We all know how important the bluff is to successfully
winning in poker; in fact some bigs claim it makes or breaks a run. And of
course never bluffing is as wrong as always bluffing bad... when you bet
they'll know you think you have something. The bottom line is to develop a good
bluff early and use it wisely.
The essential thing to know about bluffing is that you're trying to induce an action (or reaction) from your opponent that you otherwise wouldn't have gotten... either him folding or throwing more money on the table. The response you get to your bluff is decided by how well you've mastered it, of course. But the point here, the takeaway from this discussion is that you have to throw out a fake bluff a time or two to really sell your look. I've played with countless guys who play the same lame bluffs all night and they become so easy to read.
No one wants to lose money on purpose, so make it a small loss. But make sure you "look" like you're trying to bluff but got busted. How well you play this out decides how well your bluff will ultimately work, so hone up your acting skills before you belly up to the table. For example, if you're holding a good hand, say a partial high straight with your card and only a low pair on the table, you wouldn't be squirming in your seat or drinking lots of water to clear the dry mouth (signs of nervousness). You'd be pretty confident with a hint of smug, not fidgeting with your hands (exception is if that is how you ALWAYS are).
The top winners make their living off of reading players; they'll leave a low percentage hand much more often than an amateur and rely on indicators besides the cards to decide if they want to pursue a lowly hand. If you're playing your bluff well you will have the added advantage of assuming that the other guy is in mostly when he feels he has something viable to work with, which means you may be more likely to use your bluff best on opening to coax him to fold.
Your bluff is most valuable when you're opening... your opponent has two choices he can make that can lead to a win for you, he either folds or bets a losing hand. If you bluff on a call, the best you can hope for is that you "really" have the better hand. So clearly, based on the gap concept use your bluff most effectively on opening.
There are lots of sites to help you beat poker that you can rely on for learning the tactics that give you an edge, because at the end of the day those are the things that determine wins or losses. Luck is what it is, but paying attention to details and applying some basic skills will be huge steps to increasing your win column.