Is there really a way to tell when someone is bluffing in a poker game? You could theoretically make big money at the poker table if you always knew when another player was bluffing.
Even for the world’s top pros, however, picking up live poker tells is a challenging task. There are certainly some things to look for when trying to determine whether an opponent is bluffing, so let’s take a look at some of those things in this article.
How to Tell if Someone is Bluffing
The pros you might see in high roller tournaments on TV have almost perfected the art of physically acting exactly the same in every hand. Unless you’re a high-stakes regular, you’re probably sitting among a group of players that give off detectable tells during a poker game.
A few things to consider when trying to pick off a bluff include:
- Body language – If your opponent looks relaxed and confident, there’s a good chance they like what they’re holding. When an opponent looks tense, nervous, or uneasy, those could be signs that something is amiss.
- Eye movement – Where are your opponent’s eyes focused after they make a big bet? When the action is on you, pay attention to where the other player is looking. If they can’t take their eyes off of your chip stack, that could be a sign that they’re counting your money already and not bluffing. If they’re looking around nervously, that could be an indication that they’re hoping you fold.
- Verbal cues – Many poker players like to perform the art of “reverse tells.” If your opponent verbally signals that they have a strong hand, they might be bluffing. On the other hand, if an opponent verbalizes that they think they’re behind in a hand, that can often signal that they actually have a strong hand.
- Changes in breathing – Some players’ breathing and heart rate increase dramatically depending on what they’re holding. Be careful when you use breathing pace as a tell though, as players get excited when they have a strong hand. Breathing cues are player-dependent, so be sure to observe what different players do when holding strong hands.
- Bet Sizing – Some players bet big when they have it, and bet smaller when they’re trying to pull off a bluff. Opponents that use this pattern usually reveal themselves fairly quickly in a poker game, and you should use this information to your advantage.
Do All Poker Players Bluff?
At lower-stakes cash games and tournaments, you’ll often encounter opponents that simply never bluff. These players bet when they have a strong hand, and check when they don’t.
Pay attention to all showdowns when you’re at the poker table. If you’ve played a good number of hands with a certain player, and you’ve never seen them bluff, assume that they never bluff until they prove otherwise.