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How to Bluff in Texas Holdem

How to Bluff in Texas Holdem
by Chad Holloway of

One of the great things about poker is the wide range of emotions it inspires in the players. From winning a huge pot to hitting the miracle card on the river, poker exposes players to a laundry list of emotions not found in most games.

One of the emotions on this list stands out above the rest, and that is running a successful bluff. Ask any serious poker player and they will tell you that the adrenaline rush that accompanies the art of the bluff is unparalleled. The problem is, bluffing does not always work and can lead to crushing defeat. So how do you run a successful bluff? In my opinion, there are four rules to follow when bluffing:

1.) DON'T BLUFF INTO AN AMATEUR OR CALLING STATION. Most of the time, a bluff is a well-calculated move designed to convince your opponent that, based on your actions and on the information available from play, you possess the best hand. There is one problem with attempting this against an amateur or calling station, they don't recognize what you're trying to represent. Amateurs are too concerned with their own hands to give any thought to what their opponent might have; therefore, they are likely to make loose calls with any sort of hand, even a measly pair into a straight and flushed board. Likewise, calling stations are players who rarely raise but will almost call an opponent's bet. They do not want to be bluffed and insist on seeing their opponent's cards, so they are willing to throw money away recklessly. These are the sort of players you want to have at your table so you can take their stacks when you make a hand, but trying to bluff them is just plain stupid.

2.) DON'T SHAKE. This is a factor that live players should be concerned with, not necessarily online players; however, if an online player ever wants to play a live tournament, they will surely need to be thinking about this. Not shaking, or showing other visible signs, takes some practice and can best be overcome with experience. The sort of signs, or tells, I speak of include shaking hands and feet, holding your breath, darting your eyes, and moving in your seat. All of these tells provide you opponent with some information, and no matter how clever or sneaky you think you are, most players will determine correctly that you're bluffing. If you have any of these habits, you might want to try developing a breathing habit and buy a pair of sunglasses.

3.) DON'T TALK BUT BE CAREFUL IF YOU DO. It is my personal belief that players shouldn't complicate a bluff by talking to their opponent. In my experience, talking has only seemed to encourage other players to call my bluff; in fact, I found my bluffing success rate jumped dramatically when I decided to keep my mouth shut and let my opponents make their own mistakes. In short, by opening your mouth you provide you opponent with information, and in a game where information is key, this can be extremely dangerous.

On the other hand, some players make talking a critical portion of their game (think Mike "The Mouth" Matusow). If you find talking during a big hand is comfortable for you, then by all means do it. The problem is, most players do not know how to engage in banter with other players without revealing too much about their hands. Talking at the table is truly an art and whoever attempts it had better have some natural talent.

4.) DON'T SHOW YOUR BLUFFS TOO OFTEN. Knowing when to reveal your cards at the end of a successful bluff is just as crucial as knowing when to attempt a bluff. Revealing to your opponents that you just executed a bluff is a double-edged sword. If you opt not to show your bluffs then you will keep your opponents in the dark, making it much easier to run bluffs in the future. If you do show, your opponents will know you are a bluffer and will be more likely to call you in the future. This will make bluffing incredibly difficult and could hamper that part of your game.

On the other hand, if you are aware of this you can adjust your game, not bluff anymore, and bet strongly when you have a big hand. Since your opponents will have you pegged as a bluffer, and could possibly be on tilt from being bluffed in the first place, you will be much more likely to be paid off when you actually do have a hand. This is known as "table image" and should always be taken into account at the table. Ask yourself: How do I view my opponents and how do they view me?

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