Bluffing in poker is one of the most commonly used strategies for players to gain an advantage over their opponents.

The bluff is a strategy that can be used in the form of a ‘call’ or ‘raise’ with the aim to deceive the opponents at the poker table.

When the player doesn’t have the strongest hand he can bluff with the intention of making his opponent or opponents fold so that he can win the hand. It’s a basic strategy but an integral part in money games and tournaments.

Bluffing is best for higher limits. It is not usually effective against weak players or low limit games. If you bluff in low limit games, you will be called too often and it will backfire. Ideally you want to be playing against opponents who know enough to lay down medium strength hands.

When all the cards have been dealt and you find yourself at the end of the game, having nothing but a poor combination in your hand is when you want to pull off a successful bluff.

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There are several factors that determine whether to give up the pot or to bluff.

Factor 1: Have you been betting all along?

Does your opponent call the whole way? If so you can afford to bluff often as it is very possible that your opponent has a poor hand as well. In this case, particularly when the stakes are high, he will nearly always fold. He’ll be too scared to call you most of the time. Occasionally, he may try to bluff-raise you, but only the very aggressive players will do this. If he raises you, take a moment to act as if you’re thinking, before dropping your hand and therefore not revealing your bluff.

Conversely, if you have been calling all the way, the only way to win the pot is to raise your bet until he folds.

Factor 2: How big is the pot?

The bigger the pot at stake, the more often you should bluff. For example, if you figure your opponent folds once in every five times that you bluff, and the pot is high, you should take a shot at it. You need to keep a track of your opponent very carefully in order to determine this. Does your opponent often call to the river then muck his cards? Or is your opponent fairly tight, and when he gets in a pot, have a strong hand? Does your opponent bluff themselves?

It’s more difficult to bluff a good bluffer, as they tend to play a more aggressive game, and will be more likely to call your bets.

Factor 3: How good is your opponent?

Often in poker it’s a case of the higher the stakes, the better your opponents are. Not always of course, but often. Difficult opponents are usually much more aggressive, but also tighter. It’s easier to bluff a difficult opponent than a weak opponent. This may come across strange, but a weak player isn’t aware whether their hand is strong or not, and tends to call a lot more. They tend to miss the possibilities of a straight or a flush, and ignore the check-raise as a danger sign.

Image by Lucio Alfonsi