The best poker players have a multitude of skills in their armoury which include a penchant for number crunching, supreme self-confidence and the ability to keep their wits about them when the going gets tough. Mastery over these abilities comes with time and dedicated devotion to honing such skills. In order to get to those levels, every aspiring poker player must have a hold over a few elementary skills that are absolutely necessary for any poker player to make the switch from amateur to poker pro.
One of these elementary skills is the art of the bluff. When pulled off properly, the bluff is a masterstroke achieving the twin benefits of winning a hand from a position of weakness and also leaving the victim second guessing his moves from then on, something which is a fatal flaw in a game of poker. Although a potent weapon, it must be remembered that the bluff has the potential to backfire with extremely disastrous circumstances and should always be used keeping in mind the potentially damaging backlash from a failed bluff.
Good judgment and the knowledge about the right time to use a bluff comes with practice; a teacher can teach the ABCs but it is up to the student to decide what he does with it. Similarly, this article will expand on some of the most practices used by the best of bluffers which can be employed in poker to great effect. But beware, these practices are common knowledge with the regulars and one may be caught with their pants down if not careful.
#1 Never try to bluff the table
This is the golden rule of bluffing and it where a majority of aspiring poker pros go wrong. Full of over-confidence and brimming with inexperience, the amateur thinks he has already made it and tries to go on and bluff the entire table in what is a kamikaze manoeuvre. The entire table is never going to be bluffed and is only going to result in the seasoned pro on the table calling your bluff with his clearly superior hand.
At most, one should try and bluff a couple of people and never more than that as all of the players on the table are never going to be scared away by it and one of them is bound to have a table killing set of cards which he will bet on. Bluff selectively and efficiently. It is not a game of bluff you are playing, it is poker and this game has a lot more variables than bluffing alone. Bluff, but remember to play by the strength and choose your targets wisely.
#2 Selectively playing hands
A common error made by those new to the art of bluffing is that they try the same trick in every round. It is like the boy who cried wolf and eventually you will be caught out and the bluffs will never be believed again. Pick and choose your moments wisely. Do not be afraid to fold when you clearly have a weak hand that will not stand a chance against even a moderately strong hand.
Failure to abide by the rule often results in catastrophic failure and loss of some hard earned dough. Some players ignore the virtues of patience and start bluffing the moment they are dealt a weak hand. The problem here lies not in not having the ability to fold but in the boredom that lies in wait once the hand is folded.
This often results in heavy losses as the stakes keep getting raised higher and higher. It is also important to not err on the side of caution all the time as the table will recognise a pattern and result in smaller earnings everytime a successful bluff is called.