30 Jul

Why Beginners Poker Players Suck at Bluffing

How to effectively bluff in poker

The art of the believable bluff (and why beginner poker players can’t do it).

Think about what it takes to win a hand of poker. You don’t need the best hand. You don’t even need a good hand. All you really need is to convince your opponent that your hand is better than theirs. This is why poker is not considered a game of chance, where the cards will randomly favor different people, but rather a game of skill, where the most persuasive player wins.

Convincing someone that you have a better hand is a tactic we all know as “bluffing”. By its most basic definition, to bluff is to bet on a hand that you don’t believe is the best, in hopes of everyone else believing it really is the best. And there’s nothing quite like the feeling of winning on a bluff.

As simple as it sounds, the bluff is not so easy to pull off. All you have to do is pretend you have a good hand, right? Can’t you just bet on a bad hand and hope everyone believes you? What if you fold 8 hands in a row, then all of a sudden place a large raise – that should be pretty convincing!

Not necessarily…

The Art of Bluffing in Poker

The Art of Bluffing in Poker

Bluffing isn’t just another way to bet. There’s an art to it. And if you’re not a good bluffing artist, no one is going to believe you. This is one of the worst problems new poker players find it hard to overcome, because they don’t understand the finely woven tapestry of art that goes into it.

Bluffing is all about the ability to convince your opponent that you have a better poker hand. Attempting to do so at the wrong time will get you nowhere. It’s not just about increasing your bets, but knowing exactly when to do so.

Professional poker players are constantly reading everything that happens at the table. To a veteran of the felt, every poker hand tells a story. The best authors build strong characters (hole cards) around a well-developed setting (community cards) to tell a realistic and imaginatively woven story (the bluff). If there’s a shred of detail out of place, the best readers can unravel it in a heartbeat!

If an Ace flops and you aggressively pursue it right through to the river, it’s easy to believe you have an Ace underneath. But if you blind your way in, limp through the flop, check a weak turn then raise on an equally weak river, no one will believe you have an Ace. The timing is all wrong. One story is believable, the other is not.

This is the simplest example anyone should be able to understand, but situations go so, so much deeper when you get into a table with hardened pros. It’s impossible to explain in words; requiring nothing but pure endurance and experience to understand. Which brings us to…

Why Beginner Poker Players Can’t Bluff

A good friend of mine once compared beginner poker players to the craftsmanship of a sword. During the initial forging, the blade is dull and lacks any sheen. As the blacksmith works his magic, the sword begins to take true form. It can become finely honed to a brilliant and murderous edge. But this is a lengthy and painstaking process. Any shortcuts will degrade the overall quality of the blade.

When the sword is in its earliest stages, it is incapable of anything more than hacking away at an enemy. Over time, heat after heat, stroke after stroke of the hammer, it becomes sharper and far more impressive. It can now be wielded with ease, in any direction – jab, thrust, slice, parry, as quick as a wasp!

The point is, experience and consistency are the only means to success. The more time a player spends among those who seem to have the mysterious power to predict their every move, the more that players learns to relax and compete with discretion. Over time, the player grows stronger, gaining insight to their opponents abilities – not because anyone told them how, but because they instinctively recognize situations – stories – the impossible bluffs versus the believable ones.

If you want to become a great poker play, you have to keep playing the game. No matter what. Stay on high alert and pay attention to every single detail until, every sight and syllable, until finally the mystery unlocks.

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