Bluffing is a skill that can be a vital part of any negotiation, whether it’s agreeing a price on a new car or home or even in trying to get a raise in your salary. In these instances, the general technique depends on which side of the deal you find yourself. If buying, the strongest technique is that you’re prepared to walk away from the deal unless the terms are right. If selling, it’s generally that you have many more potential buyers waiting in the wings.
In poker, however, it is always the same – an attempt to persuade your opponents that the cards you are holding are stronger or, sometimes, weaker than they really are. This, in turn, introduces an element of doubt in their minds which, ideally, persuades them to drop out of the round by making them uncertain over their own cards.
Used well, it can be a very effective technique. It’s also one that needs to be mastered by anyone who is serious about playing poker at a high level. Put simply, if you can’t bluff effectively, or identify when others are bluffing, you’ll never really become proficient in the game.
- First things first
The most fundamental aspect of learning to bluff effectively at poker is how you conduct yourself at the table. For your strategies to be taken seriously, you need to give off a certain aura of being in control. That means being careful and considered in your actions and being known as a tight aggressive player instead of a loose one who is always making extravagant bets and hanging on in there in rounds that you can’t possibly win.
There is also the question of “tells”. These are little physical signs that people can unconsciously make when they’re bluffing. It may be something like touching their face or scratching an ear, or it may even be taking a sip of water when the bluff has been made.
So the first thing to do is to eliminate any of these from your own behaviour and also to take a crash course in identifying them in other players.
- Less is more
It can be tempting, when you’re playing on a big table with many other players, to try to bluff. But this is usually a mistake. That’s because the more players there are the greater the chances that at least a couple of them will stick with the round to the bitter end -and you’ll be found out. So really, it’s a technique that’s best deployed when a maximum of four people are playing.
- Don’t bluff when there’s big money involved
It goes without saying that being good at poker is very largely a question of understanding the psychology of your opponents. For example, when there is a big pile of chips in the middle of the table everyone is probably thinking how much they’d like to win that pot. So, they will be understandably reluctant to fold making your attempts to bluff them into doing it quite fruitless. Save your bluffing for when there’s middling amount at stake and you’ll find this is much more effective.
- Start small
There’s a good reason that the not very good players are called fish in poker. They need to be lured into making bad decisions. But when the bait is too large it’s more than likely that they’ll swim away. So, bluffs should be small enough to look genuine but big enough to be worthwhile. By making them too big, you’re also putting more of your stake money at risk than might be strictly necessary to win the round.
- Choose your moments
Bluffing is a moment that has to be used sparingly. Do it too often and it becomes very much like the boy who cried wolf and,as you’re going to be found out on the majority of these occasions, you’ll quickly get a reputation as a bluffer. So, the recommendation is that you should bluff a maximum of four times in a long game of poker, and only ever do it when you think there’s a good chance of winning.
- Make sure you’re holding enough chips
Finally, opponents take bluffs more seriously when they come from a player who already looks like they’re doing well in the game. Having a big stack by your side makes it look more convincing. Plus, if you’re short-stacked the options you have for bluffing will be severely restricted.
There you have it. A starter for how to bluff at poker. As with everything, practice is going to make perfect so now’s the time to get started.
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