Poker, as we all know, has one of the highest skill ceilings among all deck games. Rather than just knowing what cards could be coming out of the shoe next round, one has to constantly guess what kind of hands the opponents at the table have. In fact, the real poker is played in manipulating your opponent’s gameplay by manipulating the information they potentially have on your hand. This is why the legendary ‘poker face’ is such a big factor in poker.
The bluff by nature is a thrilling game mechanism that can add a whole different layer of intrigue. Here are a few tips that will help you master it easier.
Get your poker face on
This is the most obvious pointer in the world when it comes to bluffing. One must know how to sell a bluff when they do bluff. But most beginners actually think they are better at bluffing than they really are. In reality, most people tend to have at least some kind of tell. The bottom line is to have perfect command over your body language. The one surefire way to deal with this is mirror practice. Often our lips tremble, our hands shake, or our expressions change slightly even without our knowledge when we lie. Once you spot a tell that you tend to have, practice a posture that will help you hide it. An example is keeping your hands together with the cards inside your palms if your hands tend to shake.
Conceptualize money differently
All the bluffs you make are instant. So the smallest hesitation, or wavering in your tone can give you away just like that. In order to really cover your trails there, just a poker face is not enough. You have to pre-condition yourself not to hesitate and call the bluff on multiple people when the occasion arises. Now, what is the biggest reason people lose their nerve before calling a bluff? Because of the stakes – which is money that you might lose. Thus to really nip it in the bud, you have to detach yourself in the money. Instead, think of it as a math problem, where you can replace your pile of chips with a bigger pile if you play your cards correctly.
Make sure that your angle is plausible
If you really want to sell your story, it must sound like an airtight story. Bluffs are by nature a misdirection. But for it to be a successful bluff, it must also never feel like a misdirection. When someone scans your decisions to call out potential bluffs – considering your body language is perfectly neutral, that is – is by logic. Generally, any person would resolve this doubt by seeing whether the narrative would check out if they were there in your stead. If you do something that seems implausible by all standards, it will not take an expert to call your bluff. The factors you should primarily take into account is the strength of your hand relative to the information they may already have. Again, poker is a game of out-guessing your opponent’s guess.
Timing is everything
It is common knowledge that the frequent bluffer seldom succeeds. Naturally, you must craft your image as someone who is not too preoccupied with bluffing to get their hands on the pot. In a game, generally you bluff only once or twice. And it is best never to bluff more than two persons at a time. But the timing of that bluff is also crucial. This varies game by game, of course. For example, in a game where you have a great hand but with low bets, you can use up your bluff to bait your opponents into increasing the pot size.
But as a rule of thumb, it is best never to bluff too early and instead bide your time. If you have to go first in a round, resist all temptations of an otherwise good bluff opportunity. It is always better to wait for a round where someone else will go first. That way, you get a way better read of the room, and other potential bluffers.
Practice makes perfect in Poker
Strangely enough, bluffing is also something you can practice. Some people are more gifted at it than others. But bluffing is all about understanding and manipulating your opponent’s hands and motivations. So it is something you can practice even over an online poker table.
As a bottom line, we must also emphasize one thing: bluffing is just a small element of poker gameplay. As we said earlier, bluffing becomes rare in the more high-skill brackets of poker. Bluffing certainly helps in some cases, but it is not the be-all and end-all of poker – the overall strategy and expertise to read the game is much more important.
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