Poker face, trump card, wild card, raising the stakes, call my bluff. These are all card terms that have slipped into common usage over the years. Bluffing in poker is something that only the greats have achieved, they use bluffing wisely and know exactly where and when to do it. The aim is to convince the opposing players to fold their superior hands. In this article, we’re going to talk about how to bluff in poker and the best poker bluffs used.
How to bluff in poker
Successful bluffing in poker means knowing when and where to use the bluff on your opponents. It can be used in person-to-person games or in an online poker setting too. While some bluffs might be a gut feel, good players take into account a variety of factors when deciding whether or not to bluff.
Your known history
As you become more successful in poker, opponents will be able to study your gameplay and get a read on your character. If you’re trying to cultivate a certain image within the poker game community, then you’ll want to deploy your strategy carefully. If you become known for bluffing then other players will almost certainly pick up on this strategy and it will stop working for you and you’ll be called.
The other players
As the saying goes, “play the man, not the cards.” This is great advice and means that you should be aiming to know your opponent so well, you can make play how you want, without needing to have the best cards at all.
When bluffing in poker, it’s all about the other players believing you and why you’re behaving a certain way. Reading a table is an art form. For example, if you’re playing someone who is inexperienced, reckless, or chasing losses, then a bluff may not be the best option as their moves aren’t based on strategy, more on stress or desperation.
A great bluff in poker rests on the other players believing you and not anticipating what you’re doing. So your bets must be in keeping with the history of the particular hand you’re bluffing. If your betting suddenly changes, without the cards dictating it. For example, if you’re trying to make them think you got a flush only after the river card, then suddenly upping your bet wouldn’t make sense. You would have known you were on a potential flush much earlier and would have bet accordingly.
Not all bluffs are the same. A stone-cold bluff or pure bluff relies on you convincing your opponents to fold as your hand has no chance of winning.
A semi-bluff is a different thing altogether and is used when you don’t have a great hand, but it could potentially turn on a card.
The size of the bet
A good bluff should only be gambling the minimum amount of money needed to convince the other player to fold.
Your playing position
As we’ve discussed, bluffing in poker requires you to have a good read on your opponents and be in a situation where you can pressure them into folding. Your position relative to the dealer can make a difference. For example, if you’re relying on getting a read on someone from how they react, you can’t do this if they are making their move before you. Unless you’re planning to bluff from the off, it might be better to keep your bluff for another hand.
Different types of bluff
Bluffing is truly an art form, and it’s really something to see it done by the best players. Different bluffs have been known by various names colloquially but in general, these are the main types of bluff used in poker.
If you’re playing in a hand where none of the other players are making any strong moves, then chances are that no one has a particularly strong hand, or hasn’t read the hand as being a potential for a bluff. A strong bluff in this situation is more likely to be effective.
If you have a weak hand, and there’s relatively little chance of it improving, then a stone-cold bluff is the only way of winning this pot. You need to convince every other player to fold in order for this to work.
Think of this as a bluff with a backup plan. Unlike the stone-cold bluff, in which your hand has zero chance of winning, this bluff can turn be making a better hand on a later card.
The aim of this type of bluff is to stop other players from connecting with the hand. Raising the bet preflop and keeping this going in the flop, turn and river rounds are known as continuation bets. It tells people that you are confident in your hand. This type of bluff is recommended to be used against a single opponent or a very small number of players. More than this and you risk that someone else will be holding a better hand than you are.
1. What is the purpose of bluffing in poker?
In poker, the aim is to win. But it isn’t always the best hand that wins a game. You’re playing those across from you. A bluff is designed to make your opponent think that they have a worse hand than you, and fold, even when they don’t.
2. What to consider when deciding to bluff?
Choosing when to bluff or not is a big decision. Do it too often and it will become less effective. When deciding, you need to ask yourself if the circumstances are right and whether you can leverage your cards and the estimated value of the hand.
As you gain more experience in poker, you’ll refine your strategy for bluffing as you learn more about strategy and psychology. It’s likely you’ll also fall for some bluffs in the future too. Take note of how they’re done and what you can learn from them to adapt your own technique.