Poker has long been one of the world’s most impressive games. Its popularity is apparent regardless of format, with the game being a staple in every casino and having over 100 million players online.
Most of poker’s popularity comes from the game’s emphasis on skill over luck. Unlike other casino games, it’s not rigged towards the house. You play against people, meaning the better player will always come out on top over time.
Playing against real people also means the possibilities are endless. Players try to one-up each other through predictions and mind games, with everyone trying to stay one step ahead.
One of the most exciting actions in poker is bluffing. For many players, this simple act of pretending your cards are stronger than they actually are is synonymous with the game itself.
It’s undoubtedly one of the most exciting parts of poker, so naturally, many players want to know how to bluff successfully. If you’re a beginner that wants to make better bluffs, this poker guide has you covered. It will give you several crucial tips to ensure your bluffs work out.
Pay attention to your opponents
Bluffs work by getting your opponent to fold. Everyone plays the game differently, so it’s critical to analyze your opponents to tailor your bluffs to their playstyle. Some players are tight, meaning they stick to only the best hands and fold away the rest. Others are loose, meaning they play a lot of hands, even middling ones.
Since bluffs require your opponent to fold, you need to bluff tight players. Determining someone’s playstyle takes careful analysis, but there are a couple of things you can do to accelerate this.
The first is using poker tracking software. These programs can analyze your opponents and display statistics about them. You want to look at the Voluntarily Put Money In The Pot (VPIP) percentage, as it shows what % of all hands they play. The higher it is, the more likely they are to join the pot, meaning your bluffs will be far less effective against them.
The second way is paying attention to your opponents after you fold. Too many poker players are guilty of ignoring the game after they fold, as they miss out on the perfect chance to observe the other players. Without having to worry about your own game, you can watch your opponents like a hawk and take note of their strategy and habits.
Balance your ranges
Another way to ensure your bluffs land is focusing on what you do besides bluffing. Balancing your range means playing an equal number of bluffs and value hands to make it difficult for your opponents to guess what you hold.
By balancing your range, you become unpredictable, making it far easier to bluff. To do this successfully, you also need to avoid giving your opponents other ways to identify what hand you’re betting with. Avoid using distinct bet sizes, and if you’re playing live, pay attention to any unconscious tells.
Use continuation bets.
Continuation bets are a great technique to ensure your bluffs work. They are when a player bets on the flop after being aggressive pre-flop, thereby “continuing” their aggression onto the flop.
Continuation bets are naturally very aggressive, making them perfect for bluffs. Your pre-flop aggression can often trick players into thinking your strong hand connected with the flop, causing them to fold.
These bets also take advantage of the high chance for your opponents to miss the flop too. If they’re holding a drawing hand and miss the flop, it’s likely they’ll fold without any resistance, making a continuation bet perfect to secure the pot.
Semi-bluffs are another betting technique that help you bluff more effectively. They are when you bluff with a drawing hand, which has potential to improve on future rounds. Common examples of these hands include flush draws, which are four cards of the same suit that need a fifth to create a flush.
Semi-bluffs are far more potent than regular bluffs because they combine the strength of your bluff and your drawing hand. If your opponent calls your bluff, you can still fall back on the chance of hitting your draw. They effectively give you a second chance, meaning they are less risky than a regular bluff.
Don’t bluff too often.
Finally, many beginners have the misconception that poker is all about bluffing and nothing else. They’re excited to try and trick their opponents in every hand, only to go broke quickly when they get called.
The truth is, bluffing definitely isn’t all there is to poker. Most of the time, pros stick to having a solid poker strategy instead of bluffing like a maniac whenever they can. Bluffing is only a tool you should have in your arsenal, not the only option you always rely on.
Remember, bluffs work best as a surprise. Bluffing too often is not only incredibly risky, it’s also incredibly telegraphed. When your opponents start catching on, you must switch gears and stop bluffing. You can even try playing without bluffs for a long time to condition your opponents and eventually pull off a massive, game-winning bluff when the pot is huge.
Practice playing online!
Remember, these tips shouldn’t just stay in your head. You must apply them and put them into practice. Bluffing takes a lot of experience, so don’t be discouraged if your bluffs don’t work out at first. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t over time. We recommend playing online poker as a beginner, since it’s far more convenient and faster-paced. Good luck at the tables!