Bluffing in Poker

Bluffing in Poker

Bluffing is the act of betting in a way that seems illogical, in an attempt to fool your opponents.

When we talk about bluffing, we talk about three basic types of players.

The players who either never bluff or bluff very rarely. The players who bluff much too often and the players who bluff occasionally and who try to time their bluffs so that they work.

No one should aspire to be either of the first two types. Their opponents can read them easily. The first type only bets with good hands. The second type often bets with hands that s/he should fold. The third type gives opponents headaches. Since you will eventually play against good bluffers, it behooves you to improve your bluffing skill.

Bluffing is really a basic part of poker. It is not at all unusual for a bluff to scare off a player who had the better hand.

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Bluffing Basics

Many new or inexperienced players do fall into one of the first two categories. Sometimes they feel that the others are bluffing so they bluff also; or they are simply too afraid to bluff. Often, because they lack experience, they misjudge their hand. Until you become comfortable with the basic aspects of bluffing, you should be playing low-stakes games with players like yourself. If you are playing at a table where you feel that one of the others is much better than you at reading opponents and bluffing, leave the table.

Even the luckiest players get truly good hands less than 20% of the time; and good hands don't always win. Unless you have a Royal Flush, a better hand that could win is always theoretically possible.

Bluffing, when done correctly, does either of two important things:

  • It fools your opponents into folding better hands because they think you have them beaten.
  • It fools your opponents into betting more than they should thinking that your hand is worse than it really is.

Reading Your Opponents

Inexperienced players usually don't pay attention to hands where they have already folded. If you follow the experts' advice, you will fold at least 80% of your hands. Clearly, you miss a lot of valuable learning experience if you stop paying attention after folding! But, if you do pay attention to the hand after folding, you can learn a great deal about your opponents.

A "tell" is a quirk that reveals something about an opponent's hand. There are many, many tells. Any unusual behavior on the part of the opponent could be a tell.

The most experienced players give the impression that they are not paying attention when they are actually studying everyone like a hawk. The most experienced also have tells that are part of their bluffing routine. Only by gaining many hours of experience can you become proficient at reading opponents and deciphering tells.

If you are bluffing to induce your opponents to fold, you should have a strong feeling that, based on their prior behavior, they are likely to fold. It is foolish to try to bluff a player who calls all the time!

General Truisms about Bluffing

  • Your position in the betting round may determine whether you fold or bluff a given hand.
  • In games with blinds or high-stakes antes, the pot odds are favorable for others to call one bet, so it is usually inadvisable to bluff early.
  • It is easier to bluff players who are playing with a small bankroll.
  • It is next to impossible to bluff an opponent who considers the cost of calling to be small change.

Bluffing in Different Variations of Poker

Let's analyze three types of poker games: .

  • Games with community cards
  • Draw games
  • Stud

Bluffing in Games with Community Cards - If it doesn't cost too much, many players will call to see the flop. This is considered poor strategy but it is extremely common nevertheless. If everyone checks to you, it may be a good opportunity to bluff. In later rounds, as the number of opponents decreases, the chances of winning a bluff increase.

Bluffing in Draw Games - In draw games you don't see any of your opponents' cards and they don't see yours. That makes it easier to bluff.

Bluffing in Stud Poker - In stud poker everyone uses their own cards; there are no community cards. To excel at stud you must learn to remember every card dealt. This will give you an idea of what hand an opponent may have with their hole cards. This knowledge alone may help you decide if it's a good time to bluff.

Position and Bluffing

Position play in poker is a huge area of strategy. Many successful bluffs are made by players in late position where all the others have checked.

Check-Raise Bluff

If you know your opponents well, you may decide not to open betting with a good hand. This tactic becomes a kind of bluff when you raise the player who does open the betting.


Whether you are an aspiring poker pro or a weekend player, by now you know that poker strategy is a life-long study. Bluffing is one major aspect of over-all poker strategy. Good bluffers also learn to eliminate their own "tells" while studying their opponents non-stop looking for tells and anything else that can help the players fool their opponents.

Posted by CCJ Team