Is there a single word, or commonly-used term, to describe the act of baiting another person into calling bullshit, when in fact you're not bullshitting?

Conceptually, this either a sub-type, or the direct opposite, of bluffing, which is the act of pretending you have better cards than you actually hold, in order to scare your opponent into folding.

The word I'm looking for will describe (metaphorically) the act of pretending you have worse cards than you actually hold, in order to bait your opponent into calling you.

I'm looking for a word which implies "actively misleading" (as in lying); examples might be a basketball player faking left (in order to make his guard shift left, so he can go around to the right) or generally faking out.

This is not restricted to gambling (just as "bluffing" is not restricted to poker), I'm only using gambling terminology to make my meaning clear.

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    I’d still think of it as bluffing, albeit a less obvious type of bluffing. Can’t think of an expression that unambiguously means only this type of bluffing, though. Perhaps something like ‘underbluffing’? The notion calls to mind all those old home-shopping channel ‘shows’ where the presenters would try to make the audience feel/express that surely all these fantastic features could not possibly be combined into such a small item (and for only $9.99—but wait, there’s more!). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 11 '14 at 16:52
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    Are you referring to things like the correct use of the more obscure meanings of the words "effect" and "affect"? – Kevin Krumwiede Sep 11 '14 at 19:50
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    @KevinKrumwiede, are you asking me that? I don't see how your question relates to mine. Can you elaborate? – Dan Bron Sep 11 '14 at 19:52
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    Baiting someone into incorrectly calling bullshit reminded me of this comic: xkcd.com/326 – Kevin Krumwiede Sep 11 '14 at 19:53
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    @KevinKrumwiede, Ah, cute. – Dan Bron Sep 11 '14 at 20:00

19 Answers 19


A good term for this is double bluff. Collins defines it as:

a truthful action that is executed as if it were a bluff

If you have a good position and make it appear you do not (by faking a tell, loudly proclaiming your ace-high flush, etc) in order to goad them into calling your bluff, you are double bluffing.

This can also be applied the other way. If you have a weak hand, you could double bluff by actually signalling a weak hand in some way, making your opponent assume you're lying (because who signals a weak hand?).

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    Ah, that's exactly the meaning I was seeking. If no one comes up with a more widely-employed synonym in a day or two, I'll accept this. +1 for now. – Dan Bron Sep 11 '14 at 18:51
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    Actually, a "double bluff" is quite widely used. I've heard it in movies and TV shows many times. I usually use it to describe when I intentionally make holes in my story to make somebody think it's a lie, as a form of extra-covert "Barium meal". – Adi Sep 11 '14 at 21:45
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    This is actually really good. Part of me wants to object that it doesn't only refer to baiting someone to incorrectly call bullshit… but the other part of me can't for the life of, erm, it think of any cases or contexts where that's not exactly what a double bluff would boil down to! – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 11 '14 at 22:06
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    Unless I'm misinterpreting the OP's post, they're looking to describe a situation wherein a person has a good hand, is pretending he doesn't, thus causing the opponent to believe he doesn't have a good hand and thereby making the opponent to call him. continued – Alraxite Sep 12 '14 at 5:43
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    If that's the case, double bluffing isn't the correct description. Had he actually made it appear to have a good hand (while actually having a good hand) and had successfully made the opponent think that he is bluffing and that he has a bad hand, then that'd be double bluffing. Your second example would be a correct description of the word. But your first example looks ambiguous since your parenthetical remark "loudly proclaiming your ace-high flush" seems to contradict on what is outside the brackets ("make it appear you do not [have a good position]"), so I'm not sure what it means to say. – Alraxite Sep 12 '14 at 5:47

Would bait, feint, or lure fit your definition? Maybe these are too broad, but I usually see baiting as a term used to lure someone into an argument.

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    bait is correct, and why he used it in the title :) – Fattie Sep 12 '14 at 6:47

You might use Muhammad Ali's rope-a-dope, about which Wikipedia says it is "used to describe strategies in which one party purposely puts itself in what appears to be a losing position, attempting thereby to become the eventual victor."

