How to Bluff in Poker

poker bluff

​Virtually every player is familiar with the concept of poker bluff. Still, fewer individuals understand its true importance (yet it's one of the most vital and valuable skills a gambler can possess!). 

Anyone can wait for a strong hand and hope to get paid off – for that, hardly any experience and talent are needed. But determining the perfect moment to execute a convincing hoax with a specific hand and effectively playing with weak cards (+EV moves) makes all the difference between winning, losing, and break-even players.

In this article, we give more details about bluffing, review its types, examine suitable situations for this manoeuvre, and learn how to spot it at the table.

Definition of Bluff in Poker

This is a special technique which aims to convince opponents that you have a stronger combination than it really is. It is expressed in a specific behaviour and player’s bets, which force rivals to fold their cards. 

Simply put, the given trick entails betting and raising when having a weak or no hand to knock adversaries out of the game and win the pot before reaching the showdown. Playing until the end of the hand and showing your holding is unprofitable in this scenario, as you will emerge victorious in very rare cases: when your opponent(s) also bluffed or they didn’t get outs while semi-bluffing. If people see your pocket cards, they will understand that you deceived them and won’t believe you next time.

So the main signs of bluffing are bets, tells, and poker face

Pure vs Semi Bluffs: Difference

In general, there are two main types of misleading rivals. Each of them has its peculiarities, and it is crucial for players to understand which bluff they are attempting to execute.

Pure bluffs
Pure bluffs

They have almost no chance of winning. These are situations when your behaviour says you possess a powerful hand, but in reality, you have neither pair nor gutshot or open ended straight draw.

Pocket cardsBord
bluff in poker
bluff in poker

In the above example, you have neither a ready-made combination nor a straight or flush draw. And even if 6 or 4 comes down, your pair will be very weak on this board.

Pure bluff is used very rarely, even by famous professionals.

Semi bluff at poker tables
Semi bluff at poker tables

These are situations when you play with cards that have some potential to win, for example, a weak combo or draw. You have two ways to win a hand here: by bluffing your adversary and compelling them to fold, or by getting the necessary outs to win (ending up with a stronger hand at the showdown). 

Semi-bluffing is more popular than pure one, as it leaves you a chance to win. It is often used when a player hits a straight draw or flush draw.

Pocket cardsBord
poker bluffpoker bluff

You don’t have any combination on the flop, but you can hit a flush of spades on the turn or river, and you also have a little chance that 3 and 5 will come on the board, giving you a straight.

Types of bluffs based on the situation

  • Steal is bluffing from late positions on preflop with the intention of stealing blinds.
  • Re-steal – gamblers playing from the blinds raise in response to the steal by opponents sitting on late positions (blind protection).
  • Squeeze – a bluffing technique where we raise in response to someone else's raise and another player's call. For example, if Player A raises pre-flop, Player B calls, and then Player C raises, it can be said that Player C executed a squeeze. In such a situation, Player A is trapped, unsure of Player B's next move.
  • 3-bet bluff (and higher) – a pre-flop bluff expressed by the third (or more) raise at the table. For instance, Player A bets Player B raises (2-bet), and then Player C bluffs by making a 3-bet (or subsequently, someone else bluffs with a 4-bet, 5-bet, and so on). This is quite a risky maneuver since there is a high probability that players before the buffer have strong cards.
  • Cbet (continuation bet) is a follow-up raise, meaning a bet made by the individual who was an aggressor on the previous street(s). For example, a pre-flop aggressor places a bet on the flop. With a proper bluffing, it’s important to "follow your own way" for as long as it makes sense. If you suspect that your rival may have a strong hand, making a cbet won't be a prudent decision.;
  • Float – calling a bet in order to knock your opponent out of the game during the subsequent betting rounds. It is usually done by the player in position.
What is a bluff-catcher?
What is a bluff-catcher?

It can be described as a type of hoax (often a pure one) where a gambler can win only if their adversary is also bluffing. In other words, this is a situation where your hand only beats another player's bluff. To succeed, you must not only be good at pretending to have nuts in poker but also can identify when your rival is trying to mislead you.

Best Situations to Mislead Opponents

The belief that you can fool people in any hand is wrong. Many newbies make identical mistakes, while savvy players know when to bluff. If you do it too often, there is a great chance of being exposed; but if you play only with good cards – you lose the chance to earn a lot of money. Therefore, you should find a balance in order to use bluffing as efficiently and profitably as possible. It's also crucial to keep poker rake in mind, as it's nearly impossible to beat it with a simple tight playing strategy.

Here's a bit of math
Here's a bit of math

Bluffs have a positive EV only if the probability of opponents folding and your chances of winning the hand is higher than pot odds.

Bluff will work better under the following circumstances:

  • there are few players in the game (the more participants are engaged in the hand, the bigger chance for someone to hit a good combination; and the fewer people, the easier it is to knock them out of the action);
  • community cards on the table have outs for strong combos, and you can pretend to have them;
  • opponents can consider your action before bluffing as a game with strong cards;
  • your rivals have low pot odds;
  • you're playing against a tight player(s) who is able to fold cards of medium strength.

