Bluffing is the act of betting or raising in order to force your opponent to fold a better hand. If your opponent folds, you will automatically win the pot regardless of the card in your hand. In poker, you can win the pot by either having the best hand or a successfull poker bluffing strategy.
Bluffing is best learned by understanding the relationship between the ranges of the players and the value-bet-to-bluff ratio.
Fortunately, bluffing is a simple skill that can be learned by following three efficient bluffing rules and studying some GTO (Game Theory Optimal) solver solutions.
Although bluffing is simple to learn, it is difficult to master!
We’ll go over everything you need to know about bluffing in this article to get you started on your way to becoming a master of poker bluffs!
Every single player is a bluffer!
Although most bluffs seen or heard about are large river bluffs, buffing comes in all shapes and sizes.
Although we don’t usually think of it this way, bluffing starts with preflop raises. Even if you’re not the first person in the pot, depending on where we are seated around the table, the typical opening range will include strong hands like aces as well as marginal hands like 67s or 9To (if you aren’t already using a guide when entering the pot first, check out our free preflop ranges).
Did we just raise our hands like 67 and steal the blinds?
Opponents would have folded their hands if they had more raw equity. Some may have even thought we dominated when they folded Q6.
Following that, we’ll frequently miss the flop and must decide whether to c-bet or not. This is where the line is drawn between competent and inept players.
Taking Hand Ranges into Account
Competent players always consider the possibilities. This enables them to play significantly better than a player who is still solely focused on the two-hole cards in front of them.
Players can devise (or even memorize) an effective flop strategy by considering their range of hands. They divide their range into hands they want to check and hands they want to c-bet. If multiple bet sizes appear to be preferable for the situation, choose the size or sizes to bet.
Make a Strategy (Value-Bet-To-Bluff-Ration)
We can be more liberal with our betting and include some more marginal hands with multiple cards to come and plenty of decision points remaining after the flop. So we’ll be betting higher equity hands for value, lower equity hands as a bluff or semi-bluff, and possibly some more merged hands to spice things up. Of course, the flop texture will influence all of this, but this is the general procedure.
On the flop, we generally bet a 2:1 ratio of bluff bets to value bets to give ourselves enough strategic options.
As a result, the ratio will change to 1:1. Finally, the river employs a 2:1 ratio of value bets to bluffs, but this is entirely dependent on river bet sizing.
We are able to arrive at the river with the proper hand balance by planning the hand in this manner. As a result, you can avoid making the same mistakes that many players do: having a vulnerable, overly strong, or weak range. Players will be vulnerable because they will be able to assess the situation quickly and make clearly profitable decisions.
Common adjustments are folding more when a range is overly strong or attacking when a range is capped.
If the pot was $100 and we bet $100, our opponent would win 2-to-1. They would have to bet $100 to win $200. This means they must win the pot at least 33% of the time or they will lose money.
Take a look at our range ratio, and you’ll notice we’ve created a sort of break-even scenario for our opponent. A two-to-one value-to-bluff ratio. As a result, our adversary must win the pot one every three times (presumably the time we are bluffing).
In reality, given all of the variables and complexities of the game, things rarely go as planned in the heat of battle. Furthermore, we must consider the ranges of the players as well as the texture of the board, making determining the best frequencies to bet difficult.
As a general rule, consider the number of value hands you must bet. Counting combinations is a good way to do this and is very simple once you get the hang of it – for those who aren’t familiar with it, here’s a tutorial.
If you decide you have 30-40 value betting hands, you can go for 15-20 bluffing combinations because the 2:1 value-bet-to-bluff ratio is followed. Of course, this would be adjusted based on your bet size and possibly any exploitative considerations.
Don’t be concerned if you’re new to this concept; it’s not an exact science. Furthermore, it becomes fairly automatic once you adopt the correct thought process throughout the hand.
The types of hands to bluff bet with will frequently stand out as a result of the three rules of efficient bluffing.
Fortunately, when it comes to deciding which hands to bluff with, the three rules of efficient bluffing simplify the process!
This section looks at the aftermath of a poker hand in which one player bluffed and the other called, catching them bluffing. There are always things you can learn and adjust for future play after reaching a showdown. We’ll look at (a) when you catch someone bluffing and (b) when you catch someone else bluffing.
When You Call Someone’s Bluff:
What kind of player is your opponent? If a player mucks a (supposed) bluff at showdown, you’re in the dark. Even if a player mucks his or her cards online, the hand history replayer on the site allows you to see their holding after the hand. You’ll be able to learn a lot about your opponent using this information about their hole cards.
