Contrary to popular belief, bluffing really isn’t for everyone. Some poker players are naturally fantastic at bluffing, and can get away with just about anything. Elsewhere, others would be best advised to keep bluffing out of their game entirely.
Or at least, restrict it as heavily as possible and only use it on occasion when the time seems right.
But what’s true in all instances is that while playing poker, you never really have the opportunity to ‘plan’ to bluff. It’s one of those spur of the moment things, which you simply decide to do on the fly when the mood takes you.
It could be that you genuinely believe your opponents’ hands are even more terrible than yours, or that you’re simply sick of folding and feel like taking a risk. Either way, you send a misleading message about the cards you’re holding, make your move accordingly and pray the outcome is favourable.
What Are the Different Types of Bluffs in Poker?
Bluffing isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to making the best of a bad situation. Nor is it a one dimensional tactic, which exists in one form only.
In fact, there are numerous different types of bluffs that play out in different ways. Though the three main types of poker bluffs you’ll both encounter and try out yourself while playing poker are as follows:
These are the quick and comparatively easy bluffs to get away with, wherein the player makes a bold suggestion about their hand when there’s only a small pot on the table. For example, immediately after receiving your cards and the flop has been dealt, you raise to such an extent as to have your opponents believe you’ve pocketed something amazing.
This is the lowest-risk approach to bluffing, as there is less to lose if it all goes wrong. But at the same time, it also offers access to the smallest payouts, given the size of the pot at the time.
This is less a form of bluffing and more a form of tactical gameplay. In this instance, you’re not actually holding any kind of decent combination after being got your cards and following the flop. However, you firmly believe that there is potential in both the cards on the table and those in your hands, which could see you in a very good position with the turn of the next card.
As you’re not technically holding anything of any value, raising at this point constitutes a bluff. This is because you are not raising on the basis of any hand you are holding – you’re raising purely on the hope that the next card dealt comes out in your favour. Either way, the fact that you have raised increases the likelihood of one or more of your opponents folding, and boosts your chances of winning – even if the subsequent card is also garbage.
Lastly, this is the type of super-risky bluff the movies and TV shows make you think happens all the time in high-stakes poker games. It doesn’t. In fact it’s actually something of a rarity, given the level of risk involved. With a naked bluff, you attempt to force all your opponents into folding with aggressive raising, despite the fact that you’re holding a rubbish hand.
In this instance, you’re almost guaranteed to lose if your opponents call your bluff. You know you’ve absolutely no chance of beating even a low pair with the cards you’re holding, but you attempt to convince everyone else otherwise. Definitely a fun form of deception to try out from time to time.
Spotting the Signs of Bluffing
On that note, a few essential insights into how to determine whether or not somebody is bluffing. There are just a handful of things you need to be mindful of, when keeping an eye out for the signs of bluffing.
For example, somebody who always bets heavily before the flop has even been dealt (or immediately after the flop), is almost definitely bluffing, more often than not. Likewise, those who continuously use minimum bets to remain in the game are probably holding a weak hand, but want to hold out on the off chance they win…which they probably won’t.
Facial tells and body language can also be a good indicator as to whether or not somebody is bluffing. Becoming overly talkative, sudden silence and withdrawal, fidgety/nervous behaviour – all indicative that somebody is most likely attempting to deceive you.
Practical Poker Bluffing Tips
Rounding things off, getting your bluffing game in order means being mindful of a few important rules. Though in all instances, the key lies in carefully considering whether bluffing at the time really is a good idea or not.
Here’s how to step things up at your next poker game:
- Don’t get into the habit of bluffing too regularly, as your opponents will become wise to your tactics and find it fairly easy to turn your bluffs against you.
- Set some kind of limit before playing, with regard to how much you are willing to risk on the basis of a bluff. Never exceed this limit under any circumstances.
- Bluff on the basis of logic and probability – i.e. when there’s a genuine chance that the outcome could work in your favour.
- Keep an eye on your own body language, facial expressions and behaviour in general, before, during and after bluffing.
- Don’t read too much into the way bluffing is portrayed in the movies – it’s not nearly as glamorous or easy to get away with as in real life!
Once again, bluffing has the potential to be an enjoyable and, in some instances, profitable part of poker play. Nevertheless, it isn’t a tactic you can rely on to pocket the pot when you’re holding pure garbage.
In at least 99% of instances, the best thing you can do when you’ve literally nothing worth playing is to fold.