Bluffing is a big part of poker, but equally, if not more important, is the ability to sniff out an opponent’s bluff. Here are a few things you should focus on.
Know your Opponents
Before you even play a hand against an opponent, pay close attention to his tendencies. You must try to figure out if bluffing is something that’s part of his arsenal.
Being a poker player is much like being a criminal profiler. Before you make a decision about how to play your hand, try to classify your opponent as a habitual bluffer, a straightforward player, or a player that bluffs sporadically (the toughest opponent to face.)
Look for Physical Tells
The most dramatic way to spot a bluff is to look your opponent in the eye and attempt to sense his fear. If he looks nervous, it could be a sign that he’s bluffing.
The best method to detect an opponent’s physical tells is to simply look for anything unusual or uncharacteristic in his behavior. For example, if your opponent bets, and then suddenly puts his hand over his mouth — something he doesn’t normally do — that could be a sign that he’s bluffing.
On the other hand, he could just be self-conscious about his bad breath. What can I say; reading physical tells is an inexact science.
Observe an Opponent‘s Bluffing Style
When a player is losing, he’s more likely to steam or go on tilt. He may become impatient and bluff more than usual. If you think he’s steaming, be on the lookout for this type of erratic play.
Keep this in mind: Some players bluff for the opposite reason; they bluff because they’re bored.
Winning players, flush with confidence, often try to add deception to their game with a well-timed bluff.
Others use their conservative table image to set up bluffs. For example, a very tight player might set up the table by making an effective bluff that his opponents just won’t see coming. Be on the lookout for this type of player and you won’t be fooled when the time comes to pick off his bluff.
Nuts or Nothing Players
You’ll often find yourself in a hand where, based on an opponent’s betting, you’ll conclude that he either has the best possible hand or absolutely nothing at all. Since making the nut hand is so uncommon, you should lean toward calling a bet if you think you’re in this situation.
Strange Betting Patterns
This is probably the best and most accurate way to sniff out a bluff.
You really need to pay attention to the way your opponent played his hands in the past in order to make educated decisions in the present.
Try to spot his betting patterns. If you can, it will be easier to recognize bets that don’t seem to make much sense.
For example, let’s say that you’ve picked up the following pattern: When your opponent makes a flush on the turn, she always slowplays the hand, hoping you’ll bet so that she can check-raise.
Okay, now the flop comes Kh-10s-7h and the turn card is the 5h. Your opponent checked and then called on the flop, but this time she bets on the turn when the third heart hits.
Since you’ve figured out her betting pattern, you’ve probably ruled out the possibility that she made the flush.
Then again, she just may be good at mixing up her play. It is poker after all.
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