The Art of Bluffing: Why, When and How to Bluff at Poker

One of the most misunderstood concepts in poker, bluffing is about making the right move at the right time, against the right opponent, as the Tip Top Fox explains

Bluffing gives a player the ability to turn a losing hand into the winning hand. However, there is a great deal of intricacy involved and bluffing is not as prevalent as many players think. While it adds deception to your game it’s all about picking the right spot.

Believe It Or Not…

Bluffing is more than firing out massive bets and praying your opponent folds. A successful bluff is about telling a believable story. This means there are a number of things to consider when attempting a bluff: 

  • Bet sizing – have you bet enough in relation to the size of the pot to get your opponent to fold? This amount can’t be too small as you give your opponent the right price to call, but can’t be too large as over-bets often look like a bluff. 
  • Fold equity – more importantly, do you have a big enough stack left after making this bet to make your opponent wary of calling another big bet or all-in move on the next street?
  • Table image – what hands have you shown down recently? You might have had aces and kings the previous orbit, but if you won without showdown this is not a good time to bluff. Your opponents just saw you make huge bets to take down big pots uncontested and might choose to look you up.
  • Opponent’s tendencies – how has your opponent been playing? If they have not shown a propensity to fold in the face of aggression then even the most well executed bluff will fail miserably.
  • Board texture – you need to put your opponent on a range of hands you think they are likely to fold if a ‘bad’ card hits. It’s no good representing a hand if your opponent actually has it. Similarly, if you have missed an obvious draw and bluff the river don’t be surprised if you get called.

Types of Bluff

  • The float: This is where you call the pre-flop aggressor on the flop with the intention of taking the hand away on either the turn or river. The float is an effective way of countering continuation-bets (c-bets). Position is key as check/calling the flop out of position  (OOP) then leading the turn looks suspicious. If you are OOP then consider check/raise bluffing instead as this is usually a sign of strength.
  • The double barrel: This is where you c-bet the flop, get called and continue to tell the story of a strong hand by betting again on the turn. Used to counter the float, you need to have a good idea where you are to utilise this play effectively. Good spots to barrel are when a card like an ace or king hit the turn on dry uncoordinated boards as you can get an opponent to fold out medium to low pocket pairs and middle pair.
  • The River bluff: You should have a good idea of your opponent’s hand by the river. You bluff here because you have no way to win at showdown. River bluffs are all about reading board texture and can be especially effective on draw heavy boards when a scare card hits the river. For example, say you have 7♥ 8♥ in position on a K♦ 5♠ 6♠ 2♥ board and are putting your opponent on a decent king. If a spade hits the river this is a great spot to bluff.

In Summary

Advanced plays like the float, barrel, and river bluff can be used to counter commonly used moves like c-bets. For them to succeed, however, you must use them wisely. You need to consider all the above factors before attempting any bluff.

You can sign up as a member to view our poker hand matrix and a selection of hand range charts for both full ring and six-max cash games as well as exclusive member’s only content.

Are you 18 or older? This website requires you to be 18 years of age or older. Please verify your age to view the content, or click "Exit" to leave.