Technique

Lie Through Your Teeth

A few simple guidelines for taking your Friday night poker buddies to the cleaners with nothing but a King high.
Photo: Everett Collection

What are they gonna do, call you for bluffing better than them, in front of the others?

Bluffing a hand of poker is no simple feat. So it’s no surprise that there are enough tips, tricks, strategies, and suggestions online to help you BS with the best of them—if you don’t get bogged down first. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a few of the basic rules here for easy digestion. You don’t need to know a whole lot about the game to get the gist of things, but be warned: Bluffing is all about practice. We’ll set you on your way, but don’t come crying to us when you’re dead broke after going all in on a pair of threes.

1. Bluff less than 20% of your hands.
The movies lie. It’s not about building stacks of chips with nary a decent hand. Sure, if you’ve got nothing and the other guy’s still betting, you can go all in and scare that pot away from him. But bet conservatively for the next four hands, lest your lying ways be revealed. Exceptions can be made for a royal flush, of course.

2. Bankrupt that guy who scratches his nose when he gets a bad hand.
Get a feel for everyone’s habits, and then take advantage of them. Once you know their tells—positive or negative—you know how to take their money.

3. Destroy all emotion.
Pocket aces? Don’t blink. Pocket nothing? Likewise. The term “poker face” exists for a very good reason.

4. Fight  for the little pot.
Exploit your opponents’ indifference to the smaller sum, and bet hard with a low pair. Just leave the big pots for the folks that actually have a decent hand.

5. Last to bet? Play it loose.
You’ve seen how everyone else at the table reacted, so you hold the power. If your adversaries look meek, now’s the time to take ‘em for all they’ve got.

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