Many new poker players make the mistake of taking it as a game where you simply play the waiting game. This involves waiting for those premium hands and placing bets only when they arrive. Now, why is it a mistake? Isn’t this the safest way to play poker? And what are some poker bluffing tips?
Well, are you playing poker to keep your bets safe or to win big money? Of course, it has to be the ‘big money’ part. If you continue to play without doing any bluff in poker, opponents will soon figure out your style of play. They will know that whenever you bet you mostly have a very good hand. In such situations, opponents will start folding up and ‘call’ or ‘raise’ against you only if they too have good hands. First of all, the probability of getting strong hands in poker is very less. You don’t get them every game, and when you get them, your pot size is not going to be big as most of the opponents fold up early after seeing you bet. So, even if you win, the amount is going to be small. And there is no guarantee of a win as well – since some opponent might have a better hand than yours!
All in all, this ‘waiting game’ style is not ideal if you aim to be an expert poker player. The poker champions or poker pros are those players whose playing style cannot be figured out by opponents. This is possible when they have more than one poker strategy up their sleeves, which makes them a force to reckon with. And poker bluff is one such critical strategy that is part of the repertoire of almost every experienced poker player who is consistent at winning games!
It is clear – if you wish to be a smart poker player and win games more consistently, as well as ensure good pot size when you win, you need to form a winning strategy to bluff using poker bluffing tips. Use it to selectively to keep your opponents guessing. And with this strategy, you can even win at times with weak or average hands. How? Well, for this purpose, you need to learn and understand about poker bluffing tips in detail.
What is Poker Bluff?
We have spoken about bluffing in poker in the above paragraphs and why you should resort to it. But, let us first get clarity on what exactly is a bluff? It is about a play that you make in order to get your opponents to ‘fold’ by making them believe that you have a strong hand (even when you do not have one). This type of play includes you opting to ‘bet’ or ‘raise’ during a hand, even though your hand is not worth going for the ‘bet’ or ‘raise’.
This bluff strategy is to be used selectively. Why? Because if you overdo it, your opponents will again figure it out and start challenging your bets way too often. And by bluffing a lot, you will have to contribute a lot of chips to the pot in every round, and you will have some or the other opponent win few games, thereby taking away a large chunk of the chips that you contributed to the pot.
And we have already discussed why you cannot ignore it altogether? Remember, ‘timing’ is everything for using an appropriate poker bluff strategy as part of your poker game play. Your use of bluffs should be such that you bluff when your opponents least expect it, and you avoid bluff when they do expect it! So, you need to master the art of bluffing in poker, and then it will be left to you to decide whether to bluff or not in a particular hand / situation.
Best Poker Bluffing Tips
Remember that no strategy in poker can give you wins at all times. The same goes with bluffs as well. In fact, when you bluff, you should be ready to lose that hand. And a good player is one who is able to win more with his bluffs, as compared to the losses he has when he bluffs. In simple words, you need to maintain a high success rate for your bluff games. Below are some of the top poker bluffing tips that will enable you increase your win rate when you bluff:
Re-evaluating Your Hands at Every Stage / Street
When you decide to bluff at a particular street, you consider the hand ranges at that stage for yourself and your opponents. However, as you move to the next stage, these hand ranges get narrowed down and you even get to know some more cards for your hand. It is necessary that you re-assess your hands and hand ranges at this ‘next street’ again and decide whether you wish to continue with your bluff. It is necessary to hold back if you realise that the opponents left in the game have strong hands, and your hand continues to remain weak.
In such a situation, you will be able to save some money by folding up instead of continuing with your bluffs just because you did so in the previous street. To help you take such a decision, you also need to consider the size of the bet, apart from the value of hands that are in your range.
Ensuring Consistent Bet Sizes
No, we are not talking about ensuring the same bet size whenever you bluff. In fact, this is about not changing your bet size too drastically when you are bluffing, as compared to your bet size when you are not bluffing. This strategy has to be used so well that you do not have to leave any hint that can possibly make the opponents doubt you and catch your bluff.
