Posted by Charles, February 25, 2013
There is an undeniable luck factor involved in poker tournaments and cash games and players will invariably get dealt bad cards from time to time. While tight and conservative players will typically just fold the hand and wait for better cards, no one can wait forever. Eventually, you're going to have to bluff. Bluffing is an essential part of many players' games, and while bluffing during online poker is more a matter of math, bluffing in poker during a live game will likely require a bit of acting on your part. Most bluffs will see players feigning strength with a marginal or weak hand, and that means that aspiring professionals will need to know how to fake confidence at the poker table.
To Act or Not to Act
The key to successfully pulling off a bluff is subtlety. For some players, including big name professional Phil Ivey, it's easier to adopt a stoic and silent pose during any hand they're playing to give their opponents no information to work with. Other players who are less confident in their ability to stay calm in these scenarios tend to mislead their opponents with false tells and advanced table talk. While most pros prefer the former, there are ways to be successful through both methods - it all depends on the table.
Reading Other Players
Before you attempt a bluff, you want to be certain you have a handle on how your opponents play. For bluffing in poker to be successful, you will have to anticipate that your bet, however large or small it may be, will be enough to chase the rest of the table out of the hand. If you're sharing the table with loose, aggressive players it will be harder to scare them away from a call, whereas bluffing among more passive competition should be simpler. Spend the earlier rounds of play assessing your tablemates, noticing how they play in position and out and establishing their thought process with cards. This will help you bet more confidently, which will only improve your chances of pulling off a successful bluff.
The Perfect Posture for Posturing
One of the most subtle tools in the bluffer's arsenal is posture. The way you sit, rest and move all project a certain impression to your opponents, and there are few things you can do as far as posture is concerned that will showcase confidence and, hopefully, hand strength. Leaning back into your seat is one way to show strength, as the motion denotes ease and confidence - something that suggests you are sure of your hand's ability to win. Conversely, leaning forward on the table implies a vested interest in the hand and concern. This motion effectively makes you appear smaller and covers up portions of your body from view by your opponents - both classic signs of weakness.
Keep an Eye on Your Eyes
The eyes are the windows of the soul and are often the easiest way to read an opponent's strength. As such, they are also a great way to show confidence. Maintaining a firm gaze on your opponent will certainly convey a level of intimidation that will put some opponents off their game, but this can be a double-edged sword. It takes remarkable physical control to prevent your eyes from betraying your uncertainties, which is why many players choose to avoid this issue altogether by wearing sunglasses at the table. If you are intent on making a go of it without any eyewear, there a few do's and don'ts to keep in mind.
Do maintain eye contact with your opponent when betting, but don't linger in your stare, as you will likely make yourself uncomfortable and weaken your position. Do eye your opponent's stack before you bet, but don't watch their chips as they weigh the options of calling or folding. A lot of players toy with their stacks to elucidate information from their opponent (i.e. whether they seem nervous about a call, etc.), and you don't want to give them any inkling that you are bluffing in poker.
Act Like You're Not Acting
One of the most important parts of appearing confident is to act naturally. Behaving in an unusual manner can tip your opponents off that you are uncomfortable with your cards and kill your bluff before you bet. If you are a stoic player, don't start talking. Conversely, if you're a talkative player, don't feel like you need to clam up. All your moves should seem normal and not arouse suspicion that you are just trying to sneak away with their money while holding weak cards. It may sound silly, but try recording a home game with you and your friends on camera, and watch the footage to see how you play and what mannerisms you have. After all, the best way to feign confidence is to know how you play.
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