To win at any style of poker — from Texas hold em’, to baseball, to fives, to roll your own — you must be able to bluff opponents. This is a subtle art which all the professionals have mastered. Contrary to popular belief, bluffing opponents is more about what you don’t do than it is about any technique you’re employing. The best strategy for performing a successful bluff is to remain calm whether you have a good hand or 7-2 off suited.
The Art of the Bluff: Poker Face
The term poker face refers to the ability to remain absolutely emotionless during a hand. This makes it impossible for people to gage your hand based upon your body language. However, sitting as stiff as a board may not appeal to you. It’s alright to be friendly and even smile on occasion. You just can’t smile when you have as good hand. If you’re jovial, be jovial even when you fold. If you’re indifferent, remain that way when you have a royal flush. Don’t sigh and exhale when you have a bad hand, because people will just raise you until you fold. Likewise, you have to remember no to raise your eyebrows when you get a good hand. This is especially true in Texas Hold Em’ and Mississippi Mud. If you show any sign of elation about pocket aces, everyone else is simply going to fold before the flop.
Once you’ve learned how to hide your excitement, you can begin to bluff people. The best time to bluff is when you’re the chip leader, because you won’t be eliminated if someone calls. This is especially useful if the only other players in the pot have short stacks. Even if they have superior hands, they might fold to prevent the risk of you from taking all of their chips. Even if your hand is awful, pretend like you’re really struggling with the decision to raise or not. This will also help you when you really are debating whether to raise.
When to Bluff
In Texas Hold Em’, you have a slight disadvantage for bluffing. This is because everyone at the table can see three or four of your cards. Therefore, someone with a full house isn’t particularly worried about a straight flush. You should only use big bluffs when the potential for a spectacular hand exists. For instance, if 2-7-king off suited comes on the flop, people are going to call your all in bet. The only thing you could possibly have is three kings, and the chances of that are highly unlikely. In more traditional poker hands like five card draw, it’s a lot easier to bluff, because you could have a straight flush at any time. Another good time to bluff is when you have the big blind. You don’t lose as much since you’re already in fairly deep to the pot anyway.