One such hint that many newbie players tend to leave for smart opponents is the lack of consistent bet sizes across their hands. Such players tend to suddenly have larger sized bets when they bluff with the hope that opponents will believe that they are having strong hands because of the huge money put in. They may succeed once or twice, but such a strategy often gets caught because the same players bet a small amount when they actually have strong hands (with the hope of getting more players involved in the bet and get the pot size increased).
Hence, it is critical to continue using the same bet sizes when you bluff as you would when you are actually playing with strong hands. This will make it really difficult for the opponents to catch your bluff and increase your chances of making them fall for it!
Having a Mix of Strategic Play and Exploitation of Player’s Tendencies
While most poker players like to go into poker tournaments or cash games with few good strategies up their sleeves, you need to also be open to adopt your game based on what’s actually happening at the poker table. It is vital to study the tendencies of your opponents, as you will be able to use different strategies that can fetch you wins against different types of opponents.
For example, if you know that the players left on the table for a particular round are aggressive and are likely to continue betting till the river, you may not want to bluff a lot against them as that would leave a lot to luck / chance at the river. Instead if your opponents are of the passive types who would easily fold up if they feel the opponent has a strong hand or would get nervous to play more if their own hand is not so strong, you can try to bluff for a round or two and get maximum of them to fold up. This type of poker bluff play will help you to exploit the opponent’s tendencies in a better way!
Stealing the Blinds Frequently
One of the simplest ways to start making bluffs in poker is by stealing the blinds more often. It is not that you require a very strong hand to do this. You simply need to have the ideal type of opponents in the blinds – players who are weak and tight. If you have such players, you can manage to steal the blinds. For example, you can get the win in the blinds itself by choosing to ‘raise’ for your average hand, if the opponent is someone who is not likely to challenge you. Such kind of poker bluff will help you to win specific pots easily.
Avoid Bluffing Often Against Newbies
When you have a few poker newbies on your table, you need to be wary about your poker bluffs. Why is that so? Because the newbie players generally have a tendency to call your bets irrespective of the strength of their hands. These are players who believe in being in the game all the time and won’t fold easily. They are still trying to understand the right strategies to implement in poker. So, you should avoid bluffing frequently against such players as you are unlikely to get them to fold quickly and will have to continue till later streets, resulting in you having to put in a lot of amount in the pot. And if by chance the newbie player has a stronger hand than you, the loss can be quite big!
Selective Use of Bluffs
It is not mandatory for you to bluff to win in poker. You can win even without bluffing, but in order to win consistently and win more money, you need to be an expert at using bluff strategy. One of the most critical poker bluffing tips is to bluff very selectively – only in situations where you are confident of having at least one player fold up when your bluff.
Don’t use bluff just because you feel that you have not used it for a long period of time!
Avoid Bluffing Against Too Many Players
Just because you know how to use poker bluff doesn’t mean that you use it without considering the opponents on the table. While we have already discussed about considering the tendencies and the playing style of the opponents, another important poker bluffing tip is to consider the number of active players on the table. If there are more than two active players on the table (especially towards the later streets), your bluff is less likely to scare them.
Your poker bluff move could be beneficial for you, if there are less number of active players on the poker table (say just one or two players). This is obvious as if these players fold, you automatically win the pot, and even if they continue to the next street, you have another chance to scare them off with another bluff.
To Bluff or Not to Bluff – A Critical Decision
Now that you have understood what a poker bluff is and have got valuable information on some wonderful poker bluffing tips, let us come to the main point – when to bluff and when not to bluff. This decision is the one that separates a winner and a loser in poker. Let us check out some of the parameters that enable you to time your bluff perfectly.
Your Table Image
If you want your poker bluff to be successful, you need to work hard on forming the right table image. What does that mean? You need to be seen as a tight player who bets only with strong hands. If you are able to form such a perception with your opponents, your poker bluff will have significantly higher chance of success as your opponents with weak hands will fold immediately and those with any strong hands will live under the fear of you having a comparatively stronger hand.
However, if you are seen as a loose player (someone who continues to play even with weak hands) by your opponents, they are more likely to call your bluffs. Hence, the chances of success of your poker bluff in such a scenario is pretty less.