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    My favorite cinema example of this is in the movie "13th Warrior" when a Viking goes up against a bigger opponent and feigns being tired to lure him in for an attack, then sidesteps him and cuts the dude in half! – nothingisnecessary Sep 11 '14 at 21:32
  • A big component of rope-a-dope in boxing is getting your opponent to tire himself out throwing big punches that don't actually do much damage. I don't think that it has the same meaning as double bluff. You're pretending to be weak while you're actually in a fairly strong position hoping that your opponent will get overeager and either spend all his resources for little effect or leave you an opening for a knockout punch. – ColleenV Sep 11 '14 at 22:13
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    As colleen explains, this is an "excellent thought, but has nothing to do with the phenomenon in question". (The rope-a-dope equivalent in "internet flame wars" would be "slowly wearing down your opponent".} To copy and paste some astute person from below, "I believe on this site, people often simply vote for answers that are very intelligent, even if irrelevant. it's just one of the many utterly bizarre aspects of the voting on this site." – Fattie Sep 12 '14 at 6:48
  • @JoeBlow I won't claim this answer beats "double bluff," but "nothing to do with the phenomenon" seems like an overstatement. You feign weakness in order to tempt your opponent into taking a misjudged aggressive action --sounds like the original request to me. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Sep 12 '14 at 15:12
  • I believe "baiting" (e.g. by forwarding a nonsense comment) is unrelated to feigning weakness -- indeed, on the contrary it would be done blustery – Fattie Sep 12 '14 at 16:15

Two options come to mind.

Sandbagging is more general and I've seen it used in a variety of ways (including metaphorical).

Slow playing I've generally heard more in reference to the actual poker strategy, but I have seen a few occasions where it was also used metaphorically.

  • I like these words, and they're starting to approach what I want. But whereas sandbagging and slow playing are both essentially passive strategies, what I'm looking for is an active tactic. Like faking a tell, for example. – Dan Bron Sep 11 '14 at 17:30
  • I disagree about sandbagging being inherently passive. E.g. in investing it can refer to a company giving guidance below what they actually expect so that when reports come out, shares surge up on the 'unexpectedly positive' news. investopedia.com/terms/s/sandbag.asp – Dusty Sep 11 '14 at 17:34
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    Dustry, fair enough, but to my ear, sandbagging still rings of withholding information, or suppressing it, or downplaying it, rather than actively misleading. I'm in sales, and when I undercommit revenue for the quarter, knowing I'm likely to overachieve, my manager accuses me of sandbagging (hedging; protecting myself). But he would not use that term if I told him I'd actually lost some deal or other, when I hadn't. Think: actively lying. – Dan Bron Sep 11 '14 at 17:38
  • With respect to Dusty, these just seem completely different, essentially totally unrelated. Sandbagging or slow-play has no connection, at all, in any way, to baiting out response X. I believe on this site, people often simply vote for answers that are very intelligent, even if irrelevant. it's just one of the many utterly bizarre aspects of the voting on this site. – Fattie Sep 12 '14 at 6:47
  • @JoeBlow I respectfully disagree. Dan's later comments made it clear he was looking for something that's perhaps more active than sandbagging or slow playing, but to say that they're not done to bait a particular response seems a bit much. If you're sandbagging or slow playing in poker, as an example, you're doing it specifically to get your opponents to over-value their own hands and therefore bid more differently than they would if your behavior indicated your true strength. That different bidding pattern would be the response X. – Dusty Sep 15 '14 at 17:26

Hustle, Merriam-Webster, to lure less skillful players into competing against oneself at (a gambling game).

You don't mess around with Jim. -Croce


In Australia, this seems to be universally called Sharking.

Players will play pool(billiards) and throw a game and then bet they will win the following round, and then play serious to win the money.

  • Welcome to EL&U. Links to examples of this usage would improve your answer. – choster Sep 12 '14 at 3:40

This is a form of trolling.

Adapted from https://www.google.com/search?q=define+trolling

make a deliberately offensive or provocative [statement] with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.

