Whether we’ve actually played high-stakes poker or not, chances are that we’ve all seen the gambling movies.
It’s the final play of the poker game, and it comes down to the cards in the protagonist’s hands. It’s impossible to tell if the opposing person is bluffing or not, though our protagonist seems quite convinced. We all hold our breaths awaiting the results.
Surprisingly, the art of the bluff is not nearly as fictitious as some of us might imagine. In reality, bluffing in poker is indeed an essential part of the game, and pulling it off successfully can mean the difference between making remarkable wins or tragic losses.
However, it’s no easy feat to pull off a successful bluff. Even most of the seasoned poker players, who have a wealth of experience and intuition behind them, still struggle with this from time to time. It’s just against our human nature to lie, even if not doing it could cost us a lot. Not to mention that there are tons of poker sites to choose from; for instance, Global Poker has real money sweepstakes that attract many online players.
If you’re new to poker or pulling off poker bluffs, here are four tips to help you get it right. It takes practice, so get started today.
1. Know-How Your Body Reacts To Bluffing
The first tip is so painfully obvious, but many poker players, both new and experienced, often overlook this part. Contrary to popular belief, bluffing is not all in the mind. Our bodies can actually betray us by giving away telltale signs to our opponents.
It’s perfectly normal for our bodies to react this way when under the duress that comes with trying to pull off a bluff. Some of us get sweaty palms, dilated pupils, even shaking hands and intensified breathing. It’s also common for voices to start wavering, and even for eyes to start twitching! So as a starting point before you attempt to pull off a bluff, try getting your own nervous tics on video. Film yourself pulling a bluff, and spot your noticeable physiological changes. Alternatively, you can ask a friend to help observe you.
That said, a good poker player doesn’t just know what his or her physical reactions are, but also how to manage them. This comes with lots of practice, so take your time to find what behaviours work best for you. A simple way to combat the physical signs is to train yourself into getting into a certain relaxed posture every time you bluff. Perhaps you can slouch a little, or cross your legs. Keep doing that posture each time you bluff, and that way, your brain is conditioned to keep the telltale signs at bay each time you sit in that manner.
2. Confidence is Key
This mantra sounds cliche, but when it comes to poker, it rings as true as ever. After all, how can you expect your opponent to believe you when you don’t even believe in yourself?
For this, demeanour is everything. Approaching a table, sitting down, and playing with confidence is a surefire way to intimidate and convince your opponent that you’ve got a good hand. Seems simple enough, but you’d be surprised at how many poker players lack the confidence they need to win.
The lack of confidence comes through in the most subtle ways. For instance, fidgeting is a big giveaway that you’re not confident in your hand. Be it finger drumming, shaking a leg, or flicking the cards, fidgeting allows your opponent to read you like a book. Apart from this, other signs include avoiding eye contact, becoming quieter, or even becoming uncharacteristically aggressive as the game goes on.
The best way to build confidence is to do it in mind. For beginners, start by learning the rules of the game. More than just the basics, try committing certain winning combinations or smart moves to memory. The more knowledge and understanding of the game you have in your head, the more confident you’ll be in poker — and the more likely you’ll be able to pull off a successful bluff.
3. Remain Calm
It might be the most intense poker game of your life, but you’ll have more than enough time to think about that later. Right now, during the game itself, it’s imperative that you remain in a state of calm. Being zen might sound like some new-age nonsense, but it actually is one of the most crucial parts of playing poker as a whole. The best players are the ones who have the mental fortitude to remain effortlessly calm, even when they’re trying to pull off the bluff of the century.
If you’re wondering how to keep calm and carry on, here are a couple of tips from the pros. Firstly, remember to have fun at the poker table. It’s much easier to remain calm when you don’t take yourself or the game so seriously. Enjoy the game, treat it as nothing more than a game, and you’re more likely to take even the worst losses in stride.
Of course, if you’re playing something more high stakes, you do need to recognize the gravity of the game. In this case, what you can try is to memorize some sort of internal mantra or phrase to help you remain calm. Some players mentally hum a tune, others recall a scene from a movie. Whatever keeps your heart rate down and keeps you calm, remember it and practice using it whenever you can.
4. Know What Works Best For You
If you’ve tried the aforementioned tips for a while and still can’t seem to pull off that bluff, then read closely: there’s no fixed formula. Don’t be afraid to fail, and keep on pushing on with trial and error. Ultimately, it’s all about knowing what works best for you and tweaking as you go along to be the best bluffer you can be.
To illustrate, perhaps you struggle with projecting confidence because you’re just a naturally shy person. If you find that appearing confident isn’t quite up your alley, consider switching to projecting something else. Some players have even found that appearing shy and distant works better for them, and perhaps you could be one of them.
All in all, poker is different for everyone — and so is the method of pulling off the best bluff. Keep practising and knowing more about yourself and your style, and you’ll be able to do so even when there are piles of chips on the line.