When to Bluff in Poker
Bluffing might be an essential part of any poker strategy, but not everyone knows how and more important when to bluff. There are certain situations when bluffing improves your chances and you can be a winner even with an inferior hand, but in certain situations a player should never bluff! In this article I will present you the ups and downs of bluffing, I will write about the situations when bluffing can help you, but also I will write about the situations when bluffing is not recommended. Let us get started!
First of all, let us see a definition of bluffing. The simple definition for bluffing in poker would be when a player bets or raises with an inferior hand, making the other players believe that he has a good hand. This would be the simplest definition of bluffing, but there is more. Believe it or not, there are several types of bluffing: pure bluff and semi-bluff. Let us discuss these two types a little bit. A pure bluff is when you bet or raise with a hand which has no chances to improve. In this case you are hoping that all your opponents will fold when they see your action. A semi-bluff is when you bet or raise with an inferior hand which still has chances to improve, for instance in poker types with several betting rounds. This latter type is a little bit safer, because you have two opportunities to win: all your opponents fold or your hand improves a little bit.
Now that you know the bluff types, let see when you should try them. The best time to bluff is when you are in late position and none of the players has a strong hand. Another great opportunity to bluff is when you think that your cards will improve in time, so when you think that you might have a strong hand after the reveal of one or two more cards. Another good opportunity is when you are playing against only one player, because this way it will be easier to scare him off and make him fold. If you were playing with the same people for a longer period of time, and they had the chance to see that you are not bluffing, that you are a serious player. In this case they will believe that you have good cards and so they will not think that you are bluffing. The last best opportunity to bluff is when you deducted from the behavior of the others that they do not have good hands. Use this last opportunity only if you are an experienced player, because otherwise your deductions might be wrong, and thus all your bluffing will be worth nothing!
There are some situations when you should never bluff! Let us discuss them briefly! You should not bluff when there are still many players in the game, because you have small chances that they will all fold. You should not bluff when you see that there is a player with much money in the pot. In this case he might not be scared from your bluff because he does not want to lose his money, thus he will continue betting or raising. And the last situation when you should never bluff is when you already concluded about a player that he is the type of player who never folds. So now you know when you should and when you should not bluff. But did you know that your behavior changes when you bluff? There are some signs which might give you away. Knowing these signs is helpful because you will not make the mistake of showing them, but you will be able to notice when another player is bluffing. So let us go through these signs, or tells!
You should watch the opponent player’s eyes. If he looks at his cards for a longer period of time, it means that he has good cards. If he only has a peak on the cards in his hand, you can bluff, because he does not have a good hand. Look for the opponent’s facial expression too! If his face looks happy, it does not matter how much he is trying not to show his happiness, his cards are good, and you should not bluff. But if he looks overall sad, then you can try bluffing. But take care with this last one: players usually try to act! So they might pretend happy when they have a weak hand and look sad when they have a strong hand. If you want to bluff in this case, you should be able to make the difference between really happy and pretending to be happy. When a player becomes anxious, sometimes even his hands are trembling, you should know that he has a good hand, do not bluff against him! These are only the basic signs, but you might also want to pay attention to the player’s betting patterns. If you see that something is out of the pattern, may it be a glance of the eye or an entire smile, you should not try to bluff, because you will most probably lose. If you know these tells, make sure that you will not make them yourself, this way the other players will not be able to ‘read you’, thus they will easily believe that you have a good hand even when you are bluffing.
As you could see, bluffing in poker is quite a complicated thing. You should pay attention not only to your behavior, but to the other players too; otherwise your bluff will worth nothing. If you want to make sure that your bluff will worth it, bluff only in the situations described above, then you will have good chances to come out as a winner. Do not forget those situations when you should never bluff! If you know these situations, you will be almost sure when you can bluff. Let us summarize the good opportunities. You should bluff when you are in late position and none of the players gave sign of a strong hand; when your hand may improve over time; when you have only one opponent; when you can tell that the other players do not have good hands. Pay attention, because bluffing is ‘optional’ in poker! It depends only on you if you want to bluff or not, but the game will become more interesting and exciting with bluffing.
Now you know all the important things about bluffing. Pay attention to bluff only when you have a chance, do not force your hand! Good luck playing!