Looking at bluffing as an art and process of playing poker

Dec 9, 2019 3:00 AM

Stan is a very good poker player. Recently he told me that he has read my book, “The Art of Bluffing," and found it extremely helpful. Then, with a big smile on his face, he commented: “But, bluffing is more than an art as your book suggests; it’s also a process.”

We both agreed. Whatever you call it, bluffing is essential to the game of poker. Players who never bluff are bound to be losers. The same applies if you lack bluffing skills. I have often observed that my bluffs frequently make the difference between a winning and losing session at the casino.

So when we look at art vs. process, what’s the difference? By definition, a process is a series of actions that interact to produce a result. There are processes that can be applied to business and management, science and technology, chemistry, math and computing, manufacturing — you name it.

On the other hand, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, art is skill acquired by experience, study, or observation. My book, is intended to teach you those skills.

So, I must agree: There is a process for executing a bluff; it’s more than just making a big raise. But, art as a skill, is essential. Without that, it will not be effective.

Let’s explore some of the contents that relate to skills. . .

• The Esther Bluff tactic — a skill that gives us bluffers a big edge over our opponents by encouraging them to muck their cards. Confidence and self-assurance are the keys. A “reverse tell” also helps.

• Know your opponents: Who are the calling-stations, the tight players and the timid players (easily bluffed out), a loose player who often limps to see the flop, and the very aggressive players (“maniacs”) who are wont to re-raise? 

• Using position — realizing when you are in the right position at the right time. For example, try to be seated to the left of a maniac.

• Semi-bluffing with lots of good outs — so you have more than one way to gain the pot.

• It takes more skill to bluff in low-limit games. The bigger the bet, the easier to force out opponents.  As you might imagine, the Esther Bluff is even more important in the lower-limit games.

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• Bluffing frequency — Don’t overdo it. Your opponents will catch on.

• Changing seats and tables — That takes skill too. Not all seats and tables are alike. It depends on the players. Be aware of the calling-stations at your table.     

• Using your image — Your opponents will eventually note how you play your hands.  If they perceive that you are a tight player, it can help when you go for a bluff. Eventually, your bluff is called, so now you have a new image. You can make use of that new image.

• Using tells — Almost all poker players have tells (“body language”).  Observing and interpreting opponents’ tells is an art in itself;  it takes skill.  Don’t try to bluff out an opponent when he displays certain tells. 

Examples are: Sitting straight up in his seat;  grabbing a batch of chips before his turn to act; looking around the table; taking a deep swallow; holding his breath; suddenly putting down his drink; rubs his neck; placing a chip atop his hole cards; suddenly stops talking to his neighbor or the cocktail waitress. Such tells suggest a strong hand, making it all the more difficult to bluff him out.

And then there are the reverse tells you can use to deceive your opponents, as when you are bluffing. So, all in all, while there is a process for making a bluff, the skills are essential.  The process of bluffing entails using some of those skills.  That’s the art of bluffing.

Note: The Art of Bluffing is available to Gaming Today readers in the U.S. at a special discount. Normally, it sells for $18, including sales tax, shipping and handling. For orders received prior to December 31, you can have it shipped to you for just $14. Send check or money order to T/C Press, 5482 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1553, Los Angeles, CA 90036.

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