In the small-stakes affairs I find myself in, a raise or re-raise is also a great bluffing tool, used by the unscrupulous when scary cards find their way on the board. “I’ve got it” their chips seem to be saying…but how can you tell when they have the goods, and how can you tell when they’re holding J-squat?
Well, you never can be sure, but you can get a feel for walking a mile in their moccasins by remembering the old adage: Monkey See, Monkey Do.
What I mean by this is simple…I tend to give a player credit for “having it” the first time he raises me (if we don’t have a prior history). I then watch how he plays – no so much how he raises, but how he REACTS to OTHERS’ raises. You see, if he thinks you’ve got the goods, chances are that’s how he makes his raises. If he constantly calls you (or fires back at you), he thinks you’re bluffing because HE is regularly bluffing. See how this works?
It’s not foolproof (nothing is), but it’s another way to gain information about a player’s tendencies. The old way was to call his raise (or re-raise) and see if he has it…that can get expensive if you’re wrong. This way, you let others do your dirty work.
I have to admit, it is a load of fun to pick off the bluffers in this regard. You either get them going all-in the next hand (because they’re pissy little people) or you get Phil Hellmuth-like comments like, “How could you call me like that?”
Either way, you come out ahead and can (a) know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, and (b) use the info to create your own timely bluffs. Just don’t get pissy when you get caught. I hate that.