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How to bluff (and not be bluffed)

📁 articles, Slider 🕔13.April 2018
How to bluff (and not be bluffed)

If you look at it one way, bluffing is the heart and soul of poker. That’s why you have famous poker maxims such as ‘don’t play the game, play the person across from you’ and so on – because it’s all about outwitting your human opponents and getting them to think what you want them to think. But what if you’re playing poker for real money and you’re not sure if your opponent’s bluffing or not? Then the shoe’s on the other foot! Either way, here are a few tips to guide you through the intricate world of high-stakes poker bluffing.

Don’t be fooled

When you’re not playing online poker, physical tells are often useful in helping you determine a bluff. However, players who are bluffing know this and can often try to mislead you by giving you what you think is a signal of weakness. So be wary if you catch your opponent sighing before they make a bet, and think about how they’ve played up until this point – are they really that amateurish, or are they trying to lead you into a trap?

Talk is cheap (but dangerous)

Similarly, always be cautious when your opponents start talking. Unless you’re playing against the highest-level players (and sometimes even then!), talking is usually a sign of confidence – especially if what they’re saying is calculated to entice you into calling, raising or just staying in the pot by any means necessary. That means they think they have you and, unless you have very good reasons to think otherwise, you should get out of there.

Size isn’t everything

The size of your bet when you’re bluffing is hugely important. That’s quite obvious, but bear in mind that the size of your bet when you’re reacting to a potential bluff is equally important – and bigger isn’t always better.

Let’s say that an opponent in late position has bid the maximum amount preflop. You suspect he’s trying to get everybody to fold (as indeed everybody else proceeds to do), so you call. The flop hits, and he bets again. You’re pretty sure that this is just a continuation bet and he’s trying to steal the pot, so you resolve to raise. The question is, by how much?

Here’s how you should look at this – if your opponent is bluffing, he’ll likely fold in the face of any aggression you display, irrespective of the specific amount of your raise. On the other hand, if he’s actually got a hand, then he’s unlikely to back down if your bet’s even bigger and that just results in you giving him more money.

 

That’s part one of our tips on how to bluff and not be bluffed – come back next week for the rest!

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