How Do I Tell If Someone Is Bluffing in Poker?

Bluffing is an essential part of poker in all of its variations, from the good, old Five Card Draw, to currently popular Texas Hold’em and Omaha. By bluffing, poker players try to represent a stronger hand they actually have in an effort to get their opponents to fold their cards and let them win the pot.

Almost every poker player out there bluffs on occasion. Some love doing it all the time, others are more picky, but, in the end, there are very few players who never bluff. So, it is natural to wonder: how do I tell if someone is bluffing in poker?

Physical Tells: Pay Attention to Their Behavior

Although physical tells are often overrated in live poker, they can help you figure out if someone’s bluffing or not. We’re not talking about all the special techniques (which have their merits, of course), but things that are simple to notice.

Does your opponent look genuinely nervous? Most people aren’t that good with hiding their emotions and they’ll often have problems concealing the fact they are nervous when making a bluff. They’ll often look away or start talking to compensate for it, and this is something you can spot. Of course, it takes time to really become good at reading people, but if you’re playing against same players over and over again, you’ll start to understand what certain actions mean.

A long stare across the table can often be a sign of weakness as well. Unless they are an experienced player, they’ll often try to intimidate you into folding with a long, “stoic” stare. Once again, they’ll be trying to compensate for the weakness of their hand by displaying the other kind of strength and courage.

Betting Patterns Can Tell a Lot

Another way you can tell if someone is bluffing in poker is by looking into their bet sizing. Although there is no sure-fire way to know, most less experienced players tend to size their bluffs improperly. They’ll either bet too small or too big.

Small bets are easy to deal with, but you should also be able to pick off occasional big bluffs. If their story doesn’t make sense and they are betting huge on the river, for example, they’ll often do it with air (bluff), in the last desperate effort to get you to fold your hand.