Pulling off a bluff is simple. All we do is put in our chips, wait for the other player to fold and then coolly collect our winnings with no one the wiser. Thanks for playing!
Unfortunately, in the real world, bluffing involves a lot of sweating and a few minor heart attacks. Heck, sometimes it even involves a little crying when our all-in shove gets called by a better hand.
I'm here to tell you how to get better at bluffing and develop some confidence in this part of your game.
Let’s start with the basics:
What is a bluff?
How do you run one?
How do you spot one?
What is a semi-bluff?
If you can answer all these questions with confidence and certainty, then you will start having some real fun at the poker table, as well as having a chance to win. The bluff is actually the component of poker that makes it a game of skill. Without the bluff, poker would be a game of showdown—the best hand wins. Winning or losing would be completely dependent upon card distribution. Getting a player to fold a better hand, and win with an inferior hand, is what makes poker the great game of skill that it is. If you want to win, you better learn how to bluff and also how to recognize when your opponent is bluffing.
I mean, seriously though, is there a better feeling than winning a hand with a big bet and flipping over a ten high to the guy who folded his set because he thought you had a flush?
Not that I advocate showing your successful bluffs—unless you’re doing it purposely to put your opponent on tilt. In which case go ahead, flip your cards and do a little victory dance to top it off (we’ll talk about poker etiquette in a future article).
Mislead your Opponents
The intent of a bluff is to mislead or deceive your opponents by a false display of confidence or weakness in your hand in a given situation. This means that if you have bad cards you pretend you have good cards by acting confident and betting accordingly, or if you have good cards you act weak and worried in the hope your opponents will believe you and put more chips in the pot. In poker it’s a good idea to remember the phrase 'Strong means weak and weak means strong,' because, as a general rule, it’s true more often than not.
Don't just bluff randomly because you're bored or because you’ve seen the pros do it on TV; this is possibly the biggest leak that most beginning players learning make. If you're bored go for a walk or start singing to your opponents to put them on tilt. Bluffing might be fun, but it’s also a serious business based on your read of a situation and your assessment of whether a bluff has a good chance of succeeding.
There are many examples of good and bad spots to bluff, as well as some basic rules of thumb to keep in mind when you decide you are ready to give it a go. In parts 1 and 2, I will be discussing these things, and before you know it you will be the coolest cucumber at the table, stealing chips and having the time of your life.