10 Easy Ways to Tell if Someone is Bluffing in Poker

How to Tell if Someone is Bluffing in Poker
How do you tell if someone is bluffing in poker? Well, to be honest, for most poker pros it is actually pretty easy.

And that is because there are many dead giveaways to tell if somebody is bluffing whether you are playing online poker or live poker. Many of these are made by amateurs in particular.

So here are the top 10 easy ways to tell if someone is trying to bluff you in poker. Note that these 10 tells below are split roughly 50/50 for live poker versus online poker.

Online poker tells are about using your HUD and spotting timing tells and betting patterns. Live poker tells on the other hand are more about physical reads, table talk and body language.


1. Talking Too Much - False Bravado


Players who talk too much (more than normal) during a hand are often bluffing. This is a easy tell to pick up on in both live poker and even online poker in the chat box.

And this is because usually in poker people act strong when they are weak and they act weak when they are strong. This is a very important rule to remember.

So if somebody suddenly starts acting over-confident or doing a lot of talking or bragging during a hand, this is often a sign of weakness. Or more specifically, a sign that they are bluffing.

Conversely, a guy who is suddenly silent and perhaps has shaky hands and a gulp when he puts out a big bet is the player that you actually want to fear. This guy has the nuts!


2. Acting Too Quickly


If you play a lot of online poker like me then it is important that you learn to pick up on timing tells. One of the most classic timing tells is acting too quickly.

This often happens when a recreational poker player calls you preflop and then quickly bets into you on the flop. They also love to do this on the river as I will discuss later on.

This quick bet is almost always a sign of weakness. Because anybody who actually has a strong hand would usually take longer to think about how they want to get the most value out of you.

Now on the other hand, here is an example of a situation where a recreational poker player is NOT bluffing. And that is when they lead out into 3 people.


It is important to be aware of this sort of "anti-bluff" tell as well. And this goes for all player types, not just recreational.

Most people just simply will not try to bluff into multiple people. Unless of course they know what you hand is like Mike Postle!


3. Raise Flop Percentage Above 20%


The great thing about online poker in particular is that we can often simply use a HUD like PokerTracker to spot any irregularities in somebody's play.

One of my favorite stats to look at is Raise Flop%. Most players will only raise the flop around 10% of the time these days.

Usually this includes most of their big hands (sets, trips, overpairs, two pairs) and their big combo draws as well.

Here is an example of a big combo draw (pair + flush). A lot of people will raise a big 12+ out draw like this on the flop (as they should).

98

On a flop of:

K82

Now, if I see somebody who is raising the flop 20% or higher though, I know that this player probably has too many bluffs in their range.

They are probably raising most of their regular flush and straight draws and even some weaker hands and total air from time to time.

Now it is important to remember that a Raise Flop% of 20+ doesn't necessarily mean that this player is definitely bluffing you this time.

But it does tell you that this is the type of player who is more likely to be bluffing than others. In other words, he/she will have more bluffs in their range when they raise you on the flop.

For more on how to spot the players who raise too much on the flop check out my complete guide to setting up your PokerTracker HUD right here.


4. 3Bet Percentage By Position


Another easy way to use your HUD to spot somebody who is bluffing in online poker is to have a look at their 3Bet% by position.

Many people just look at the total 3Bet% stat. And that is fine. But to be honest, this stat kind of only tells you half the story.

Often with many regulars, if you pull up the popup display and look at their 3Bet% by position, you will see that they are abusing the heck out of the button for instance.

Like this player for example:

How to Tell if Somebody is Bluffing in Poker

One look at this player in my PokerTracker popup display and I can already tell that his 3Betting is heavily slanted towards the button and the blinds.

And there are a lot of bluffs in his range when he 3Bets from these positions (button 3Bet is 16 for example which is extremely high!).

And conversely, this player has NEVER even made a 3Bet from any other position at the poker table. Which is some seriously crazy unbalanced stats.

So you want to pull up the popup display on your HUD and check 3Bet by position if you have a large sample size on somebody.

Sometimes you can find large statistical irregularities like this which clearly indicates that they are bluffing way too much from some positions at the poker table.

And conversely that they AREN'T bluffing very often from other positions at the poker table.


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5. Story Doesn't Make Any Sense


As I talk about in The Micro Stakes Playbook, the key to any good bluff is telling a good story. Or in other words, does your bluff make logical sense given your likely range and the board runout?


For example:

You raise in early position with TT

A recreational player calls you in the big blind.


The flop comes:

489

The recreational player checks

You make a continuation bet

The recreational player calls


The turn comes:

2

The recreational player checks

You make another continuation bet

The recreational player calls


The river comes:

2

The recreational player leads out with a big bet

What should you do?


This player is bluffing a high percentage of the time here because nothing in his story makes any sense.

There were numerous straight draws and flush draws on the flop. But by the river we can see that every single one of them missed.

So what is this player telling us when he leads into us on this total brick river card? They are telling us a story that doesn't make any sense.

