Top 5 Beginner Tips for Bluffing Your Friends in Poker
The best players in the world have the ability to play big pots holding absolute air when the situation demands.
You don't need to be world-class, but becoming a believable bluffer doesn't happen overnight. It takes practice, so here are a few tips you can work on to finally win a few pots with your bravado rather than just the best hand.
1. Play Bluffs Like They're the Best Hand
One major problem that can ruin any bluff attempt is trying to play the hand differently than you would play a made hand.
The whole point of a bluff is to make your opponent fold. If your behavior during the hand is significantly different from what you're normally doing, other players will suspect something is up and call you down.
Ultimately this means betting your bluffs the same way you would as if you had a made hand.
Some players get cold feet and change up their betting patterns at some point during the hand. Your opponents will pick up on this weakness and call you down.
2. Establish a Solid Table Image Before Attempting Any Type of Bluff
If you're looking to run a successful bluff you first need to win a couple of pots at showdown.
When you win, keep in mind the way you played those hands and be prepared to use that information to sell your image down the line.
Dan Harrington is a great example of a player who used a tight table image to run bluffs at the poker table. Harrington had an incredibly tight image at the 2003 and 2004 WSOP and he used that image later in the tournament to run a couple of key bluffs that were televised.
If players think that you're only in a hand when you've got the best hand, they're much more likely to fold to your bluff.
3. Pick Your Targets to Bluff
Pay close attention to the other players at the table and look for opponents that you can run a bluff against. Two of your better opponents to bluff at are extremely tight players and those with poor post-flop skills.
With tight players you want to be heads-up to run your bluff. Your average tight player will slow down after the flop if they do not connect in a meaningful way. This is when you can bluff at the pot and take it down.
When they play back at your or call you down, you know they have a hand or a big draw and you can play accordingly. Players with poor post-flop skills will mimic characteristics of tight players but they will be in more hands.
In these cases you want to make sure they have been around to see you win a few pots. When they check to you, bet like you've got a hand and you will find yourself taking the majority of the pots from them.
4. Don't Show Your Bluffs
Contrary to what you've seen on TV, don't show your bluff to your opponents. In most cases this will result in players calling you down the next time you try and run a bluff.
Keep in mind that pros that show their bluffs on TV are playing at a much higher level and are using psychological tricks to gain action.
In the case of your local $1/$2 No-Limit game, showing off your bluff means that you won't be able to run another as you will have at least one or even two "sheriffs" that will call you down.
5. Be Careful After Getting Caught
Finally, if you happen to get caught bluffing, refrain from doing it again for a while. Go back to playing ABC-style poker for a bit and look for openings later on after your opponents assume you've rocked up.
Once you get caught bluffing your opponents aren't going to believe your bets for a while. In fact, this works in your benefit when you get a hand. It is more likely to get paid off.
You WANT them to pay you off for a few hands after a failed bluff. That way they think the bluff was an anomaly of your play and not a regular tool.
The above tips will give you a foundation for bluffing that you can later build on once you're comfortable.
Watch your opponents carefully and when someone shows off a successful bluff, make mental notes about what worked and what didn't.
With time and practice you can improve your ability at bluffing and will be on your way to improving your overall poker game.