The Art of Bluffing in Online Poker
Ah, bluffing. When you get it right, you feel like a master strategist; when you get it wrong, you feel like a doofus. Bluffing is lying, to put it plainly. To be more specific, bluffing is lying about the strength or weakness of your hand. There is a common school of poker strategy that teaches to play every good hand as if it were a bad one and every bad hand as if it were a good one. Now while that may be a bit too simplistic to be applied across the board, it speaks to a sound underlying principle — you can win with a good hand and you can win with a bad one; it’s all in how you play.
If you’re playing No Limit poker especially you’re going to need to know how to bluff (and as a bonus consequence, how to tell when others are bluffing). Bluffing is generally more effective in No Limit poker than in Limit poker because in Limit poker, you can only raise so much at once, and you can only raise so many times in each round of betting.
A player in a Limit poker game is much more inclined to call a bet or a raise with a mediocre hand than a player in a No Limit game, and the main reason why is the size of the bet or raise. In No Limit poker, you can call “All In” at any of your turns and set the whole table on tilt. There’s just no equivalent in Limit play.
Now to extend the conversation on bluffing to the online poker arena, there are far fewer methods of bluffing online than there are offline. The main way to bluff online is to place a humongous bet or raise (when your hand doesn’t merit it, of course). You can try a bit of “coffeehousing” or blustering over the chat window, but if your opponents aren’t reading the chat window (or have that feature turned off) you’re wasting your time.
One way to heighten the impact of a bluff is to do it quickly and confidently. Though they can’t see your face while you’re doing it, like they could if you really were sitting across the table from them, but they can gauge how long it took you to come up with this maneuver based on how look it took you to execute it.
You’ll find 3 basic types of bluffs at the poker table, online or off:
The Stone Cold Bluff: Betting a huge amount right away with lousy cards; the choicest time to pull this is when you’re the last player to act in that round of betting and not much action has happened yet;
The Semi-Bluff: Betting on a potentially winning hand that for now is worthless (such as four cards to a straight or a flush); it’s considered a bluff because it’s currently a garbage hand, but since it could turn into “the nuts” or the best hand possible at that time, it’s considered to be only a semi-bluff;
Representing the Flop: Bluffing in two parts – first, raise a small amount in the initial round of betting, making folks think you have the beginnings of an excellent hand, though it seems clear you need to pull something useful on the flop to make it happen; in this round, you raise just enough to get the majority of players at the table to fold. After the flop, then, go ahead and bet a ton (maybe even going so far as to go All-In) suggesting that you just pulled whatever cards you needed on the flop.
It takes nerves of steel to pull off a good bluff, but it takes even more than that to fold when you believe your opponent is bluffing. If your hand is weak, especially, then no matter how convinced you are that your opponent is trying to pull one over on you, you still want to walk away and save your chips for another hand. If you don’t think you can win this round with the cards you’ve got, then by all means you can try bluffing. But if you sense you’re being bluffed, make sure you can beat it before you go ahead and call it.