Poker is a game of skill, strategy, and psychology, and the art of winning requires a combination of all three. Good players can read not only the game’s odds by making mathematical calculations, but they’ve also learned to read their opponents. Bluffing is an intrinsic part of any game, whether in online poker or around a table in a land-based casino. Learn how to spot a bluffer and how to become an accomplished bluffer yourself.
Texas Hold’Em: A Popular Variant
Texas Hold’em poker is probably one of the most popular variants of the game and is often played in online poker tournaments. Players win the pot, or the total amount of bets placed during the game, by creating the best five-card hand from a combination of seven. Two of these seven are the “hole” cards, dealt face down to each player. That leaves the community cards, which are dealt face up in three stages. The first three are revealed at the preflop, one at the turn, and the final card at the river. Betting takes place before the flop and after each of the subsequent phases. Good players know not only how to make the best hand and win but how to artificially push up the pot to increase its value, and part of this strategy is called bluffing.
Bluffing: A Sign of Strength or Weakness?
The skill in spotting a bluffer — and how to become an expert bluffer yourself — is to guess whether a player is bluffing from a position of strength or weakness. Players use reverse psychology — or reverse tells — to deceive other players into thinking that they either have a losing hand, thereby encouraging other players to bet more on their own cards (thereby pushing up the pot,) or that they have a strong hand when in fact, it’s worth nothing.
No Two Bluffers Are the Same
The trick is also in knowing that not everyone bluffs in the same way. When you have regular opponents, you get to know their tics and habits, which makes it easier to spot a bluff. If you’re in a room with players you don’t know well, there are still tell-tale signs you can look for. If you play poker online, it’s admittedly a little more difficult to discern when someone’s bluffing, but if you know what to look for, you’ll flush them out.
There are many signs that someone is bluffing in poker. Knowing them serves two purposes: one, it allows you to spot a bluffer, and two, you learn how not to reveal yourself when you make a move at the table.
Talking Too Much
If someone starts babbling at the table or starts to furiously type in the online chat box when they’re playing poker games online, they may be a bluffer. Equally so, when a player suddenly goes silent, this can indicate that they have something up their sleeve.
Rapid eye movement, or a player flicking their gaze from yours or someone else’s cards to the pot, can show that a bluff is brewing.
Acting Too Quickly
If a player places a bet too quickly, it’s a possible sign that they’re bluffing. Even skilled players with a strong hand will want to weigh up all the possible play options and odds and make a considered bet. Placing a fast bet suggests the player has the nuts, and they know it, but do they?
Bragging or Running Scared
Again, reverse psychology may be at play when someone starts to brag about their hand. It may be that they’re really just not that smart, but it may also be a ploy to throw you off. If someone starts to look like they’re running scared, that they’ve staked too much, and things are not looking good for them, take a moment before you push up the pot in anticipation of a win — they may be about to pull off a classic bluff move.
Inconsistent Bet Sizes
Watch out for irregularities in bet levels. When players send mixed messages with their stakes at each different stage in the game, alternating between aggressive betting, then putting small amounts on their hand or using the check-raise tactic are all possible signs that something’s going down and the player is trying to lure you with a bluff.
Countering the Bluff
Sometimes, body language is a natural giveaway, and a person can’t hide it. If you want to know how to tell if someone is bluffing in poker, if they start sweating or their face is flushed, they’re probably just anxious and feeling a little tilted. That’s the time for you to push them even further off their game.
Using software when you’re playing casino table games is also useful for tracking opponents’ gaming styles and betting patterns. Trust yourself when you spot anomalies, it means your bluff radar is doing its job.
Bluffing the Bluffer
There are so many life skills at play when you’re playing online casino games, especially Texas Hold’em. Assessing risks and rewards, making calculated moves and, above all, masking your emotions are just part of a successful game plan. Being a good bluffer means employing all the tactics that have been discussed here but without revealing your true intentions to other players. The idea is to keep ‘em guessing. Will they call your bluff or sit waiting for your next move, uncertain about what exactly you’re holding? That subterfuge is where the real skill lies.
Take On the Bluffers With BetMGM
If you want to observe some skilled gameplay or practice your newfound bluffing skills, register with BetMGM and join in some of the most exciting games out there.