Bluffing is an important element of all poker. If no players ever bluffed, everyone would always know who had the strong hands based on who placed bets or raises. The game would become a matter of pure luck, with the winner always determined by the value of randomly dealt cards.
Types of Poker Bluffing
There’s more than one type of poker bluffing. You may bluff that you have a stronger hand than you really do. Alternatively, to trap your opponents and maximize the size of the pot you can win, you may bluff that you’ve got a weak hand when in fact you’ve got an exceptionally strong one.
With a "semi-bluff", you bet or raise on a hand that isn’t likely to win if you’re called, but for which you have a reasonable chance of drawing a card that will turn the hand into a winning one. With this kind of bluff, you can hope to intimidate other players into folding and to draw the card you really need to come out with the strongest hand.
Poker Bluffing Strategy
It never pays to bluff all the time. Equally, it doesn’t pay never to bluff. Other players will spot either trend and react accordingly.
If you bluff too often, you’ll be called when you don’t have the hand to stand up to this. Especially in low-limit games, it’s worth the cost to other players to call your bets if they have any reason to suspect you might be bluffing.
If you almost never bluff, you stand a lower chance of winning pots. Also, your opponents will be less likely to add their money to the pot and take you on unless they’re pretty certain that they’ll win.
Even if you bluff and you’re called, your failed bluff can give you an advantage in subsequent rounds. It lets other players know that you do bluff, at least some of the time. This makes it more likely that they’ll call you again when you really do have a winning hand. It also encourages players to add money to the pot even when you appear fairly confident – maximizing the amount you’ll win if your hand is strong.
See advanced poker bluffing for additional bluffing strategies and considerations.