A little BS can go a long way. In fact, when it comes to bluffing in poker, you can take your BS all the way to the bank. Even the most Honest-Tom is going to have to indulge in a little bluff now and then - if he wants to play winning poker at least. After all, bluffing in poker is what a vaccination needle is to a dangerous virus, what manure is to farm-fresh vegetables, what sex tapes are to Kim Kardashian and Carrot Top. You may not know about it, and if you do, you may not like it very much, but it is an integral part of the package, so you may as well get used to it.
Besides, bluffing in poker is the best kind: guiltless. Everyone expects you to do it, so you can’t feel bad about it. In fact, you could get richer for it.
In the end, bluffing in poker means taking, playing on, and owning a psychological advantage. It’s about getting people to believe a little fib. Above all, it’s about being so convincing that you believe it yourself.
It all comes down to unshakeable, indomitable confidence – and with years of bluffing under our belts, we consider ourselves masters of the practice. Here’s how to make it work for you.
10 Tips for Successful Bluffing in Poker
1. Recognize an option, not a necessity. Bluffing is part of the game of poker and there are going to be times when it is profitable to employ the practice. Use it too often, however, and you’re going the way of the boy who cried wolf. You WILL get caught in the lie and you won’t be able to use it as leverage anymore. One of your most powerful weapons = gone. What’s more, it can cost you a hefty chunk of chips to learn that no one is buying your bluff anymore, so fly under the radar and only bluff when it benefits you.
2. Timing is everything. It is best to align bluffing in poker with visible weakness in your opponent(s). Look for short stacks and tight players; these players are less likely to call your bluff. Along the same vein...
3. Know your opponent(s). Chances are bluffing a loose player with a moderate stack won't get you anywhere - and could in fact be detrimental to your longevity in the game.
4. Build your cred. Before you even think about bluffing in poker, you first have to prove your integrity. You have to play visibly strong and solid hands to prove to your opponents you're serious. In other words, you have to create an infallible image before you can play a little dirty. This does not mean that you always need to win to create this image; you just have to show that you only act on good hands.
5. Bluff on the sly. The people who have mastered bluffing in poker would never (or at least seldom) be characterized as bluffers. This is because they only bluff when the conditions (i.e. timing, opponent's playing style, etc) are ideal.
6. Position perfect. If you want to maximize the chances of your bluff being successful, it's best to have position over your opponent. By position we mean your position at the table. Bluffing in poker usually works best when it falls to you check and see if your opponent(s) check or bet after you. The actions of your opponents and your position in relation to them can offer up an invaluable gauge. For instance, if your opponent also checks, chances are they don't have a solid hand and your chances of pulling off a bluff are better.
7. Don't brag. OK, you've pulled off the bluff of the century without anyone calling you on your BS. You're a rock-star. Good for you. Now you're bursting at the seams, ready to laugh demonically and throw down your deceptive hand and gloat over your own genius. Resist the temptation and refer back to tip # 4.
8. Bluff on small pots. This is a good rule for everyone, but especially for beginners. Only bluffing on smaller pots gives you a bit of a safety net in case your play doesn't turn out the way you wanted.
9. Embrace flop bluffing. If the conditions are right and you're feeling confident in your bluffing position, it is usually most effective to bluff on the flop. This is because around 2/3 of the time your competition is going to miss out on landing a solid hand on the flop - and even if they get a little help, they are far more likely to back out before they've invested a lot (or any) money. You don't have to go nuts, but applying a little pressure can go a long way to bluff someone out on the flop. Hint: This tactic is only useful if your hole cards are at least pretty decent.
10. Avoid river bluffing. 'Avoid' is the operative word here, because when it comes to bluffing in poker, river bluffing isn't always a bad choice - but it is often indicative of a final, desperate attempt and – since it’s usually completely out of sync with the way you've been playing up to this point – any experienced player can smell this bluff a mile away. If they're still in the game, you can bet your sweet stack they'll call you on it.
And there you have it! A comprehensive, go-to guide on how you can make bluffing in poker work for you. Just remember: use this power sparingly and wisely. The smell of pants on fire emits a universally recognizable odour around the poker table.