Your Hand Strength
You might wonder why we are asking you to consider your hand strength when we have been stating that bluffs are to be used with weak / average hands. Imagine a situation where you bluff with an absolutely weak hand pre-flop and move to the post flop streets where there are more than two opponents with you. In such a scenario, you are having to unnecessarily support your bluff by putting more money in the pot, and your win is dependent only on one thing – all the opponents folding up. If that doesn’t happen, you are just making bets in a losing cause. Hence, you should refrain from bluffing on such weak hands.
Instead you must consider bluffing with an average hand, which might appear weak at the initial stage, but that has the potential to become a strong hand at a later street. It means you do a poker bluff pre-flop with the hope of all (or most) opponents folding up quickly. Even if couple of them proceed to the post flop stages with you, you still have the option to bluff while working on turning your average hand into a strong one at the turn or river. And when someone calls your bluff, you still stand a chance to win if your hand turns out to be comparatively better. This means you are playing bluffs with a back-up plan. These types of bluffs are known as semi-bluffs.
Your Position at the Table
Imagine you are at a late position during a betting round at the table. In such a case, you have the advantage of checking the reactions of all the players before you as well as even understand how many players are continuing to bet. This can help you to decide whether to bluff or not – depending on the number of active players, the type of players, size of pot, etc.
At the same time, while you do not have much information about other players while playing from an early position, it might sometimes be a blessing a disguise. This might help especially because most poker players consider bluffing from an early position as a big risk, and so they avoid it. So, if you are considered as a tight player, and you choose to bluff from an early position, it will be very difficult for any of your opponents to catch your poker bluff. So, you might sneak a couple of wins by going for poker bluff from an early position as well!
Other Players on the Table
What is the best case scenario for you when you bluff? All your opponents on the table folding up – isn’t it? However, if your opponents start calling your bluffs, your chances of success diminishes. For your benefit, when you bluff you should be absolutely sure and confident in your mind that the opponent will fold. This confidence will come only if you know your opponents well. By knowing your opponents we mean, you understand their poker behaviour, their playing style, and even their tendencies under different situations.
To be able to do so, you need to do proper analysis and study of their earlier moves. If you are playing online poker, it becomes easier to watch the history of hands played by other players as well. Also, if you are a regular at poker tournaments, you may come across opponents against whom you have played earlier. So, analysis of your opponents goes a long way in helping you to make successful poker bluffs.
Aim to go one-on-one against players while making a bluff, instead of opting to do it against multiple players. In a head-to-head play, it becomes easier to exploit the tendency of the opponent and get your bluff decision right. Avoid to bluff against a player who:
- Calls a lot irrespective of the strength of their hand and the strength of the opponent.
- Does not analyse / study his opponents and considers only his hand strength.
- Has a big chips stack with him and will not mind risking a few chips by calling your bluff.
Your Betting History for the Hands
As we discussed about you studying your opponents, their behaviour, their hand history, etc. there will be some smart poker players on the table who may be keeping a close watch on every action of yours. So, you have to avoid predictable actions at every stage – be it pre-flop, at the flop, the turn, the river, etc. You don’t want your opponents to spot any fixed pattern in your betting actions or bluffs, which will make it easier for them to catch your future bluffs. Aim to build a story so that your good opponents cannot easily catch your bluff, thereby, increasing your chance of winning!
Many poker players try to avoid bluffs altogether in their game play. However, they do miss out an opportunity to keep the opponents guessing, which is a peculiar dimension that you add to your playing style once you learn the art of timing your poker bluffing tips aptly. A lot of thinking has to go behind the decision to bluff or not during a hand, and it is vital for any expert poker player to use bluffs selectively. It helps to increase your small pot wins as well as make more money which you otherwise wouldn’t have given a shot (especially with average or weak hands).
You may decide to go for pure bluff when you are against weak players or playing from a late position. On the other hand, you can opt to bluff with a back-up plan (semi-bluff) from an early position, thereby giving you a chance to beat your opponents by making them fold or even beat them by having a strong hand if they call at a later stage. All of this requires good amount of practise and the best way to learn is by playing more poker games online at platforms such as Spartan Poker. Download the app for Spartan Poker and start playing few poker games where you utilise the strategy of bluff to become a more complete poker player!