Whatever it is called, I often use this technique when playing the game "Balderdash" when I am reading the correct definition. (I use my voice and body language to read the correct definition in such a way that it sounds ridiculous so that other players do not guess it, thus giving me the points.)


I'm surprised nobody suggested "reverse psychology"

Ah! You're using reverse psychology on me!

which is often used, exactly, in these types of situations.

I'm pretty sure there's no specific word for the "tricked into calling bullshit" case.

Note the word you used yourself, "baited into the action", which is perfect here.

I would suggest that the exact process you describe is infrequent enough, on post boards etc. that there will not arise a common term for it.

For example, what we now call "trolling" is common enough, that, a specific term arose for it. I believe that is unlikely to be the case with what you describe.

(You could describe this as a "form of trolling" as noted by another user—another useful term in the topic under discussion.)

  • hey tanks ML !!! – Fattie Sep 12 '14 at 8:55
  • Reverse psychology is essentially double bluffing. See my comments on the answer that suggests it (the highest-voted answer) for why this doesn't describe the example(s) given in the question. – Alraxite Sep 12 '14 at 9:09
  • (1) actually I agree with you completely that reverse-psychology is not really a great answer here. (2) reverse-psychology has zero connection to bluffing. reverse-psychology is stating a desire "the blue one is awesome!" trying to trick the other in to that desire. (bluffing is pretending you have a better hand than you do) (3) regarding bluffing. bluffing has no connection, at all, to the question at hand. (that "bluffing" answers have votes here is just a great example of the weird voting on this site - !!!) – Fattie Sep 12 '14 at 9:20
  • I'm not saying it's bluffing, it's double bluffing. Reverse psychology is, for example, when A wants B to do X but knows that he will most likely disobey him so that he instead tells him to not do X, to which B disobeys and does do X, as A had hoped he would. Double bluffing is when you want others to believe X but you know they will think you're lying (bluffing) so you instead tell them the opposite of X, so that they believe X. As you can see, they are in essence the same. And this word doesn't describe the situation in the question. – Alraxite Sep 12 '14 at 9:40

Your poker analogy is perfect: in poker, this type of bluff is called a "trap." When I trick you into betting you have a better hand, or that you have better knowledge than I do, then you've fallen into my trap; been trapped.


You could say that you’re fishing for a response. The word has a broader meaning, but may have the proper connotations.

  • yet another great suggestion, "fishing" could be used in combination with other language to express the exact situation the OP has described. – Fattie Sep 12 '14 at 6:45

Goad, thefreedictionary, 3. to prick or drive with, or as if with, a goad; prod; incite.

incite, means to goad or inspire an individual or group to take some action or express some feeling, to induce activity of any kind, although it often refers to violent or uncontrolled behavior.


After reading your comments to other answers, I wonder if "low-balling" might suit your need.

The Businessdictionary.com defines "low ball technique":

"A sales tactic that involves initially quoting a low price and then claiming the quote was a mistake and the real price is higher. Many customers are inclined to accept the higher price because they have already decided to make the purchase."

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    Interesting! But a little too niche; it would be hard to apply outside a literal sales context. – Dan Bron Sep 11 '14 at 18:19
  • It this the same thing as bait and switch? – nothingisnecessary Sep 11 '14 at 19:17
  • Actually, bait-and-switch, as I know it from having worked in the retail industry, typically advertises a product at a particular price only to substitute a lower quality item when the consumer tries buying the advertised item. – Kristina Lopez Sep 11 '14 at 19:29
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    Ah, you're right.. the bait is the product, not the price. My mistake. So "low ball technique" is when "bait and switch" is used on the price instead. On a side note.. Note how OP used "baiting" in the title.. Interesting how "bait and switch" and "trolling" are both fishing metaphors.. maybe has something to do with fact that fishing is easy to relate to because it's one of the earliest human/survival activities. – nothingisnecessary Sep 11 '14 at 21:25
  • it's a good "somewhat relevant concept" but not really what the OP is saying – Fattie Sep 12 '14 at 6:44

I think the expression play false can also convey the concept:

  • to cause misunderstanding of the intentions, opinions, etc. of
  • conceal one's true motives from especially by elaborately feigning good intentions so as to gain an end.

