‘Reprint’ from the PokerActionLine.net main site


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In poker, bluffing is when someone bets or raises the stakes with an inferior hand. You can win with this strategy, but it’s not for the fainthearted. Follow these steps to master this important aspect of the game.

Look at your cards casually, showing no emotion. The idea is to be hard to read. You don’t want to appear excited or disappointed, regardless of what your hand may be.

Watch other players’ dispositions; if you sense anything, it should affect the way you play. If you feel another has a winning hand, you should fold.

Know the game. The more experience you have playing, specifically with the same group, will make it easier for you to anticipate others’ plays. Basing your decisions on these expectations will give you the upper hand.

Don’t show your cards if everyone folds. Take the pot and leave everyone guessing. This is your best bet, as revealing your hand may lead others on to your strategy, i.e., when you are likely to bluff in the future.

Think continuously about your hand in addition to those of other players when making bluffing and betting decisions.

When To Bluff:

Bluff when you have recently showed down winning hands: It doesn’t matter if the winning hand was Ace high or a full house, all that matters is that people saw you show the winning hand. That sticks in people’s memory (at least for a few rounds) and they will give your bets and raises more respect. Use that respect to win a few extra pots by bluffing.

Bluff when a small bet had a good chance to win a big pot: If you have a $1,000 and the pot is only $50, then shoving your entire stack in to win is probably going to lose money in the long run. You will definitely win the pot most of the time, but when you are called, you will have lost $1,000 trying to win $50. Conversely, if you bluff with a $25 bet to win a $50 pot, you only need to win 1 time in 3 to break even, and anything above that is profit.

Bluff against good players: This might seem counterintuitive, but one of the defining characteristics of a bad player is their inability to fold. A bad (or inexperienced) player will tend to call all the way to the river with a hand as week as bottom pair. A good player will usually be able to understand the strength you are representing, and will be more likely to fold their medium strength hands.

Bluff when your betting tells a consistent story: Lets say your raised preflop in a Texas Hold’em game holding 6-6. You get one caller, and the flop comes A Q 5. This is often a good spot to bluff, because your hand tells a consistent story: You raised preflop representing a strong hand (usually high cards), now the flop has come with some high cards, and you bet again. You could easily have hit this flop (although in this instance you didn’t) so your opponent will be likely to fold unless they hit the flop hard themselves.

The Turn card is very important. If you bet big on the turn when you’ve been betting moderately earlier, players will be more intimidated. If you think you’ve won the hand on the turn card, you may even want to check and then bet like crazy on the River. People are more likely to call a big bet if you checked before, thinking you might be bluffing. This works even better if you’ve been (accidently?) caught bluffing earlier.

When you think you can put your opponents on tilt.  Players do not like to be deceived out of their money. If you make a successful bluff against a player and show them, they may become frustrated and play worse in an attempt to get their money back. This is known as “playing on tilt”. However it is not advised to do this often as your opponent and others at the table may be out to get you, which will make the game trickier to play.

When Not To Bluff in Poker:

There are some times when even the best poker player in the world wont be able to get away with a bluff. Be wary in these situations; often the best choice is just to let the hand go.

Don’t bluff when you’ve recently been caught bluffing. If you have bluffed and been caught the last 3 hands in a row, chances are slim that you are going to get away with a bluff on the 4th attempt. Change gears and play tight for a little while, and then you can go back to bluffing once your image has evened out a bit.

Don’t bluff against multiple players. The more players left in the hand, the higher the chances that someone has a hand good enough to call or raise you, and that’s not what you want to happen when you are bluffing.

Don’t bluff when an opponent probably has a strong hand. There are some situations where you can be reasonably confident that your opponent’s hand is pretty good. Let’s say that your opponent raised preflop from under the gun and you called on the button with 22. The flop comes A K Q, and your opponent bets into you with a full pot sized bet. This would be an ill advised situation to put in a bluff-raise, since your opponent’s early position raise and large flop bet on a dangerous board likely indicates a very strong hand, 2 pair at minimum.

Don’t bluff bad players: There is a saying in poker: “If you try and bluff a bad player, you’re a bad player”. This is because bad players tend to call, even when they should fold. When you bluff into a bad player, all you are doing is helping your opponent to make “really great calls”, when they call down your bluff and they only have a weak pair.