There’s nothing more satisfying than a successful bluff when you’re playing head to head in a game of poker.
There’s the thrill of the lie, the outsmarting of your opponent and the skills surrounding the buff that makes it so special. It’s not something that everyone can pull off, so if you’re able to outplay some of the very best players in the game, you’re in very good standing for taking home the big bucks at the end of the evening.
But bluffing is a two-way street and it’s just as important to be able to identify a bluff as it is to craft one yourself so it’s worth taking the time out to watch opponents, learn tells and build player portfolios as you’re playing through the game.
Want to get better at making and calling bluffs? We’ve got 10 of the most successful bluffing tips to help you get ahead of your opponents in your next game!
Tips for making a successful bluff
Our top 5 tips for making a successful bluff.
1. Be selective with the hands you’re playing
The very first tip for anyone wanting to develop their bluffing skills – making sure that you’re selective with your hands.
One of the biggest errors that new players make is to play with most of the hands that they’ve been dealt, not only is this a big no-no for winning hands, but it’s like shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to building a bluff.
If you’re constantly betting with subpar hands, your opponents around the table are going to cotton on pretty quickly. If they’re expecting you to lie, it’s pretty difficult to execute a successful bluff (great list and guide here).
2. Avoid bluffing against poor/new players
If there’s one player that you shouldn’t try bluffing against, it’s the poor/new players around the table.
New players don’t tend to fully understand the art of bluffing and 9 times out of 10, they aren’t worth bluffing against. Chances are, you’ll find these players reluctant to fold and reduces the game further down to luck rather than skill.
There’s no real reason to risk your bet, especially on the lower stakes tables.
3. Bluffs don’t have to be big
We’ve all been down the YouTube black hole watching the very best bluffs of all time and, for the majority, there are some serious pots with serious bluffs.
This doesn’t have to be the case and a successful bluff can come in any shape and size. The larger bluffs might be more impressive, but it’s the smaller ones that add depth to the game.
Size doesn’t always matter, just don’t forget your poker face (here’s an article on how to do it like a pro).
4. Don’t be afraid to abandon the bluff
If you’re too far into a bluff and are pretty sure it’s only heading one way, it’s more than acceptable to back out and abandon the bluff.
Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses than to fight a losing battle and in the case of the bluff when you just know that you’re beat, it’s probably about the right time to call it a day.
5. Avoid bluffing against multiple players
If you think it’s difficult to bluff against the whole table, you won’t be alone – that’s exactly why it’s ill-advised when making a bluff.
For a higher chance of success, fewer players should be targeted, making it much easier to convince them you’ve got a great hand. If you’ve only got one player to convince rather than 3 or 4, you’ll make the task much easier.
Be kind to yourself, lie to fewer players.
Tips for calling a bluff
Our top 5 tips for successfully identifying a bluff.
1. Look for impatient players playing high percentages of hands
The first thing to look for when trying to identify a bluff – impatient players playing high percentages of hands.
It’s not exactly rocket science, no one player should ever receive such a high number of strong hands and as a general rule, they don’t. If you’ve got someone sat around the table betting big on an abnormal number of hands, it looks like they’re bluffing (at least once anyway).
Not every hand will be a strong one and not every hand will be a bluff – it’s down to you to decide and create your own sick gambling stories.
2. Observe and call bluffs of new players
Finding a new player at the table is easy money and by observing them and the bluffs that they’re making, it can be very profitable.
New players don’t always tend to know exactly how a bluff works, they’ll understand it’s about pretending you’ve got a better hand than you actually have, but that’s about it. These are easy to spot from a mile off, the bets just don’t stack up when looking at the river and the play just isn’t coherent at all.
You’ll know when you see it, keep an eye on the newbies.
3. Opponents bluffs can be of any size
For those players that are a little more experienced in the game, it can be more difficult to spot a bluff, especially when they vary the sizes of their wagers.
Adrian Sireca, of OnlineCasinoGems, explains “The best players know that the size of their bluff can be the difference between a successful lie and a collapsed hand. Bluffs can be of any size, that’s what can make them so difficult to identify”.
Don’t just think that players will bluff big.
4. Keep an eye on an opponents bankroll
One key method of identifying a bluff is by looking towards the opponent’s bankroll before making a judgment.
As a general rule, if a player has a larger bankroll, they’re able to play a little looser and make the odd bluff to increase their stack of chips. If they’re lacking a little in the chip department, they’ll tend to play with their guard up, only making smart decisions.
It’s not a foolproof tactic, but it’s saved my skin more than a few times.
5. Learn body language tells
Last, but by no means least, comes maybe the most famous method of calling out a bluff – the body language tells.
Of course, there are so many different tells out there, big and small, so I won’t go into any great detail, but doing your research and keeping an eye out for these tells is one of the best ways to identify a bluff.
It might be time to crack out the books and study up on the human psyche.