Bluffing is a great tool in poker. But, like any tool, you need to use it at the right time for the right job. There are several situations when bluffing is most effective, but in every case you should always know your players as well as possible before you try to bluff them: they may already know what you’re up to.
Some of the best times to bluff are when:
Remember, though, that these are fairly common bluffs, and chances are good that the other players at the table know them and are using them, too. They won’t always work, so always make sure you know your players and what they will and won't fold to. And don’t use these bluffs too often: it could backfire on you.
There are not many poker players in the pot. It’s easier to bluff a few people than a lot of them. But trying to “fool the few” is a common ploy, so your fellow players will probably know what you're up to. Be persistent in your betting, though, and you might fool them.
You are playing against tight players. Players that fold easily to begin with are good bluffing targets, but if you start early (in the pre-flop or flop) and they don’t shy away, you might want to think twice about keeping it up. They’ve probably got a good hand.
Your pre-flop bet missed its mark. The other players don’t know you missed, though, so if you do it carefully and consider the board well, you can probably reel a few of them in.
The other players are a little scared of you. If you just won a hand through genuinely good play, and you play your next hand the same way, they’re likely to believe you have another strong one and fold.
Just as important is knowing when not to bluff. When there are a lot of players at the table, when they expect you to bluff, when you’ve recently been caught bluffing, when you’ve been losing lots of hands…. These are bad times to try bluffing your opponents. Never bluff just for the sake of bluffing. Always make sure you have a reason and a chance of pulling it off.