Knowing when and where to make a well-placed bluff is a key skill to improve if you want to become a great poker player. There is an art form to bluffing successfully and it is something that can add a whole new dimension to your game if you can start to perfect it.
Here are some pointers when it comes to bluffing:
Balance and Image
Bluff too much and you will start being looked up too light, bluff too little and your chips will dwindle away to nothing as you wait for the nuts. The balance must be right. You do not want to become predictable as players will start to play better against you if you fall into patterns of behaviour.
Your table image will have a big influence the effectiveness of a bluff. If you have been very active recently, or perhaps already shown down several bluffs recently, you can expect to be called lighter. At this point you should probably bluff less and value bet more to get the most benefit from your bets.
Observe your table image, don’t fall into obvious patterns of behaviour and adjust accordingly.
Knowing your Opponent
Always pay close attention to your opponents as this will give you valuable information about whether a bluff will work or not.
If they have shown a propensity to call bets with weak hands, then bluff sparingly against them. There will still be occasions to bluff them, but be aware you may have trouble moving them out of a pot.
It is better to value bet bigger against “calling stations” and bluff less.
On the other hand, if players are tighter then you can make well-placed bluffs to win chips against them more often. You can raise their blinds more with weaker hands and can turn up the aggression post-flop, with strong expectation of getting them to fold enough to be profitable.
Telling a Story
For a bluff to be effective, there should be a believable story behind the bluff. If you continuation bet a flop with two hearts, checked the turn, and a third heart came in on the river, this would be a good spot to accurately represent a flush. It’s a credible tale you could have a flush here.
Consider this different example.
The flop comes Js 7c 3h. You bet and are called.
The turn comes the 4h, you both check and the river comes the Jd.
This is a poor spot to bluff in. Your opponent is unlikely to have had a draw, and your hand looks unlikely to contain a jack. You can expect many pairs to call a bet on the river here, so this would be a bad spot to bluff but a good spot to make a thin value bet with say pocket eights.
When constructing a bluff, think about what your hand looks like to your opponent and try to identify spots where you can represent a credible hand.
Not only will this help you pick up pots where you have the worst hand, but it will also highlight areas where your opponent is highly likely to be bluffing.
Bluffing is a complex art form that depends on a delicately-balanced combination of image and flop texture. It takes a long time to master but is an essential tool in a great poker player’s arsenal. The only way to improve is to practise so sign-up to some of these poker sites and start practising your bluffing techniques.
Learn to bluff and you will be well on the way to becoming a master poker player.