Is your opponent competent? Inept players can be fun to play against. This is because their gameplay is illogical and somewhat random. Incompetent players may be bluffing with 2nd or 3rd pair for no apparent reason, whereas good players may use large river bet sizes to represent a polarized range (bluff or nuts). It is critical to identify which players have no logical understanding of what they are doing.
Is your opponent’s value betting too spread out? This is where you can learn about your opponent’s betting habits, similar to the previous point. You can easily exploit this tendency by calling with a wider range if you notice that they frequently bet second, third, or fourth pairs on the river when certain betting lines are taken.
Is your opponent bluffing excessively? Many fish do not know which hands in their range are the best to bluff with. Instead, they can be caught over-bluffing by betting too frequently with (1) air (which they should have just check-folded) or (2) hands with some showdown value that they should have checked with (as there would have been better candidates to bluff with). If you’ve always seen your opponent in a showdown with the nuts, they’re probably incapable of bluffing. In this case, be wary of their bet and make sure you’re getting good odds to continue playing if you’re on a draw. Furthermore, if you make the nuts, you’ll realize that you should frequently bet for value against them, as checking would be pointless unless it induced a bluff from them.
What Happens After Your Opponent Bluffs? When a bluff is called, some players lose their cool. Perhaps they will remain reckless in the hands that follow. Or perhaps they will tighten up again in an attempt to recoup their losses. In any case, keep an eye on whether such players appear to be swayed by such outcomes and try to adjust accordingly.
When Your Bluff Is Recognized:
Was your opponent’s call weaker than you anticipated? In retrospect, did your betting story make sense? Did you bluff with a suitable hand in your range? In poker, mistakes can be costly, but if you learn from them and apply what you’ve learned in future situations, it’s not all for naught.
Furthermore, if you tend to tilt, end your session early or take a break from the table. It will save you a lot of money in the long run. Furthermore, in your study/improvement sessions away from the poker table, make sure that you’re taking steps to help eliminate tilt because “time at the table = money” in poker, and you don’t want to have to take a break from the table all the time just to calm down.
How to Spot Someone’s Tells
In general, particularly for physical tells, there are a few underlying concepts to understand that will assist you in determining whether your opponent has a strong hand or is bluffing.
Weak Means Strong
If a player attempts to intimidate you by sitting straight up and staring at you in the eyes, this usually indicates weakness. They’re attempting to “appear” strong in order to make their opponent afraid to call. The same principle holds true in the other direction.
Body Position: Tense or Relaxed
Another common tell for body language is recognizing whether their body position is still or relaxed. If someone appears to be at ease (deep breaths, swinging feet, swiveling in a chair, casual movements), they are likely at ease with their hand and value betting. Because of the anxiety that comes with bluffing, humans frequently default to the fight, flight, or freeze response (which translates to a “freeze” in poker). Your opponent may be bluffing if you notice tension in their frozen position after they bet.
While tells can help you make better decisions, they should not be your primary deciding factor when deciding whether to call, fold, or raise. It should instead be used to supplement the information you’ve already gathered from hand.
Furthermore, if you notice a tell, don’t rely on it too much. It’s possible that it happened by chance the first time, and it’s far from certain that it will happen again.
That being said, here’s a comprehensive list of poker tells to help you figure out if someone is bluffing.
The Eyes’ Movement
Have you ever wondered why some players at the table wear sunglasses? Because your eyes can reveal a lot about the strength of your hand (as the next five tells will illustrate). Based on where someone’s gaze is located or where their eyes frequently shift to, you can begin to gain some insight into which parts of the brain are being used and accessed when they are thinking.
According to one popular model, looking to the left or up and to the left indicates that the individual is relying on fabricated, made-up information from a visual or auditory standpoint. (In other words, they might be having fun.)
Where They Look After the Dealing of Cards
If your opponent keeps staring at the board after the community cards have been dealt, likely, they did not improve his hand. Alternatively, if he looks away almost immediately (perhaps subconsciously trying to appear disinterested), he’s likely to have connected well.
Seeing someone looking at his chip stack is an involuntary reaction caused by a desire to bet right away when they have a strong poker hand. Looking at another’s chip stack before betting can also be a sign of strength, as it indicates that they have entered “predator” mode and intend to win all of their opponent’s chips.
Breathing Patterns: Heavier/Shallower
Lying, as previously stated, causes stress. The body requires more oxygen to function as a result of stress, resulting in heavier and/or faster breathing. If you notice someone swallowing hard after betting, it usually indicates nervousness and may indicate a bluff.