Bluffing is an integral part of poker. You never know what cards you or your opponents will be dealt, so the best way to maximize your chances at the table is to employ a bit of deception here and there. This is true whether you’re playing in a live tournament or on
online poker sites like GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room.
You could have mediocre hands and bluff your way to a win. You could also have the best poker hands and get the most value out of them by making your opponents think you have a less ideal hand—a great prospect if you play real money poker.
The key to bluffing successfully is understanding when and how to do it, especially if you’re playing online and cannot rely on your opponents’ physical tells. Here are eight practical tips to help you bluff like a pro when you play poker online.
1) Narrow down the competition
It’s generally easier to bluff when there are fewer players to compete with. The risks of bluffing increase with the number of players at the table because it’s more likely that someone will call your bluff or that someone has a better hand than yours.
Be careful when you bluff at the beginning of a game and the tables are full. It’s usually best to play tightly and conservatively at the start to preserve your chips and stay in the game. Save your big moves for later, when the tables have thinned out, and you know more about how your opponents play.
2) Use the semi-bluff
A semi-bluff is when you bet with a hand that isn’t the best but has a good chance of improving. For example, if you’re dealt two cards of the same suit (known as a flush draw), there’s a chance that you’ll make a flush by the river (the fifth and final card).
It’s a great way to whittle down the field as it can lead weaker players to fold out of the game. At the same time, it leaves you a good chance to compete with the top poker hands on the table and take down the pot.
3) Pay attention to game flow
Game flow refers to how the current hand is playing out. Is it slow or fast? How many players are left in the pot? What’s the betting pattern been like?
You should pay close attention to these details as they can point out clues about your opponents’ hands. For example, someone will likely have a strong hand if the game is slow with a lot of pre-flop action. On the other hand, if the game is fast with limited betting action, it’s more likely that players are bluffing.
Use this information to help you decide whether or not to bluff or when to do it if you choose to.
4) Mind your table image
Balance is key to bluffing in poker. You can’t do it too often, or your opponents will catch on, but you can’t be too tight, or they’ll never believe your bluffs.
The best way to find this balance is by paying attention to your table image. This refers to how the other players at the table perceive you. While keeping an eye on your opponents is imperative, you must also be mindful of how you play.
Remember that your opponents are observing and figuring you out as much as you’re doing the same to them. They’ll pick up on clues like how often you bet, the types of hands you play, and how you respond to certain situations. That’s why it’s important to switch up your actions now and then to keep them guessing.
5) Play steadily through a hand
To the previous tip, it’s crucial to play consistently throughout a hand. This means avoiding huge changes in how you bet or play so that you don’t give away too much about your hand or strategy.
If you’ve been playing tight all game and suddenly start betting aggressively, your opponents will know you have a strong hand. Similarly, if you’ve been playing loosely and fold every time someone raises the stakes, they’ll know you don’t have anything good.
Establish a game plan before you start playing and stick to it as much as possible. This way, you can somewhat temper how your opponents perceive you and thus bluff more believably.
6) Be patient
For many reasons, patience is a virtue in poker, but it’s crucial when bluffing. It can be tempting to try and bluff early and often to try and take down a few pots, but this is usually a recipe for disaster.
As mentioned, you must have a good handle on the game flow and your opponents’ playing styles before attempting a bluff. Otherwise, you risk losing all your chips in one hand.
Slow down, stay patient, and only bluff when the time is right.
7) Show the bluff
If you pull off a bluff, don’t be afraid to show the hand you made it with at showdown. This can be a great way to build your table image; your opponents will know what cards you’re capable of playing and boost your reputation going into the next hand.
8) Know when to give up your bluff
There will be times when a bluff just won’t work out. Maybe your opponents are playing too tight, or they’ve caught on to your strategy. Whatever reason it may be, there’s no shame in giving up and folding. You can try again at a better time. Otherwise, you risk losing chips or a real chance to take down the pot.
Bluffing is a necessary part of online poker and, when done right, can be highly effective. With these tips, you should be able to bluff with the best of them in no time. Try them at a game on GGPoker and see how they work for you. Sign up for an account to start playing at GGPoker today.