The Art of Bluffing in Online Poker vs Bluffing in Person
Bluffing is part and parcel of poker and there are few things more satisfying than pulling off the ultimate bluff, particularly when it comes against an aggressive player who subsequently tilts and does something unexpected. There is a misconception that bluffing is a pursuit wholly exclusive to ‘physical’ games, i.e. those where you can read facial ticks and body language to bring down a fellow bluffer, before setting your own trap.
The reality is that a bluff can be performed equally efficiently online too. Indeed, it’s actually advisable to save your bluffing for online play if you lack the acting abilities to pull it off in a cash game at a friend’s house or at the casino.
So how do you set about achieving poker’s ultimate heist if you can’t see anybody else and they can’t see you?
Know Thy Enemy
Any successful poker player monitors the movements and behavioural patterns of their opponents, whether playing online or otherwise. By doing so, you increase your own chances of ‘survival’ by spotting trends that might lead you to think somebody is bluffing. The flipside of the equation, of course, is that you must also expect your fellow players at the table to be analysing you too.
What does you research tell you about your fellow players? Are they passive folders who go big on strong hands, or are they aggressive pre-flop raisers who look to bully everybody else into submission? The vast majority of poker players can be pigeon-holed in one way or another, so make sure you know how your opponents go about their business before launching into a bluff.
Consider their reactions to your movements as further evidence as to whether to hoax your way through the round or pull out sharpish.
It sounds counter-intuitive, given that a bluff inherently comes with a steaming pile of risk and there’s nothing you can do about it. But capping that level of risk is key, because you really don’t want to find yourself going all-in with a Q-8 hand. There is a bet type called the ‘continuation strategy’ and if you are new to bluffing then it might just be a smart way for you to dip your toe in the water.
Essentially, the idea here is to raise the pot pre-flop, which leaves your opponents questioning just how strong your hand is. When the flop is made, either call or raise again at this point to eliminate weak hands from the game. You will see lots of flops at this point and these ‘easy’ wins are a way of accumulating chips until you land pocket aces or similar.
And the risk mitigation part of it comes in knowing that, yes you may have invested in the raise and post-flop call, but if an opponent calls you out then you can now play the rest of the round on the strength of your cards.
Unpredictability is Your Friend
Ask any poker pro what they most like to see in an opponent and most will answer the same: predictability. If you can be read like a book, then expect to be played like a fool. So never stick to the same strategy for any great period of time and don’t be afraid to occasionally fold good hands or even bluff terrible cards all the way to the inevitable conclusion, as it will throw your opponents off the scent.
One of the downsides of online poker is that you don’t always get to show your cars at the showdown, but if this option does become available then be sure to take it. You may occasionally look daft if you have bluffed a poor hand, but at least your rivals won’t know what to make of you at this point. Remember, the general principles of bluffing are the same whether playing online or not. Use your deception to your advantage!