Fast Eddie Felson, the cooler than ice main character played by Paul Newman in the classic gambling movie “The Hustler,” once said that money won is twice as sweet as money earned.
And I for one, agree with Fast Eddie, as there is no feeling better than scooping up a bunch of money that you didn’t have to earn. Don’t get me wrong, when playing Texas Hold’em, I love to make the nuts and get paid off too.
But that feeling when your opponent throws their cards into the muck, and you get pushed a monster pot on a stone-cold bluff is certainly at least twice as sweet!
Bluffing Is The Best
Bluffing is what makes poker such a great game. It allows more skilled players to win pots that they shouldn’t, which completely changes the dynamic of the game when compared to other skill-based games.
We all love to bluff and win, and there are few feelings better than catching another player with their hand in the cookie jar, by calling their bluff and winning a mountain of chips.
The question isn’t whether or not players like to bluff and call bluffs effectively, it is how do you do it?
In this article, we are going to provide TheSportsGeek’s guide to bluffing in Texas Hold’em! Let’s get things started by first telling you what a bluff actually is, before then jumping into our top Texas Hold’em bluffing tips!
What Is Bluffing In Texas Hold’em?
The definition of a bluff in poker is a bet or a raise with a hand which is not thought to be the best hand. Simply put, a bluff is when you think your opponent has a better hand than you do, and you are making a wager to try and get them to fold and allow you to take down the pot with an inferior hand.
To me, the key word in that Texas Hold’em bluffing definition is thought. A bet or a raise with a hand which is not THOUGHT to be the best hand. That means if you think you have the best hand and bet and everyone folds, that isn’t a bluff. And on the flip side, if you think you have the best hand and bet and you didn’t actually have the best hand, that isn’t a bluff either, regardless of whether or not you won the pot.
In order for a play to be a true Texas Hold’em bluff, you have to think you have the worst of it and bet anyway, hoping to induce a fold. Now that you know what a Texas Hold’em bluff is, we are going to get to the good stuff and give you our top Texas Hold’em bluffing strategy tips.
Bluffing Strategy In Texas Hold’em
Do you want to be a master at bluffing in Texas Hold’em? Follow TheSportsGeek’s top Texas Hold’em bluffing tips below!
Be Careful To Size Your Bet Correctly
Making sure your bet sizing is appropriate is a key to bluffing in Texas Hold’em. If you bet too small, your opponents may just call out of curiosity and cost you the pot. And if you make a huge over bet, that looks just like what it is, a bluff, a good player is going to sniff it out, call you down, and punish you.
Bet sizing is always going to be situational depending on how big the pot is, how many players are left in the hand, and your position. But the best way to think about bet sizing when you are bluffing is to think about it the exact same way as when you aren’t bluffing.
If your bet sizing with the nuts is the exact same as your bet sizing with a bluff, you are going to be very hard to read. You always want to keep the other players off balance and playing good hands and bluffs in a similar fashion is a great way to do it.
Don’t Give Away Any Tells
It can be hard to know your own tells. We all know about the guy that can’t stop talking when he bluffs or the player who can’t stop their hands from shaking as they make their bet. But being able to be aware of your own tells is a completely different matter.
The best way to make sure that you aren’t giving anything away is to do nothing.
Don’t talk. Don’t play with your chips. Don’t look around the table. Just make your bet and wait. The less you do, the better, as there are going to be fewer opportunities to give away any tells.
Never Show A Bluff
This next tip plays off of the last tip, in that it can be very hard for other players to pick up on your bluffing tells, if you never show your bluffs! I know we all love to bluff a big pot and turn it over and get all of the acclaim and applause of the other players, but you must avoid this at all costs.
Poker is a game of information, and you don’t ever want to give out any info for free.
If you get caught bluffing, say nice hand, and rifle your cards straight into the muck. If you do pull off a big bluff, take pride in it while you stack the chips, but keep it to yourself, as the less information your opponents have about how you play, the tougher you are going to be to play against.
Resist the temptation to show off, as every bluff that you show is one less bluff you are going to get away with later.
The point of poker is to win money and when you get away with a bluff, that is just what you have done. You know what you pulled off but be sure to keep the rest of the table in the dark and be content with stacking the cash.
Pick Your Spots Wisely
As a guy that has spent countless hours at the poker table, it always amazes me when players make bluffs that have no chance of working.
Generally, when you see these bad players make these hopeless bluffs, they will say something like, that was the only way I could win the pot.
But in reality, they had no way of winning the pot, and just wasted good money instead.
Don’t Throw Good Money After Bad:
If there are 7 players in the hand on the river and you are first to act, save your money, as your bluff just won’t get through often enough to make it a long-term profitable play. Did a player just bet 2/3s of their stack? Guess what? They aren’t folding for what they have left behind, so let them have it.
Before you just recklessly fire your chips into the pot hoping for a miracle, think about the situation, and make sure that your bluff actually has a shot at working.
