As anyone whose been around poker more than a week, you know bluffing is a very important part of any poker game. However, the art of bluffing is something that takes alot of time and study to master, and often those who think they've got it down are actually the ones who are the worst bluffers in the world.
This short article won't make you an expert in bluffing, but it will definitely give you something to think about, and will at least start you on your path to mastering the art.
When bluffing, you should take all of these factors into consideration:
1. Is it a loose or tight table?
As a general rule, bluffs have a better chance to work well at tight tables, and are pretty much doomed to failure at loose tables, unless all the "loose players" have already folded.
2. What are the table limits?
In low limit games, theres really no point in bluffing. For a buck or 2, you can bet that most of the time someone will call your bluff. High limits, and especially no limit games, bluffing is at its most effective.
3. Who are you trying to bluff?
Weak players are harder to bluff than strong ones. I know it sounds backwards, but its generally true. Weak players tend to be loose and just can't stand not knowing what you have. They'll call. Strong players won't call as many bluffs, unless they have very strong cards or have you figured out by your "tells".
Don't bluff at big chip stacks. They have the chips to absorb a loss, and are more likely to call. On the flip side, bluff at the short stackers. They're protecting their chips like a hen on her eggs and faced with any real challenge they may chicken out. (very corny, yes, but I'm the writer )
Don't often try to bluff known loose cannon players. Do I even have to mention this here? They're more likely to raise your bluff than fold their cards.
4. How many are you trying to bluff?
Common sense tells you that the more people you are trying to bluff, the less chance you have of it working. Remember, your goal is for everyone to fold.
5. What position are you in?
Bluff from late position whenever possible. If everyone is checking, calling or folding in front of you, its a perfect time to try and buy the pot. Its not wise to bluff from early position, because you have no clue as to who has hit their hand or been dealt killer cards.
6. Do you have any outs?
Many would argue that to bluff with "outs" isn't a true bluff. But from my experience, you're better served bluffing when there is at least an outside chance of you forming a decent hand. This is also referred to as a “semi-bluff,“ and is made when there are still cards to come.
For example, you are dealt AK in a Texas Hold'em game and the flop completely misses you with a board showing J, T, 3. This might represent a good time to go ahead and bluff at the pot. You are representing a big pair or that you caught a piece of the flop, and your show of strength might prompt the rest of the table to fold, giving you the pot right there. However, even if someone does call your bluff, you have outs. An ace or king on the turn or river gives you top pair, and if a queen hits, you have the nut straight. Bluffing with "outs" simply means that even if the bluff does not work, you're not completely dead in the water.
7. What is your table image?
So many people think that if they bluff alot and play loose and crazy poker, it makes their bluffs stronger because noone can ever be sure what they have. It actually works the exact opposite. As anyone whose played long knows, great cards don't come often, so the chance that the wild player is holding trash is generally higher than the chance that hes got good cards. Therefore, strong players almost always call crazy bluffers. On the other hand, its very very hard to call someones bluff who always plays good cards. When you have the image of a strong player who throws away the trash cards, the other people at the table know that odds are you have good cards , and to call the bluff is taking a big risk. Play a good number of hands at any one table and build your table image before trying to bluff.
This is just a beginners list. There are so many more things that can be learned and added to fine tune the "bluffing" section of your game. But if you'll build your image as a strong player and pick your spots carefully, bluffing can buy you alot of pots.