Unless you live under a rock, you’ve without a doubt heard of the all-famous poker-face. When used in daily language it can refer to any kind of emotional mask – when you’re hiding your thoughts, feelings, or motives. But its use was originally based in – you guessed it – the game of poker! Poker is about mastering card strategy, but also about getting the best of other players. If you bluff and manage to convince them you’ve got the best cards, then you win a big pile of chips. Who wouldn’t want to master the art of bluffing? No one, that’s who. After reading this, you’ll be the best bluff in town. Now it’s time to keep your opponents guessing!
Image of Bluffing
Bluffing isn’t about cards, it’s about people. In the game of poker, you have to read others like an open book to discern how they are going to react. But before you can start shelling out that steely expression, you have to first understand the concept of image. Some of the most common jargon surrounding image in poker has to do with how a particular person is making plays and betting wagers. The terms “tight” or “loose” refer to how one plays their hands. So tight people play only a small number of hands and end up folding most of the time. You can remember this by thinking that tight players hold their cards tightly to their chest. This kind of person knows what they are doing and are usually pretty cautious so it’s safe to assume that when someone labeled “tight” finally does make a bet, their hand is going to be as strong as Superman. Vice versa, someone who is considered loose will play a wide variety of hands, regardless of whether they’re great or totally crappy.
The other main characteristic of a poker player’s image lies in whether they’re passive or aggressive. A passive player is careful with their chips, like Scrooge during the holiday season. They play defensively and are afraid of losing both their chips and their pride. That means they’re less likely to call your bluff, unlike aggressive players. People considered aggressive will always call and raise a bet, and are more than willing to put money at risk with the hopes of a big win.
Poker newbies should pay special attention to their image because they tend to be easier to pick on for other, more experienced players. Because they have yet to gain the rhythm of the game – or because they think poker is just like it is in the movies – inexperienced players tend to bluff too much or they don’t bluff at all. This tendency is their undoing because it makes their actions predictable, meaning they don’t stand a chance in a steely-faced round of poker. If you’re entering the world of bluffing, keep this in mind as it may save you and your bankroll from getting ripped apart during your first game.
In the same way you have to try to read whether or not your opponent is bluffing, they have to read you. This means when you bluff, you must make sure you have the right audience for your act. The biggest determiner of your bluff working or not lies in whether your opponent is watching you. Sometimes an inexperienced or downright terrible poker player will make betting decisions based solely on their own hand, regardless of what is going on around them. Avoid this person like the plague, because your poker face will go unnoticed and fall flat on the floor. Likewise, another kind of person to avoid bluffing around is someone who is too loose. The problem with bluffing around loose players is that even if they know they have a losing hand, they will still refuse to fold. So a bluff against a loose player means you will have to reveal your true hand – and you may lose in the process.
Another way to determine whether your opponent will be a good bluffing target or not lies in their recent poker success. Have they won or lost a lot? If a player has done well throughout the game, they are going to be cautious about losing their recently won stack. After all, why would they play so well just to put it all on the line? Similarly if they made it through the game while maintaining their chips and are gearing to leave and cash out, they will play smart. They are most likely going to try and read the situation, paying attention to what others are doing. This is good for you because they’ll react to your bluff. An opponent you may want to avoid is someone who has lost too much during the game. Even an experienced and fierce competitor can succumb to “tilt,” a state of stress that causes a player to make fatal betting decisions. These players are usually over aggressive, even if they have a losing hand and know it.
Pay attention to a player’s history of bluffing. Are their patterns predictable? This is one of those moments where you can take advantage of their habitual bluffing or lack thereof to read their hands. No, you don’t need x-ray vision for this trick, I promise. If they always bluff you should feel free to call them out, under the condition that you have a decent hand yourself. If an opponent never bluffs, though, play it safe. When a player who never bluffs makes a bet, you can be sure they have a strong hand and it would be stupid to challenge them. Experienced poker pros straddle the middle line between always and never bluffing, strategically placing their bluffs in an unpredictable pattern. This allows them to manipulate their opponents who can’t tell whether or not the bet is a bluff or not.
Your opponent will size you up and decide how to proceed from there, so you need to understand what your own image is. If you are seen as a tight player, your bluffs will hold power because others will think you only put down strong hands. But if you are loose, your bluff will fall flat. So know where you stand, because you don’t want to put your chips on the line just to get called by someone who knows what you’re up to. If you’re seen as a loose player, it’s going to be one of those “don’t bother” situations.
Bluffs vs. Semi-bluffs
If poker is founded on any principle, it’s “moderation, moderation, moderation!” If you lie too far to either side of the bluffing spectrum, then your actions will become predictable and your opponents will have the advantage. Another practice in moderation is what kind of hand you have. If you’re not a dolt, then you should try and trick your opponents with what are called “semi-bluffs.” A semi-bluff is still making a bet on the false pretense that you have great cards, but at least you have a decent hand to back it up. A straight bluff, when you have no chance of winning with your hand, is a risky move and it could cause you to lose all of your chips.
Another bluffing tactic that can make or break your façade is how you conduct yourself throughout the entire game. A bluff is not made up of individual bets, but rather an accumulation of all of the bets you make leading up to your official lie. You have to be aware of what cards you’re putting down and throwing away. Also, you can’t call the whole time and then suddenly go all in, it’ll look pretty suspicious and the other players will smell it on you. So you have to actually work for it the entire game, rather than making a straight off the bat bluff. Your betting history can either convince your opponents that you have what you say you have, or make them believe you’re full of hot air.
Bluffing isn’t that difficult, but a lot of it relies on using the right tactics in the right place at the right time. Your image means everything, and if you play your cards right no one will be able to read your bluff. Now before you dive right in and try to win a pile of chips, brush up on your poker skills. Log onto Slot of Vegas and work that p-p-p-poker face!