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The Art of Bluffing in Poker

The Art of Bluffing in Poker
by K. Swope of

“Bluff (v): to mislead by a display…; to deceive by a show…; an act… or practice of…” To mislead an opponent or deceive one by portraying an act is simply the true meaning of a bluff. In poker, when a player attempts a bluff, they represent a hand in which they do not hold.

To succeed in bluffing requires the manipulation of one’s opponents however strategic or erratic the action. Some opponents are even oblivious to this performance that is taking place by concerning themselves only with the cards they hold and not the cards their competition holds. This is one the key factors in which you must determine before exhausting chips and risking table status by executing a bluff. You must determine if the opponent you are trying to command into folding or trapping is, in fact, aware of you. Is this person watching the others at the table or staring at the community cards, perhaps just the cards in their hand? How many remaining players have cards? Does this person notice your position at the table, your voice, posture, chips stack, facial expressions, breathing rate, nervous twitches or lack there of? All of this must be considered before you can decide if the player you want to defeat honestly cares about what hand you might be holding and if they are throwing away chips by staying.

There are numerous ways in which to apply a bluff. Typically, a player may only attempt a bluff when just two or three people remain in a hand. It is also common to see players use their table position when bluffing, opting to make a move from the dealer seat or cut-off seat.


You can also find success by bluffing from early position by check-raising certain players. Despite the creativity involved or the amount of chips you choose to risk it is still very possible to bump heads with players who seem to be impervious to the bluff. Players of this nature are sometimes referred to as “calling stations” or accused of playing “no fold’em, just hold’em” poker. Although, it is unnecessary to try and verbally barrage a player in order to get a response it is helpful to make small and harmless comments to get results.

You may ask a player before they decide to call your bet, “You have the nuts already?” or simply say, “If you raise I’ll probably fold.” Comments like this make a player second guess their decisions and cause them to reevaluate if your comments are honest or deceptive. It also grabs the attention of the players who before may not have been paying much attention to you already.

The best type of bluff, though, is one that forces your opponent to make the critical decision. By raising or betting you have made a choice of risking chips, and by doing so placing the unwanted pressure on your opponents to cold-call, raise, or fold. No one individual desires to make such difficult decisions. Players just want to have pots handed to them, and let the cards do the work. No player wants to grind out a game by adhering to disciplined strategy. Then the effort to enjoy the game is gone and apprehension and anxiety creep in on their entertainment. So, by squeezing your opponents comfort zone you gain an advantage.

As the “Mad Genius” Mike Caro said, “most players make split second decisions about their cards…whether they stay or fold… it is usually decided at the last possible moment.” With this knowledge in mind all anyone needs is a little encouragement to make a decision that will be favorable to your poker hand.

So despite what you do when attempting a bluff you must remember that; (a) players must be aware of you at the table, (b) they are susceptible to pressure, and (c) you have the ability to persuade an Eskimo to buy ice. Implementing all of this into a single move can vastly improve your rate of success and failure at the tables.


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