefits at times, if we use initiative properly. Generally, it takes a stronger hand to call a bet than it takes to bet. The reason is that, when we bet, we are representing strength without knowing whether the opponent is prepared to represent strength as well (by calling or raising). However, when an opponent bets, we do know that the opponent is representing strength. So typically, we're going to go up against stronger hands when we call than when we bet, so we're going to need stronger hands to justify the call.
This all assumes we aren't putting our opponents on bluffs though. To the extent that an opponent may be bluffing, we will of course discount this represented strength from him accordingly. The main thing we need to look for is the person's bet rate when he has the initiative. If he always bets out, unlikely but possible, then of course this says nothing about his strength of hand, as he may have anything. As a general rule, the more he tends to check in this situation rather than bet, the stronger his hand when he does bet. This will be the case generally unless our opponents are quite sophisticated, the kidn we don't really want to be playing against unless we're playing a high level, however, even then the rule holds true to a meaningful degree, since no opponent is going to randomize his actions completely. We're not relying on a few isolated moves to read our opponents, which is at best what they will do to throw us off, we're taking this information and using mathematical analysis to decide these things, which is much more powerful.
Luckily, in all but the best games, our opponents aren't out to read us in such a manner. Thus, we can pretty much just focus on their actions and look to take advantage of accordingly. We'll look to determine how often a player folds to our bets, and the more they fold, the more we'll bet. And if they don't fold much, that's good too, because while we'll be playing less hands, we'll make more money when we do have something. So by formulating our plan according to their behavior, we can beat them regardless of what they do, so long as we're aware of the patterns that present themselves.
In loose games, the opportunities to use inititive to our advantage don't present themselves anywhere near as often as in tighter games, because we're much more likely to get called down, which will reduce our bluffing opportunities. Nonetheless, there are still potential opportunities which we need to be on the lookout for. We can't just say that the game is loose or a player is loose so there's not going to be any real opportunities to take pots down. Against several loose opponents though, the good opportunities are rare. It is more when we get a single opponent in a situation where they are more likely to fold then not that we're going to be able to address this.
So what we're on the lookout for is to capture the folding tendencies of opponents. We want to know how often they'll fold to a bet, and how often they'll fold to a raise. Typically though, opponents are less likely to fold to raises, in limit anyway. This is particularly true of loose players. This is one of the reasons why initiative is so important, otherwise we could bluff equally effectively regardless of position. Since most of our success in bluffing is going to come when we're first to act, this is why having the initiative is so important.
Another thing which we need to consider when determining when to take the initiative is players who have very high call rates. If they call with pretty much anything, they have pretty much anything, and it's going to take less to bet than it would against a tighter player, who needs a real hand to call. On the other hand, if they are too tight, we can bluff them more. So you always want to pay attention to what your opponents tend to do.
It is said that good poker players "play the player" more than they play their cards. These are examples of the effectiveness of this. Of course, all this is in reference to the cards you hold, so don't make the mistake of thinking you can just track player patterns and not pay enough attention to your cards. You have to do both. Luckily for us, most of our competition doesn't look much beyond playing their own cards, which they don't tend to do particularly well anyway. We need not to relax though and use every advantage if we seek to maximize our profits.
So, to sum up, we can favor taking the initiative based upon advantages of fold equity that present themselves in patterns of the play of our opponents. We want few and preferably one opponent here, and we want the chances of us taking the pot without a fight to be favorable. Tight games and heads up situations present the best opportunities for this, and we need to be careful we don't overdo this in looser games where the likelihood of it succeeding isn't high enough.