Bluffing in poker is an art, plain and simple. A successful bluffer can walk away a winner at the end of the night far more often than the guy who bets big only when he's sure he has a winning hand. It takes talent to be able to bluff your way to winning big pots, but it only takes moderate powers of observation to figure out when a player is bluffing. That's because most of the time even the best bluffers aren't able to control every action and movement. Bluffing is part acting, but also part psychology and there are many psychological hints when a player is bluffing.
Most players have certain mannerisms that they have little control over when acting out their bluff. These mannerisms are often referred to as "tells.?" Although these tells are certainly not hard and fast, they typically do recur enough to qualify as giveaways. Among the most common of tells that a bluffer usually exhibits is acting as if he has a weak hand when he has a strong hand, and vice versa.
Here are some other mannerisms and behaviors to watch for that may indicate you are being bluffed with a losing hand:
Melodramatic flourishes when betting or raising. It's always a good idea to keep track of the various ways that a player makes a bet during a game. Most often a bluffer overdoes things when he doesn't have a good hand, but he might also do it when he's confident. Note the correlation between how a player bets and what kind of hand he shows.
Sudden friendliness. If a player who has been quiet or even antisocial suddenly starts acting gregarious, that's often a sign he's bluffing.
Either holding one's breath or breathing in a very shallow manner. This indicates true nervousness and is much more subtle than the usual methods that a bluffer with a good hand utilizes in an attempt to prove he's nervous. Take notice of a players breathing pattern.
Staring at his hand and avoiding eye contact or, alternatively, staring at other players and avoiding eye contact with his cards. Both of these are time-tested signs that a player is bluffing with a bad hand.
Of course, bluffing also involves trying to convince other players that you are holding nothing when in fact you've got a great hand. Here are some tells to look for when you suspect a player is trying to bluff you into thinking he's holding a weak hand:
Overly obvious shaking and nervousness. The fact is that most poker players don't exhibit obvious signs of nervousness unless they they've got a solid hand and only nervous about not being able to take full advantage and win a big pot.
Just as player bluffing with a bad hand may suddenly turn into your best friend, it's not unusual for a player bluffing with a good hand to suddenly get irritable and short with his opponents. He wants to get to the hand over with and collect his pot before something goes wrong.
On the other hand, if he begins to talk in an easygoing and conversational style that seems just a little too easygoing and conversational, that is often a sign of bluffing.
Any time a player suddenly starts acting hopeless or in an indifferent manner might mean he's holding something good. Adding in a sigh or a shrug, or speaking in an indifferent way. Especially if he has never sighed or shrugged when he really was holding nothing.
The worst thing to do is come prepared with this or any other list of tells and start folding every time you see a player exhibiting one of these signs. Sometimes a player really is nervous. Sometimes a player does take time to warm up and becoming friendly. It's best to be observant and take notice as to how often a player displays certain behaviors that may lead you to suspect he's bluffing.
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