Even if they had 98 on the flop, we beat this hand on the river now too. So overall this is an easy call. The story simply doesn't make any sense.


6. Fish on Tilt


Similar to that last example is a fish on tilt.

It is extremely important that you are paying attention to each player at the table. And this means that you should know whether they are winning or losing as well.


Recreational players (fish) tend to get highly emotional when they are losing. And this causes them to make really silly bluffs like in the previous example.

So another classic "fish on tilt" bluff that I have seen countless times online (and live as well) is the donk, donk, donk play.

Basically a recreational player will call you preflop and then make small bets into you on the flop, turn and river.

This is almost always some ridiculous hand like middle pair, a weak draw or even nothing at all. A fish on tilt is likely to be bluffing. Make sure you are aware of this.


7. Large Bet Sizing


Another common sign of somebody who is bluffing is using a very large bet sizing. In fact many really good players these days are even capable of over-betting the pot as a bluff.

The reason why many people make a larger than normal bet size when bluffing? Simple, they don't want to be called.

Because if they were trying to get value out of you, then why would they bet so much? They bet big instead because they do not want a call.

This is actually why I suggested in Crushing the Microstakes that you bet very big, even over-bet, with your premium value hands instead (basically just do the exact opposite).

See the "Fish Psychology" chapter of the book starting on page 212.

And that is because a lot of recreational players in particular immediately view a big bet as a bluff. Ironically they are right, most people do not bluff small. They bluff big.

So it is very easy to use this against them by simply doing the exact opposite of what they expect.


8. Looks You Right in the Eye


This is more of a live poker way to tell if someone is bluffing. But again, it just goes back to the whole acting strong equals weak mannerism that many people exhibit when bluffing.

So when somebody is not afraid to look you in the eye and perhaps even prods you to just fold your hand already, this is often a sign of weakness instead.

This is a tell by the way that I learned from studying Daniel Negreanu's new poker masterclass.


If you want to learn from perhaps the best ever at picking up live poker tells, I recommend checking out Daniel's course.

Again, I am more afraid of the quiet guy who just sits there and stares into space and says nothing. That's the guy who probably has me beat.

However, most good poker pros these days are able to stay consistent with their body language and mannerisms whether they are bluffing or raising you with the nuts.

In fact some of them are even capable of giving off "reverse tells" which is an art in and of itself. For example, understanding how to use table talk and bravado when they actually have the nuts.

But most amateurs though try to act strong when they are bluffing you by talking a lot and not being afraid to look you in the eye.


9. Check Raising a Paired Flop


Another common way to tell if somebody is bluffing is if they check raise you on a paired flop like:

558

This is almost always a bluff (or something that is weakish/mediocre/isn't the nuts) because on a flop like this what is their check raise even representing?

They are basically telling you that they have a 5 in their hand (unlikely if it was a raised pot preflop), or that they have some sort of over-pair.

But even if they have an over-pair it probably isn't that strong because they would have re-raised you preflop.

This makes it really easy for you to blow a hand like 77 out of the pot especially on a nice broadway turn and river board runout like:
  • Turn: A
  • River: K♠

A lot of loose and aggressive (LAG) players in particular love to check raise hands like AK, AQ, AJ or AT on these types of paired boards.

And once again it often just goes back to their story not making much sense.


10. Aggression Factor is Too High


The last way to tell if someone is bluffing in poker is another online poker tell. And that is somebody who has an aggression factor (AF) that is too high.

This is why I always include AF as one of the very first stats on my Custom PokerTracker HUD.

Basically aggression factor is just a ratio of how often somebody bets and raises after the flop compared to how often they call.

So for example, if somebody has an AF of 2 (which is fairly normal for most online poker players), then this means that for every time they call a bet postflop, they make two bets or raises.

However, when I see somebody who has an AF of 3, and especially 4 or higher, this is a dead giveaway that they are betting or raising too much.

And of course, somebody who is betting or raising too much simply has to have a lot of bluffs in their range.

So while a high AF is not a dead giveaway that somebody is bluffing, it does tell you that this person is more likely to be bluffing than the average player is.

As always with some HUD stats like Aggression Factor, be aware of sample size issues. You need 100 hands (bare minimum) before using this stat.

See my article from just last week on optimal aggression factor for much more on this.


Final Thoughts


So how can you tell if somebody is bluffing in poker? Well, honestly there countless tells that people give off in both online poker and live poker.

A few of them are talking too much, false bravado and not being afraid to look you in the eye. With online poker you can look for HUD based tells such as a high Raise Flop%, discrepancies in 3Bet% by position and an abnormally high AF.

Common signs of bluffing in both online poker and live poker also include larger than normal bet sizes, a story that simply doesn't make sense given the board runout and a recreational player who is on tilt.

I hope that a few of these common signs of bluffing will help you out in you poker games.

If you want to know my complete strategy for picking up bluffing tells and crushing small stakes poker games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

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What are some common signs of bluffing that you know of? What tips do you have to tell if somebody is bluffing in poker?

