What is a Bluff?

In table casino games, most commonly poker, a bluff is an action whereby a player makes a large bet on a hand even though they do not believe it to be the strongest one in play. The object, instead, is to attempt to intimidate other players into folding through a false display of confidence, thus winning the pot.

There are many different kinds of bluffing, which can range from the bold to the subtle. Although bluffing is not as common as widely believed in poker, it does nonetheless form a vital part of the game, and the possibility of bluffing constantly influences the behaviour and strategy of players at the table.

Bluffs explained

The simplest kind of bluff is the ‘pure bluff’, when a player has a very poor hand and has little to no prospect of winning unless all other active players fold. Although this is rarely seen in high level play, bluffing is an essential part of poker strategy to ensure that players do not become too mechanical and predictable in their play.

A ‘semi-bluff’ refers to a player who has a poor hand but one that could possibly become stronger as more cards are drawn – for example, a player waiting on one card for a straight or flush. In this case, the bluff gives the player the possibility of winning the game in two ways – by either drawing the right card, or driving their opponents from the pot.

Bluffing well requires players to be aware of how likely their opponents are to react and to take advantage of the situation in the game as a whole. It is often best done when the player has position (is the last to act in the hand). This allows the player to consider the actions of the players before them to inform their bluff. For example, if two Aces are drawn in the flop, and three of the four players involved do not make any large bets, the last player is in a good position to bluff, since the other players are likely to assume that he has one or two Aces among his hole cards and thus an extremely strong hand. Experienced players, however, will be aware of when bluffs are most likely and may attempt to ‘call the bluff’ of the player.