Sure, you’ve studied the rules of the specific type of poker you’ll be playing, and you’ve memorized which hands beat other card combinations. But in poker, it isn’t always the best hand that wins. Poker combines mathematical skill with deception, with a handful of luck thrown in. To really succeed in the poker world, you need to learn how to bluff.
Put simply, bluffing means tricking the other players into believing that your hand is better than it really is. To really be successful, you’ll need to control your physical mannerisms in order to prevent betraying your bluff to others. People who are lying tend to blink more rapidly, shift their eyes around more frequently and fidget more in their seats. If you’re going to learn to bluff, you’ll need to learn to control these physical effects. Practice by watching yourself in the mirror as you play a mock hand – you’ll quickly learn to correct your most noticeable cues.
In addition, becoming successful at bluffing means learning when to bluff and when to simply fold your hand. There are several factors you should take into consideration:
First, consider your opponents. If you’re playing against an inexperienced player who’s calling and raising every hand that goes around. This type of poker player will make it difficult for you to successfully carry off a bluff. However, if you’re able to identify a player who only plays through on top hands, you may be able target him or her successfully with a bluff.
You should also consider your order in the game play when deciding whether or not to bluff. If you’re one of the last players to act on a hand, you have a much better shot at successfully bluffing, since you’ll be able to watch their actions and gauge how they might respond to your bluff. If you’re earlier on in the lineup, you may find yourself in over your head if a later player pulls through with a hot hand. It’s also best to wait so that you’re bluffing only one player – attempting to bluff two or more increases the odds that one of them is holding a hand that will beat yours.
Another key factor is the size of the bet you place during your bluff. If your bet is too large, your opponents are likely to take notice and call your strong hand. On the other hand, if your bet is too small, you’ve made it easier for competitors to call. The real key to bluffing is to save it for occasional hands, when the situation’s right. If you attempt to bluff at every opportunity, your opponents will take notice.
A final, more advanced option is to bluff your opponents into thinking your hand is much worse than it really is – a tactic often known as “slow play”. Using this method, your goal is to entice the other players to put more into the pot than they would if you led out with a big bet. The key is to hold off on your bigger bets until the turn or river card so that other players are more drawn into the game. And of course, it should go without saying, that you should only attempt this tactic if you really do have a solid hand, like a full house or a high flush or straight.