Source : www.thefreedictionary.com

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    great suggestion for the general concept. – Fattie Sep 12 '14 at 6:44
  • Your first link directs me to "double-cross"? – Mari-Lou A Sep 12 '14 at 7:33

In poker this is called leveling your opponent, or second-level thinking. It is apparent that there immediately exists a further step where you-know-that-he-knows-that-you know-et-cetera, so the former term is used much more widely than the latter.

The expressions levelling or to level derive from the concept of level thinking. At the poker tables this means that before you choose an action, you try to think on the level of your opponent in order to figure out what impression the action will give him. You basically think about what he might be thinking.

You can of course continue this and come up with an infinite number of levels - "what does he think that I think that he thinks that I think…" and so on. This is referred to as second level thinking, third level thinking, etc.


As @Display Name mentioned, I have alays known it as 'Sharking' and have heard that term used in this context in both England and Ireland, but according to wikipedia, the term 'hustling' suits your needs. It also mentions the specific tactic of losing a game or two before playing seriously as 'Sandbagging' or 'Dumping'.



I would think gambit also could suffice.

Especially note the second definition from for example: http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/gambit

2 : something done or said in order to gain an advantage or to produce a desired result

You make some sort of action to produce a desired result. The chess aspect of gambit would also illustrate this on a more abstract level, as it's a matter of "playing" the game to provoke a specific desired response/result.

  • A gambit is synonymous to 'bait', and in chess to 'sacrifice'. It doesn't cover only the specific meaning of the next level. – Spork Sep 12 '14 at 11:19

What you're literally describing is "bluffing" itself. According to the Meriam Webster Dictionary bluffing is

to pretend that you will do something or that you know or have something in order to trick someone into doing what you want

which has nothing to do with whether the thing you have is good or bad (better cards or worse cards, per the OP).

Conceptually, this either a sub-type, or the direct opposite, of bluffing, which is the act of pretending you have better cards than you actually hold, in order to scare your opponent into folding.

The word I'm looking for will describe (metaphorically) the act of pretending you have worse cards than you actually hold, in order to bait your opponent into calling you.

The OP is assuming that a bluff is when you have better cards and his word when you have worse cards, but the word bluffing has nothing to do with the quality of the cards. You can bluff with anything, that's the point of bluffing. In the end the expression that fits the OP best is "bluffing with bad cards" or more expressively "baiting someone into calling you out with a bluff".

The thing described from the second paragraph onward is definitely not double bluffing as that's bluffing that you're bluffing what those paragraphs are not describing at all. Nor is it rope-a-dope as that's about putting you into a certain position for the length of the game such that others wont take you seriously enough. And all other words are about the general act of confusing/baiting people into doing what you want them to do, they don't cover the specificity of the OP neither.

  • Did you notice the word "sub-type" in the original question? Anyway, precisely because "bluffing" is vague about what exactly you're doing, I'm looking for a more specific term. – Dan Bron Sep 12 '14 at 14:47
  • I think the issue is that the first sentence of the OP does ask for a bluff of a bluff ("... when in fact you're not bullshitting."), which is a double bluff as given in my answer. The part you quote actually asks something different, which is just a bluff as you've given. +1 – Gob Ties Sep 12 '14 at 14:59
  • @Dab Brown: could you then point out how it differs from bluffing? Because your entire question except the first paragraph describes a normal bluff. And the first paragraph is asking for something entirely different then the rest of the question. – David Mulder Sep 12 '14 at 17:28
  • @Geobits: my bad, you're right, he is indeed asking for two different things... Odd I didn't notice before, my bad, will edit the answer once I get home to more accurately reflect this and remove the 'attack' on double bluff. – David Mulder Sep 12 '14 at 17:30

I like "Playing gotcha" for this. It's a largely political phrase that essentially means looking for someone to make a mistake and holding that up as an example of why your opponent is bad/unqualified/etc


What about "disinformation"? Defined by Wiki as "is intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. It is an act of deception and false statements to convince someone of untruth." it satisfies the OP's criterion of "I'm looking for a word which implies "actively misleading" ".

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