To bluff is to try to convince your fellow players that you have the Nuts...
To bluff is to try to convince your fellow players that you have the Nuts (or at least a fantastic and probably unbeatable hand) when really the cards you’re holding are garbage. The objective of bluffing is almost always the same – to get the other player to fold. (There is an exception, elucidated further below).
Bluffing successfully requires a great deal of calm, poise, cunning, and acting ability. It is an inextricable part of the game of poker, a necessary skill without which you’ll never earn or amount to much in the game. Without bluffing, poker really would be solely about the cards and you could, therefore, play every hand open (with your hole cards showing).
Bluffing Online requires a craftier use of a much smaller set of tools than poker players in live, land-based settings have at their disposal for bluffing. For example, online your opponent cannot see you Carey Grant-esque poker face. Online your bluffs will come mostly in the form of your bets. Therefore, an online bluff cannot be a half-hearted bluff. An online bluff has to be large enough to look like it would hurt badly to lose. In fact, the gutsiest online bluff is going All-In. Just be sure you use it wisely – because (rebuy tourneys notwithstanding) you only get one chance to be wrong about that.
To Slow-Play is to try and trick your opponent into thinking you have a weak hand and are playing it poorly, making you ripe for the taking. Essentially you’re playing weak in order to get your opponent to throw more chips into the pot in the hopes of wrangling more of yours away from you before they supposedly move in for the kill. Little do they know, however, that you’re holding the Nuts – the prime time to Slow Play – and will be the one dining on a pound of their flesh this time around.
A form of slow playing is the Check-Raise, when you Check the right to bet first in a round to entice your opponents to detect weakness in you and therefore bet just enough, they expect, to get you to fold out the pot. Often this is done in the first round of betting as a method to “steal the blinds”. However, when the bet comes back around to you, you don’t fold – as they had hoped for – and you don’t merely call their bet – but you raise it. Now your opponent is on to you. They know what you’re up to, and all they have to decide is if you’re Check-Raising them because you truly have a killer hand or if your Check-Raise is itself an elaborate bluff.
The Limit to Bluffing: Bluffing works best in No Limit scenarios because you can go all the way with it – go All-In- bet the farm and (hopefully) scare the bejeezus out of your opponents. In Limit games, however, the highest you can bet or raise is the limit. When the ceiling is a finite number, your fellow players are a lot more likely to call it just to see how the hand plays out. Therefore, bluffing is not as powerful a tool in limit games.
Get Caught: A particularly stellar bluffing strategy is to let yourself get caught doing it, even at the expense of losing a pot to do so. The reason? Because once you’ve established yourself in your opponents’ eyes as someone who bluffs, people will call you’re outrageous bets more often, giving you a greater chance of pulling down enormous pots when you do get dealt the Nuts.
Representing the Flop: This is a particular type of bluff, distinct from the “Stone Cold Bluff” occupying the bulk of this article. “Representing the Flop” is pretending that whatever cards you needed to have the Nuts just came up on the flop. Many players are keen to this trick, though, so watch out when you use it. You might find someone else trying the same racket at the same time as you, in which case you may want to back off. In some instances, that other player may actually have gotten the Nuts on the flop, and here you’re just faking it. It’s a trcik to be aware of, but not to abuse. Get a read on the other players at the table and note your position in order to decide if now is the right time to represent the flop, because sometimes it’s the perfect time.
Beating a Bluff: Lastly in this intro to bluffing is one final word of advice on how to act when you believe your opponent is trying to bluff you. Look at your cards. Can you win the hand? If so, play on. If not, let him have it. Don’t call someone just because you think they’re bluffing. Only stay in a hand you think you can win.