Everyone does it but very few do it well. The poker bluff is a refined skill, something that can tilt a game in your favor if used sparingly and at the right time.
In order to learn when is the right time to use your bluff we first have to study the behavior of the other players in the game. It is important to understand the betting habits of those at the table with you in order to execute a well timed bluff. First, establish yourself as a consistent player, show the others playing with you that you don’t make a bad habit of raising when you are holding a pair of deuces or holding back and calling with a full house. Establish your table character so you can use your bluff effectively.
Once you feel you have established your betting identity at a given table and have a good read at the betting habits of others you are now ready for your first bluff. The two players you have marked as quick betters raise with their first bets while at the same time those you have marked as “rocks” or conservative betters have either called or folded leading to your ideal bluff scenario. Start off with a conservative raise as you are not trying to scare off the “maniacs” still in the game. If the quick betters once again raise you are now set to begin betting aggressively with the intent of either building the pot or scaring of those faint of heart.
At this point the knowledgeable players remaining in the game will either decide it is time to fold or will counter with a call. The novice player marked as a “maniac” will se too enthralled with the size of the pot to back out at this time which is exactly what you were hoping for.
The ideal bluff strategy is what is called a semi-bluff, where you may be holding a pair of low numbered cards that offer you a change at winning the pot against the “maniac” bluffers simply waiting for all the other players to fold.
Using a well executed bluff will also help you with your strong hands, as now the possibility of you bluffing has been shown to the other players. They may go deeper into a game with an average hand knowing there is the possibility you are playing another bluff. Use the bluff sparingly and you time at the table will be much more enjoyable and profitable!