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bluffing is hard to learn

Bluffing is at the core of poker.  This seems a bit odd since so many players now look at every poker hand in terms of poker math, ranges, and other esoteric modern analytical tools.  But every hand may be a bluff!  So, to repeat, bluffing is at the core of poker.

Poker Has Many Elements that are Easier to Learn than Bluffing

When you play poker online, bluffing becomes somewhat different than when you play poker at a land based casino.  Perhaps the best thing you can do with the poker no deposit bonus from Intertops Poker is to enter many poker games and observe closely who is bluffing, why they are bluffing, and always ask yourself: What can I learn from this player’s bluffing behavior?

Every Bet a Bluff

A good poker player has to understand that every bet he or she makes or an opponent makes is either a bet from strength or a bluff!  Many players don’t even know that the bet they just made is a bluff.  For example, if you limp in with a weak hand in early position before the flop, you are bluffing.  Some players just see such a bet as an aggressive play.  Nevertheless, it is a bluff.

Every Hand a Bluff

It follows that every hand will likely have at least one bluff.  The player may fold when the flop comes out and doesn’t help them but the bet to see the flop was a bluff.

Since most poker players play online, it is a good idea to focus on bluffing in online games. 

Bluffing is an Art

This is the first and foremost lesson about bluffing.  Everyone who appreciates any art form knows whether they are in any higher echelon as an artist.   A poor singer knows to sing only in the shower.  A pianist knows not to audition for a piano playing gig if their skill is not up to it.  A sketch artist knows that he or she is not the reincarnation of Marc Chagall, who, by the way, was a great sketch artist!

Yet every poker player fancies themselves as good bluffers.  So, what are the elements that go into truly good bluffing?

  • Timing.
  • Keen observation.
  • Knowing your opponents.
  • Sometimes tilt manifests itself as a bluff.   Controlling tilt will also control your bluffing.
  • Create and cultivate your own persona so your bluffs will seem like bets from strength.

Each of these elements works in a synergistic relationship with the others.  The best bluffers are the poker players who have learned how to wrap all of these elements together into a confusing betting style so that opponents will fold when they should raise and will raise when they should fold.

Timing

One common thread in poker, especially online poker, is that many players bluff much more often than they should.  Frequent bluffing does not work as a way to “set up” an opponent.  Frequent bluffing can only work if you get a great hand, everyone thinks you’re bluffing, and they also have hands that are good enough to call or raise with.

This sort of hand does not come along all that often.  More than likely, you’ll “set up” your opponents and when you get that great hand that you expect to win the biggest pot with, they all fold because they have terrible hands.

In other words, bluffing without any thought to timing is simply a waste of time.  If you lose too many frivolous bluffs, then frequent bluffing will also be a waste of money.

Keen Observation and Knowing Your Opponents

These are so closely related we decided to discuss them together.  You have to watch everything that goes on at the table.  Even if you are playing online, you can “observe” many things. 

You can see how long a player takes to make a decision.  A player who takes a long time to make a decision and calls may be telegraphing that he or she has a borderline hand.  They may want you to think that they are bluffing.  What do they do on the next street?  This may hold the key for how to respond to a bet from this opponent for several hands to come.  Only the most skilled poker players can use consecutive bluffs to confuse you for many hands to come.

So, we always tell our players to watch every hand even when you are no longer in the hand.  It is often those hands that you have folded out of that become the best teaching moments since you don’t have the pressure of considering your own next play.

Sometimes, online players disappear for stretches of hands only to return to the game.  Are they feeling ill?  Is Joe Smith a woman at home taking care of an infant?  Is this opponent doing other household chores while attempting to play poker?  Is he or she working on a work project while playing poker?

Being distracted is a powerful prescription for losing at poker.  If you observe that an opponent is seriously distracted, it may be the best tine to attack their stack with a large bluff.  The number of observations you can make about opponents is very large and each one can be helpful in the long run.

Finally, online poker is the perfect conduit for short gaming sessions.  So, you will see many opponents come and go.  You shouldn’t be trying to make a large bluff against a new and unfamiliar player.

Tilt

This is the more aggressive form of frustration.  Poker players have to learn to deal with constant frustration; it is simply part of the game.  We get frustrated when we have to fold many hands in a row before the flop.  We get frustrated when we can’t fill a single flush or straight.  We get frustrated when an opponent also has a good hand to compete with us on those tines that we also get a good hand.

Tilt occurs when we lose control of our frustration.  One manifestation of tilt is trying to win back money after a bad beat.  When the desire to win back money is so strong that we’ll try to bluff our way to winning the pot, we have entered the danger zone of tilt.

Tilt is the clearest symptom that the time to leave the game has come.  Our bluffs will not work and our desire to avoid another bad beat will make us susceptible to bluffs even from opponents who are bluffing with very weak hands.

Creating a Poker Personality

In order for your bluffs to work, you have to have a poker personality that confuses your opponents.  They have to think that you are bluffing when you have a strong hand and that you have a strong hand when you are bluffing.

This is such a difficult skill to learn and develop that most poker pros tell new players to bluff infrequently.  Bluffing when it is the wrong strategy is a prescription for losing your bankroll fast.