Bluffing is a necessary part of poker, even for the pros. Everyone thinks they know how to do it, a stiff jawline and an unflinching gaze, but there’s more to it than just not sobbing into your cards when you have a bad hand. Bluffing goes both ways. You can, and should, make sure that you hide your elation when you get a royal flush so that you can get as much money as you can out of your opponents. But the most common bluff is when you bet on weak hands. But, like life, the way to win at poker isn’t when times are easy, but when times are tough. Types of Bluffs There are two main types of bluffing. The first, most common type, is bluffing when you have a weak hand that’s not getting better. When people first learn to bluff they’ll try to turn the worst hand into gold through a bluff. That’s usually not happening. The strategy can be okay but, like the song says, “you gotta know when to hold ‘em and you gotta know when to fold ‘em.” When you get better you learn about another style of bluffing. It’s when you have a hand that could get better. It’s a better strategy because there’s a backup plan in place that may allow you to win without the bluff even being a factor. When to Bluff The first rules of bluffing are pretty simple: get a feel of what cards the other players may have and pay attention to whether there’s another bluffer in your midst. If someone is clearly and desperately bluffing, you may just want to bluff harder to make them fold, so long as you think your hand is better. Conversely, if you think someone has a four-of-a-kind, don’t bother bluffing. They’re not going anywhere. Also, take a look around the table, determine who’s all there. If there are five other people at your table, chances are you’re not going anywhere with the pot. On the other hand, if it’s just you and one or two other people, go for it. People who have just won a lot of money sometimes make easy marks too since they get protective of their money. When Not to Bluff There are some very good times to bluff and some absolutely terrible times to bluff. One of those times is against someone who’s hardheaded and not going to fold, or a novice (sometimes that’s one in the same). They’re in it for the long haul and nothing you do is going to dissuade them. Another time you’ll never want to bluff is when there is simply too much money on the line to quit. If you’re playing for dollars and there’s $100 in the pot, no one’s walking away without a fight. It may sting a little, but fold. Finally, don't bluff against a drunk person. They’re not looking for your bluff and they probably wouldn’t care if they noticed. Just beat them with better hands because they’re playing sloppy cards. Bluffing Frequency Bluffing too much or too little will make you ineffectual. Bluffing too much is what we’ll call “The Boy Who Cried Wolf Syndrome.” Eventually, someone’s just going to out bet you with a better hand because they don’t believe you. If you bluff too little, you’ll have tells that people will begin to notice. Instead of only relying on the “When to Bluff” and “When Not to Bluff” sections, rely on some other factor that will work with you. For example, only bluff when there are two red cards in the flop or when the second hand on your watch is reads a multiple of 10 seconds. How Much Do You Bluff With? This one’s pretty simple. Don’t bluff with too much, you’ll look desperate and (let’s face it) you’re not Moneymaker in 2003. Don’t bluff with too little or you’ll keep the game going for an uncomfortable amount of time. Looking For Tells Finally, you’ll want to know your tells and the tells of other people. While you or other people you’re playing with may have obvious tells, like glancing eyes or a shaky lip, some people are deadpan no matter what. One study showed that guessing whether they’re bluffing is worse than chance. Just rely on the tells you know. Also, look for someone who’s trying to overdo their poker face. Maybe they’re looking too steely-eyed to the point that they’re glaring or maybe they’re clenching their jaw a little too hard to keep their mouth straight. Those are good tells. Pay attention to yours too. One of the most interesting things that have been studied in regards to tells, and one thing you might want to look for in yourself and your opponents, is arm movements when they put money down. Jerkier, less smooth movements may betray that stone face since it indicates a lot of anxiety. But be weary of one thing when you’re bluffing, sometimes the simple fact that you’re bluffing may make someone nervous about what you might have in your hand, causing them to look like they’re bluffing, even if their hand is decent. Hopefully you’ll be able to take this to the tables and bluff the money right out of your opponents’ wallets.