Fooling adversaries at random is something you should never do. It can be highly dangerous and, in most cases, not beneficial. Mastering the art of effective bluffing holds significant importance. You ought to develop a well-thought-out strategy for applying this technique and utilize it only in specific, appropriate situations.

The main objectives of bluffing, depending on the goals pursued:

For the sake of winningWhen you realize that your hand won’t be the best one on the showdown and you just need to knock opponents out of the game, convincing them that you have a stronger holding.
To confuse adversariesRemember, opponents observe your game! And if you hoax rarely, it will make it harder for them to make decisions against you. However, if you get caught fooling, it's not always a bad thing. They will see that you can play with weak cards and might pay your solid hands off, hoping to catch you bluffing.
A means of pressureIn poker, players often face difficult decisions, and your bluff can put an opponent in an uncomfortable situation. They will have to guess what cards you have, and if they succumb to the pressure, they are likely to fold even fairly strong starters.

How to Bluff at Poker Tables: Tips

You should do it correctly and thoughtfully. Don't attempt to deceive your opponents just because you got bad cards or when you're bored.

Keep in mind at least three main rules for effective bluffing:

    Pretend to have a specific hand
    Pretend to have a specific hand

    To make your opponent believe you, clearly imagine a specific strong combo that could be completed in this hand in the case of receiving other pocket cards. So, you should use such a strategy line that would be applied as if you have such cards in reality. If a straight draw looms on the board – you can pretend that you've hit a straight. If there are three cards of the same suit – demonstrate that you've hit a flash. With an ace on the table, you can force your rival to believe that you have pocket aces and so on.

    Choose weak opponents
    Choose weak opponents

    Keep watching your opponents' game. Even if you didn't plan to bluff, if you notice a hesitant bet or call from an opponent on the flop, you can pressure them and force them out of the game. The statistics gathered by poker software can be helpful in this regard. It will show who plays more cautiously and is likely to fold to your raise.

    It's better to hoax one player than several people
    It's better to hoax one player than several people

    The more individuals are in the game, the more difficult it will be for you to convince them in the strength of your hand and compel them to give up. Moreover, there will be more chances that one of the opponents will hit a good combination. In addition, don’t forget that bluffing is more effective against tight players, and don’t try to fool "calling stations."

    Biggest high stakes poker bluff ever

    The mastery of pretending is a skill that sets professionals apart from amateurs, and videos featuring players employing it to compete for large pots garner hundreds of thousands of views.

    One of the true experts in this regard is Tom Dwan – he consistently takes big pots from his opponents through insane bluffs. A prime example can be seen on the show High Stakes Poker, where the guy played against fellow pros Barry Greenstein and Peter Eastgate. Tom pretended he had something better than a top pair, successfully convincing Peter to fold the strongest hand on that board, followed by Barry, who believed he was behind in the hand. You really have to see it for yourself!

    Dwan eventually claimed a massive pot and added another successful bluff to his record 💪.

    How to Tell if Someone Is Faking

    In theory, you could make solid money at the table if you always knew when another player is pretending. However, even for the world's best professionals, collecting tells is a challenging task. Undoubtedly, there are numerous crucial factors to pay attention to when attempting to determine whether a person is bluffing. 

    • Bet sizing. Some people place large bets when they have a strong holding and small bets when trying to fool others.​
    • Body language. If your challenger appears relaxed and confident, there's a high probability that they like their starting hand. When they seem tense, nervous, or hectic, it could be a sign that something is amiss.
    • Verbal signals. Many players enjoy displaying "reverse tells." If your foe verbally indicates that they have a powerful hand, it's possible they are bluffing. On the contrary, if the opponent claims they think they are losing the hand, it often signals that they actually possess good cards. 
    • Changes in breathing. Some gamblers experience a sharp increase in breathing rate and heart rhythm depending on the strength of their holding.

    On our website, you will find plenty of useful and educational information about bluffing. However, keep in mind that no articles can replace practice. If this is a new subject for you, start by trying this manoeuvre at low stakes and move up to higher stakes only when you gain confidence. Perfectly executed all in bluff may bring you good money, but novices should avoid shoving weak cards until they have a better grasp on the game (as it is too risky).


    💁‍♂️ What is a bluff in poker?

    This is a tactic where a player shows aggression during the betting rounds by making big wagers without holding the necessary cards. In doing so, they aim to create the illusion of having a strong hand, enticing their opponents to give up (fold cards).

    👀 Is it OK to bluff in poker?

    Yes, bluffing is accepted, both in online and live games. Employing it doesn't violate any rules, thus allowing you to experiment and practice these techniques to mislead your rivals at the table (but know the measure!).

    🎯 How do you play bluff in poker?

    To hoax successfully and achieve victory through it, one must evaluate their card's strength, opponent's range, bet size and skill level, and select suitable situations. Faking and going all the way to the showdown is pointless. If your adversary calls raises or shoves, they likely have a strong hand and a high chance of winning.

    Hobbyists do not analyse their opponents; they solely focus on their own cards and play until the end (they are willing to call and raise without following a specific strategy). Predicting their logic is impossible, so trying to compel such players to fold is also futile.

    👑 Do professional poker players bluff?

    Of course. On the Internet, you can find numerous video clips showcasing skilled players successfully (and sometimes not) bluffing other pros, thereby claiming significant pots.

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