Bluffing is the most misunderstood concept in poker. I’m here to help anti-misunderstand you. Did that make sense? Probably not, but that’s what it’s like out there with people bluffing in poker.
Most poker people who play poker have no idea what they’re doing. I could be wrong on this one, but my thought is that televised Texas Hold’em poker tournaments only show the most dramatic hands, and some of the most dramatic hands are when there is a bluff on the river. It’s like a cliffhanger at the end of a movie. Will the hero call? Or will he fold and live to fight another day, setting the stage for a sequel?
Sounds cool. Looks cool. Fun to watch. But it has completely screwed up the minds of poker players worldwide. These players now believe that the right way to play poker is to bluff big on the river, regardless of the board texture and action prior to the river. At this moment, I’m shaking my head.
On the other hand … you should be celebrating! If so many players around the world are using a bad poker strategy, that’s good news for you. This is an opportunity for you to catch those opponents who are incorrectly bluffing in poker.
If you’re a beginner poker player, then you might be asking yourself how you’re supposed to catch someone in a bluff. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, but I do have a reputation for reading ability. I will share some of my poker rules for catching bluffs, then cover other important information about bluffing in poker.
Below are tips to catch people bluffing in poker.
Strong vs. Weak
Anyone who has been around the block a little knows this already, but it must be covered in any article about bluffing in poker. The difference between this poker strategy article and others is that other articles will tell you that strong is weak and weak is strong. What this means is that someone who has a strong hand will act weak and when someone has a weak hand they will act strong. This is too black and white.
The truth is that it depends on the player. I can generalize for you to a certain degree. If it’s a weak player or a medium player (majority of the field), this is usually correct. These players believe they can trick you by using basic tricks. If they’re up against a good poker player, this would be like trying to shoot an arrow at a Jedi. It’s not going to work. You will know when they’re bluffing almost every time.
If you’re up against a crafty player, watch out. These players have the potential to confuse you. They will act strong when strong on one hand and act weak when strong on another hand. They also might act strong when weak on one hand and weak when weak on the next hand.
The crafty player will play his poker hands in such a way that you will be incredibly confused and will not want to play hands against him. That is, of course, unless you let Ego in the door. In those situations, you will want to play more poker hands against him. You might win once in a while, but you will not be profitable long term against the crafty player unless you have a ton of experience and are very deceptive by nature (not just by poker training).
Making the Call!
If your opponent’s body appears to have stiffened after he placed a large bet, call. It’s likely a bluff. When human beings tell lies their limbic system is activated and the mind is telling the body to use tactics to get away with the lie, which relates to survival.
The problem is that human beings haven’t evolved enough for their brains to realize they’re sending unnatural signals. This leads to tense shoulders, shortness of breath, and more overall stillness. If you want me to simplify it, any unnecessary movements might give away that you’re lying.
The irony is that you should be completely chill when telling a lie. There should be no difference in your speech or body movements. I consciously speak and act the same way when I’m bluffing in poker as I do when I’m not bluffing in poker. The reason for that will be revealed somewhere below.
Here are some other tips to catch someone bluffing in poker. If they look up and to the left, they’re lying. If they’re staring at the board, they’re either trying to form a hand that’s not there or they’re trying to appear highly interested. They’re lying.
If they used lower denomination chips on the turn, the river didn’t appear to be a card that would help their hand, and they bet, they’re lying. They used the lower denomination chips on the turn because they didn’t believe in their hand. This is psychological and happens often at the poker table. If the river is a dud, they missed and they’re trying to steal the pot. Call!
Then there are patterns. Every poker player has betting patterns. The longer you play with someone, the better you will get at recognizing those patterns. You will eventually pick up on those patterns subconsciously. If someone places a bet that doesn’t match their patterns, call it.
Making the Fold!
If your opponent’s hands are shaking or their pupils are dilated, get out of there immediately. These are uncontrollable. They indicate excitement of winning a big pot and being attracted to something (the board), respectively. It’s imperative that you fold in this spot.
If your opponent’s body seems relaxed (opposed to stiff), it’s natural. There is no deception going on. You need to fold. The same can be said for someone who is talking to the player next to them, flirting with the waitress, laughing with the massage therapist, casually checking their phone, looking at the television, or shaking their leg. In regards to the latter point, nobody shakes their leg when they’re bluffing in poker. Their leg will go still. This is an excellent bluff-catching tip to apply if a player is shaking their leg the whole time other than one hand.