When you are bluffing in Texas Hold’em, you aren’t betting on the strength of your hand, you are betting on the strength of their hand, and in order to pull it off, you at least have to have some idea what is going on at the table and where everyone else is at.
Take A Line That Makes Sense
This tip is one that I consistently see new players mess up when bluffing in Texas Hold’em. In order for a bluff to work, it has to make at least some sense. If you are trying to represent a hand, the line you took at the start of the hand, has to align with your play later in the hand, or it just isn’t going to work.
Are you trying to convince your opponent that you have an over pair to the board, but you limped pre-flop and checked the flop? That line doesn’t add up, and more often than not, when a betting line doesn’t make sense, players are going to call you down.
Being able to take a step back and remember all of your action during the hand is important when you are trying to steal a pot. If you find yourself in a spot where you are trying to rep a hand that your action says isn’t very likely, save your money and find a better spot to bluff.
Don’t Turn A Value Hand Into A Bluff
This is a more advanced concept, but one that I see as vital to profitable Texas Hold’em play. If your hand has value, which means there is at least some chance that you have the best hand, make sure that you aren’t turning those hands into bluffs on accident.
When Is A Bluff Bad?
This can happen in several different ways, but the concept here is that if you make a bet, that can only be called by a hand that beats you, then you should rarely make it, and never make it as a bluff. An example of this would be a hand where you flopped top set, but then the board ran out with a 4-flush on board.
Yeah, your set was probably the best of it early in the hand, but if you were to bet the river with a 4-flush on the board, without having a flush, are they ever calling you where your set is going to be the best hand? That is going to be very rare, so you are essentially turning your once strong hand, into a stone-cold bluff.
That is not to say that it might not be the right play to bluff in that spot, but when doing so you need to understand that your hand might as well be a pair of napkins, as any caller is going to beat you. Turning a value hand into a bluff is just bad poker, so do your best to stay away from it if at all possible.
How To Know When Someone Is Bluffing In Texas Hold’em
Now that we have given you our top tips on how to bluff in Texas Hold’em, we are going to flip it around and provide you with some ways to know when your opponents are bluffing.
When it comes to bluffing, most people only focus on making bluffs, but if you want to be a winner at the Texas Hold’em table, you need to know when your opponents are bluffing as well.
Do The Math
There are a lot of factors in play when you are deciding to make a call or fold.
Sometimes it can be a razor-thin decision between a call or a fold, and the best way to set yourself up for success is to do some quick pot odds math. Knowing the exact price that the pot is offering you won’t tell you whether or not a player is bluffing, but it will tell you how often you need to be right to make a call profitable.
Let’s say you are heads up on the river and a player bets $10 dollars into a $100 dollar pot.
That means you have to call $10 to win $110. Those are some impressive odds, and you only have to be right about 10% of the time for the call to be profitable.
If you find yourself in a spot like that one, you are going to call with most of your range. But what if in the exact same situation, the player bets $100 into that $100 dollar pot?
Now you are calling $100 to win $200 and if you aren’t right at least half of the time, you are going to be losing money.
Knowing the price isn’t the entire equation, but it will certainly help you make better decisions, so before you make a hero call, take a couple of seconds to understand the math.
This is another advanced concept that I have used to make boatloads of cash over the years playing Texas Hold’em. Players like to bluff. It is exciting and if you were able to see every player’s cards every hand, you would be blown away at how many times players try to bluff.
Want a great way to know when a player is bluffing? Induce them into a bluff and then call them down.
Let’s use that same example from above where you flopped a set, only to watch the board run out with a 4-flush. We already told you that you shouldn’t be turning your hand into a bluff, so instead of betting the river, how about you check it and let the other guy take a stab at the pot.
When a player is betting in a spot like this one, they have what is known as a polarized range. That means they either have a very strong hand, or nothing at all, as they just aren’t going to bet a medium-strength hand.
And while you can’t beat a very strong hand, you can beat just about every bluff, so checking to induce a bet, and then calling, has significantly more value as a bluff catcher than a bet would have as a bluff or value bet. Many players just can’t resist taking a shot at stealing a pot, so find spots where you can induce the bluff to unlock all kinds of value.
Pay Attention To Tells
You should always be paying attention when you are at the poker table. Part of paying attention when you are at the table is watching for the other player’s physical tells.
Shaking hands, darting eyes, fidgeting, all of these tells are going to tell you exactly what the other players have in their hands. Sometimes these tells are obvious and easy to pick up, whereas other times your opponents aren’t going to give you much to go on.
But if you find players that are giving away the contents of their hands by their actions, physical or verbal, you must find a way to take advantage of it.
Now that you are a certified TSG bluffing master, it is time to get in on the action and test your game. Looking for a place to play?
Look no further than TheSportsGeek’s Texas Hold’em sites page, where we bring our reader’s exclusive offers at all of the top online poker sites.
Here you will find signup bonuses, deposit matches, and more, so don’t miss out on all of the free money! Thanks for reading and good luck bluffing using your new bluffing strategy in Texas Hold’em.
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