Let me know in the comments below.

How to Tell if Someone is Bluffing in Poker

16 comments:

  1. Dont really agree on the big Sizes. They are used rarely and should be respected (at least at NL2-10). A dead giveaway is 3/4 pot or between 3/4-fullpot, so Like 85-90% pot, on River: that is SUPER strong, specifically as a 3rd Barrel.
    In other lines you have to think about how much sense the Line makes and play closer to GTO if it doesnt make much sense and/or they are bad players overrating the strength of certain hands.

    1/2 pot is the generic betsize that is more likely to be a Bluff than other Sizes, but dont read too much into that.

    Fullpot depends on individual Player, without reads i go with the playerpool-tendency of massively underbluffing.
    Overbets are no discussion, you should fold a lot there.

    Of course you run into maniacs who will use all sorts of sizes with anything but in general you should respect bets that are 3/4 pot or bigger, specifically on the River.

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    1. Thanks for your input Vengar! That of course is the thing with poker. It always depends on the specific games you are playing in, the types of players you are playing against and so on.

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  2. Hello Nathan,
    One of the best articles of yours.
    About making big bets: I remember one of Doug Polk's videos in which he was trying to explain balanced ranges and how the way people think about poker is wrong. Basically, if over-betting should be a sign of bluff, then I prefer to overbet my big hands assuming that my opponent will think that I am bluffing and I will get called. Or sometimes people argue about a hand that no-one bluffs in that spot so it is a clear fold. But again, if you over believe that no-one bluffs in such spot, then you are open to be exploited as some smart players will bluff in such spots anticipating your judgement on that particular spot. Of course these are level 2 and level 3 thinking of poker game and mostly may be neglected in NL2, NL5 and sometimes in NL 10.

    As you underlined in your article, these signs do not mean that your opponent is bluffing 100%. These signs should be used as a supportive tool to your decision making, you should not rationalise your decisions based on only signs. If you are close to both folding and calling then these signs are very informative. But at the end of the day, if you have 3rd or 4th pair by the river, it is not worth calling, even if your opponent shows very strong bluff signs, at least for micros.

    Just wanted to make a support to the topic.
    Great article again.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts Kutay and I am glad this article helped you!

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  3. Great article as always. I haven't used a HUD and probably should, but I often find that the advice you give based on what a HUD tells you runs pretty close to lessons I learned from old school players. For example, in this hand I wouldn't C-bet for a couple of reasons. First, I only have draws, the best of which is a gut-shot. I may call with the gut-shot but there's no good reason to lead with it. And as you say, by checking I can control pot size with a simple call. And the other reason is that I am out of position to the possible raiser on my left. So best to play it cautiously for now. The fact I got lucky on the turn does not justify the flop raise. As for ranges, I didn't put Villain on a set; maybe A10 or A7, simply because his reraise was a confident move that I wouldn't expect with only top pair. But great analysis of the hand and of bluffing tells.

    I think one of the reasons players miss them online is that they are playing at home and pay attention to other things when they aren't on a hand rather than studying the players because they have so many distractions in the environment. I know I used to have the TV on while I played online and it took me a while to realize that it was just keeping me out of the game.

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    1. Thanks Morgan! Yes, using a HUD really isn't anything different than simply paying attention to player types, which is the oldest way to read somebody that there is.

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  4. On #5, what if the player had 2s3s and was on a flush draw and then hit a pair on the turn and trips on the river? Just a thought.

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    1. This hand could be in a recreational player's range, you are right. But there are very few combos of 2x spade hands. This is why it is important to think about poker in terms of ranges, not individual hands.

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    2. most of the time I bet with KA, AA-TT, get called, called on cbet, and get shoved on the river with only a pair, or 2, the villain has a set, most of the weak players when they hit a set they are slow playing it early and they shove a big amount on the river.

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  5. I actually think the first 2 is the complete opposite. I always make notes of when a player would snap bet me and I got to see showdown over 4m hands online and in my experience its almost always the nuts. Over 1000 of live poker I also noticed (most) players who are talking and acting confident on a big river bet almost always have it as well.

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    1. I agree on the live tells.Most recreationals dont bluff often,and when they bluff,they are tense,especially in big pots.So when you see them relaxed and cocky,they have it.

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  6. Really well done blackrain79 great read, I hope all is well and hope You have a nice day at the beach sometime have a Great day Peace . . . D1G1TALFOX :-)

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    1. Thanks Dfox, appreciate it! I hope you are doing well also :)

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  7. I'm not sure the video "how to play against a poker fish" really fits in with the "fish on tilt" theme where it is placed.
    or necessarily the who "detecting bluffs" theme of the post.
    this is more just a rec overvaluing his hand (2nd nut flush on a paired board).

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  8. Great article. The tips about the HUD tells are really good. I use them all the time!

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    1. Thanks TJ glad you enjoyed this one!

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