Poker Bluffing 101 – How to Bluff in Poker
Learning how to bluff effectively is key to good poker playing, whether you use it as a poker strategy or as a survival trick.
Bluffing 101: I cannot tell a lie
The ancient art of lying for profit is one of the cornerstones of poker strategy. Poker is, at its heart, all about psychology. A recent study into the ongoing debate around whether poker is a game of skill or chance found that, in an analysis of poker player data going back five years, more than 70% of poker hands were concluded before the river card by someone folding out.
What does that tell you? It tells you that the other player successfully managed to convince the folding player that it was a very bad, very expensive idea to stay in the hand.
Was that always the case? I'm sure that in some of those hands, sticking around to see the river was probably suicidal. But one of the beautiful things about poker is that you just don't know – unless of course you're watching the game on TV.
Bluffing 101: What's in the hole?
You see, the rules of poker allow a player to keep their hand hidden indefinitely. Whether they're folding in shame (or strategically, let's not forget) or raking in the pot, there is absolutely no onus on a player to show anyone their hole cards. This is critical to poker strategy.
If you never see your opponent's cards, you must deduce their playing style purely by their behaviour – it's part of what makes poker such an exciting game.
But likewise, they're in the same predicament when it comes to you. They have no idea what you're holding, an in all likelihood they will never see your cards – except perhaps on replay later.
So lie. Lie your pants off. Lie fluidly and well, and great riches will come to you.
Bluffing 101: Smoke and mirrors
Perhaps calling it lying is a little harsh. Bluffing is really about misdirection. It's a strategy you use either to get the other person to fold, or to stay in the game a little longer.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Say you get dealt a medium interesting hand – something reasonably high, say, a good king. Alongside it is a limp, useless kicker – possibly a five or something. Now, you know full well you should toss this hand away, but you're bored. Or you've got yourself in a corner. So you call it.
The flop comes down Ace, Jack, Five. Yes, ok, you hit bottom pair, but a pair of fives is just not going to carry the day, not when there's an ace on the table. Frankly, things look grim for you.
But no one else knows that yet. You smile, and you raise up bravely.
Raising at this point is a total bluff – you really don't have the cards to support it. Statistically, and in terms of the long term game, you should fold. Get out, now, and you've only lost what it cost you to see the flop. Raising up at this point could get someone hurt.
But everyone else at the table can see that Ace, too. They're thinking, if you raised up, you must have something ... and they start folding.