How To Call Someone’s Bluff in Poker
Poker is a great game. The problem with most people, is that they are skeptical of people rigging it, especially online. Thankfully, this is almost never a problem.
Online industries constantly work to ensure that the cards are as random as possible. The online gaming sites make their money off the rake and entry fees of games, they have no interest in rigging cards or games, because they win no matter what, so please, I beg you to stop the skepticism. Keep in mind, when you lose a game online, except for casino games, the money you would lose, goes to another player, not the house.
Another issue is that people think that poker is entirely based on luck. Happily, I’d like to say that those people are wrong and are complete buffoons. That would be the reason people like them don’t play, or if they do, they don’t make money in the long run. Why are there so many Professional Poker Players if the game is entirely luck? Are these people the luckiest people in the world? I think not.
Poker is a game of great patience and skill. Is there luck involved? Absolutely! But let me tell you something–the ratio is substantially tilted. The skill to luck ratio is 4:1, which in layman’s terms is 80% skill and 20% luck. If you don’t believe me, I’ll explain how.
There are many variations of poker, but the most common, thanks to ESPN, is No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em (NLHE). So let me prove my ratio to you with this game. This is a game of math, memory and gut; if you can’t remember what you are holding or keep track of what has come out then you are doomed to lose money. Everybody is dealt 2 cards face-down from a 52 card deck. Let’s say there is 10 players at the table; 20 cards are gone, 32 remain. 3 cards will be burnt, meaning that you are playing with 29 cards in the remaining deck to make your hand. These cards are burnt to prevent cheating and are burnt at before every street is dealt. Streets are known as the flop (first three cards), the turn or fourth street (the fourth card), and the river or fifth street (the fifth and final card).
Moving on–the point isn’t to play the cards, but to play the player(s) you are facing. You could throw me in a game, give me any two cards and I can sit down and win the hand. Now, the only times this philosophy is flawed, is when you have a player that plays every single hand. And especially when the player you are against calls every bet, no matter how much it is.
But a good player knows how to adjust to those morons. A good player will know how to bluff, and how to call another player’s bluff. I have been playing poker for almost 7 years now, and have made more money playing poker than losing. Sadly, this isn’t the case for most players. But hey, their loss is your gain. In NLHE, you have a lot to learn, but it can all be learned in 5 minutes. To master it and understand it, however, can take a lifetime. Bluffing, position, checking, raising, calling, and so many more all have their purposes, and eventually, I will go over all of these, but for this article, let’s concentrate on calling the bluff.
How can you detect if someone is trying to bluff you? There are many factors that can help you pick up on this. Most depend on the player, but some can be general.
General ones are usually sizes of bets and reactions to cards or bets. But more often than not, you will have to read the player to pick up on them. Some players like to bluff with certain hands, like me for instance, I love to bluff with the worst statistical hand in poker: 2-7 off suit. But that isn’t the only hand i bluff with, nor does it mean i will play it all the time, but players that know me well don’t find it surprising if I end up in a hand holding 2-7 off. Another situational bluff is based on how certain players act when they have certain hands.
For instance, if someone is bluffing because he missed his straight draw, and he bets out after smiling real big, and he keeps doing that and he is finally called down and has to reveal his hand, you can use that as a read. Or now let’s say he shifts in his seat every time, for example when he makes a 3 of a kind, he adjusts himself in his seat and leans over the table to act like he’s trying to look at the board better, and he does it every time, and you see his hand all those times, you will know he has that hand.
All these things are called tells and are the key to calling people’s bluffs as well as saving yourself some money in big hands. Another thing to look out for is people who like to bet certain amounts, like 500, when they have a strong hand. Of course these are all situational amounts based on the stakes or levels. Along the same lines, is someone who bets a certain amount times the blind level. For example, in a tournament, with blinds at 100/200, a person likes to bet 4.5 times the amount of the big blind (BB) when he is bluffing, and 4 times the amount of the BB when he has a strong starting hand. Pay attention closely and you can go a long way in poker.
Now that you know how to do it for poker, why not take your poker skills to the real world. The same way you read a player at the table is the same way you can do it in real life. Sniff out the ass who is trying to sell you a cheap piece of garbage, like people who tried to sell you on Primerica. Watch out for people’s tone, wording, and how hard they are pushing you to get you to buy or do something. If they can’t accept a no, after the first two times, then call their bluff. Just leave, let them try to fool someone else. But if someone is willing to understand that you don’t want to do something or try something, then they are more than likely a straight shooter. Like me for example, I do marketing occasionally for another company called Machine Shop, and then I do some self-promoting for two websites I use, but more on that in another article. Anyway, good luck on the felt with your new skill. Don’t let a bad beat keep you down.
About Cliff Englewood Cliff goes to MSU and is TSB Magazine resident "College Life" contributor with tips and advice to get the most out of your time in college.