If someone looks at their chips or your chips, they’re either thinking about how much they’re going to fire or how much they’re going to win. Both are aggressive, and they’re both aggressive because they’re confident they can’t be beat. Fold!
That said, still be wary of the crafty poker player. He might purposely stop shaking his leg with the nuts and look at his chips and your chips when bluffing. This is another level of psychological play, but it’s rare.
If you’re not sure how to spot the crafty poker player, it should come to you with ease. Just ask yourself: Does this player seem incredibly comfortable at a poker table and is he doing unexpected things while still playing Tight-Aggressive? See, you’re already confused. Don’t worry about it, though.
Most poker players aren’t like this. Even most WSOP Circuit players who play Texas Hold’em poker tournaments all day almost every day are using a GTO or an Exploitative poker strategy. They follow the herd. How can they possibly believe that trial and error will lead to their own effective poker strategy?
Very few poker players realize that following the herd will lead to herd-like results, and that every new poker strategy that has been created came from someone’s trial and error. But don’t share this information. It’s a secret between me and you. Some people scoff at the way I play poker. It’s okay. I’m not a player, I just crush a lot.
Now let’s take a look at some other important points related to bluffing in poker.
Bluffing In Poker Doesn’t Need To Be Stressful
Dude … relax. Do you realize how much you have stressed over bluffing in poker? You know you need to do it, but you don’t like it. You also have to do it or you will be seen as a Nit, which is against the poker rules and like wearing a scarlet letter in the poker world. I have good news. This doesn’t need to be stressful, and I’ll tell you why.
Only idiots randomly bluff at the river. Do you want to be seen as an idiot? I’m going to guess no. You don’t need to bluff big on the river. In fact, I have only bluffed all-in on the river four times in my entire poker career. It worked three times, but one of them was when I first started playing and I misread my hand. I thought I had a straight, but I didn’t. My opponent ended up folding, but he tanked for at least three minutes.
Since this was one of my first poker tournaments, sweat began to form on my forehead. If he had noticed even one bead of sweat, he would have called, but he didn’t. Two of the times were when I was in desperation mode due to being short-stacked. Those worked. The time it didn’t work was a cash game in West Virginia. I thought I could get a passive player to fold. I knew she had two pair and I was representing a straight. My story made sense. She tanked, then eventually said, “Oh well, I guess I’ll call.”
I bluff more than you might think, but they’re not big bets on the river. Almost never. My bluffs are more risk/reward oriented. I bet small to moderate amounts on the flop and turn. Your opponent is going to completely whiff on the flop approximately 67% of the time. Therefore, if you’re heads-up, you should be firing almost every time. The player you’re up against does play a role, but generally speaking, you shouldn’t be checking often when heads-up. Throw in some checks and check-raises to keep your opponents guessing.
A c-bet is going to be more effective against a soft or medium player, and a check-raise will be more effective against a good player.
By bluffing on the flop and turn, you will methodically accumulate chips, which will give you cushion for the higher blind levels in Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. The best part is that when you bet small to moderate amounts, there is no stress associated with bluffing. This might be why I’m completely relaxed when bluffing, and why nobody can pick on anything one way or the other. It’s a good place to be. Come and visit. You might enjoy your stay.
Getting Caught Bluffing In Poker
Oh no! You bluffed! It’s poker. No sweat. Completely normal. If you get caught bluffing in poker, simply use that image for later. You might have lost the battle, but losing that battle can actually help you win the war.
The next time you have a big hand at that table, use the same patterns and mannerisms as when you were bluffing. Your opponents will think they’re all over it, but your misinformation is likely to earn you more chips than you lost before because the blinds are now higher. Well played.
Firing big bluffs on the river is nonsense. Save it for the televised poker games. If you want to win in the real poker games, study the tips for catching bluffs above and transfer your bluffing poker strategy to smaller amounts on the flop and turn. This is lower risk. You’re also likely to accumulate more chips over the long haul in poker tournaments, as long as you wait for the right spots against the right players. From this day on, bluffing in poker is not stressful. Doesn’t that feel good?
Bluffing in Poker – FAQ
What does it mean to call a bluff in poker?
This means you knew your opponent didn't have anything so you called and won the pot.
What do I do if I get caught bluffing in poker?
Nothing. Some people say, "Good Call." Other people say nothing. I would recommend saying nothing. It doesn't faze you, it's part of the game.
How important is bluffing in poker?
Not as important as folding.
How do you steal the pot in poker?
If you sense that your opponent(s) is weak despite holding a weak hand yourself, then you bet out to get your opponent(s) to fold. If they all fold, you have stolen the pot.