If you want to win big and often in poker, you need to know how to bluff. You also need to know when to bluff, as unlike what you see in movies, rarely you win a huge pot against three or four other players with a bad hand. A bad bluff can leave you with empty pockets and a red face, but a great bluff will have you riding high all the way to the bank. There are several tips you can follow to pull off a great poker bluff.
Learn the Tells
Tells are the subtle signs that card players exhibit when they have a good hand, a great hand, and when they are bluffing. By learning your opponents’ tells, it is easier for you to bluff your way to a victory. This is easiest when you are playing poker with people you know, but with careful observation, you can pick up on the tells of strangers in a short time.
For example, a slightly shaking hand or a white knuckled grip on cards often indicate that a player is holding a great hand, and he is trying to contain his excitement. An enthusiastic throwing down of chips to bet is another potential sign of a good hand. By watching your opponents’ body language, you can quickly learn their subtle signs of a good or a bad hand. By learning the tells, you are in a better position to know when to bluff and when to fold.
Practice Your Poker Face
While you’re watching the other players to pick up on their tells, they’re watching you too. Keep your face as expressionless as possible throughout the game. It is hard not to get excited when you’re dealt a full house, but remain composed and keep your body relaxed. Breathe evenly, as a hitch in your breath when the card you want comes up is a giveaway, and you may lose your opportunity to sweeten the pot. If your bluff fails and you have to show your cards, don’t get emotional, and don’t try another bluff right away. When your bluff works, resist the urge to show your cards, as the other players will be expecting you to bluff afterwards, limiting your opportunities for another successful bluff.
Know When and How To Bluff
The first rule of bluffing is not to do it very often or you will get caught and lose your credibility. In addition, don’t try a bluff when there are more than one or two other players still in the hand. If you have a weak hand and there are four or more players left, the odds are high that at least one of them will have a better hand. It is harder to bluff several players successfully than one or two. Unless you are sure of the other players’ tells and have successfully bluffed against them with a moderate hand, don’t bluff with a nothing hand.
If the bluff is unsuccessful, you’ll look like a novice and lose your opportunity for successful bluffing later in the game. Although you will want to bluff at different times for the various games of poker, a strategy that works well with any version of poker is to keep your first bet low rather than excessively high once you’ve decided to try to bluff. If you bet extravagantly, the other players will likely fold; if someone sees your bet and wins, then you’ve thrown away a lot of money. Try not to bet any more or less than you would normally with a decent hand, as this could give you away as well. If you have the opportunity to check before a final round, then do so. You will have more opportunity to observe the other players and decide whether to stay in or not. Once you start with a bluff, however, it’s best to see it through. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t, but with practice you will get better.