There are very few things in Texas Hold’em that feel better than correctly calling a big bet on the river with a weak hand. Successfully catching a bluff can both give you a confidence boost as well as make other players at the table less likely to try and bluff you in the future.
However, to catch a bluff, you often have to make a fairly tough decision with a weak hand that really can’t beat much.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to make your calls more profitable. In this article we bring you three tips to help you make better decisions in these situations and successfully catch more bluffs when playing poker.
1. Always think in terms of ranges
One of the most important things to consider when trying to catch a bluff is how much logical sense your opponent’s actions make.
If you have a clear range advantage on a certain board texture and your opponent keeps betting into you, you might be in a situation to bluff catch. When someone’s betting into you without any fear, it would appear that they’re basically representing the nuts. However, in some spots, the story that they are trying to tell might not be very convincing, and this is where you should put on your bluff catching hat.
For example, if your opponent 3-bets you from the blinds and keeps firing multiple streets on very connected boards, what are they trying to say?
They are likely to 3-bet big pocket pairs and a strong range in general pre-flop, but would they fire three streets on a board of 7 8 9 J 2 with pocket Aces? Probably not, and that is why it is vital to put your opponent on a realistic range to make your final decision.
Reconstruct the hand in your head, think about pre-flop actions, their position at the table, and other important factors. How does all of this correspond with the texture of the board and their actions? If the story does not add up to a logical picture, you are likely to take that pot down even with a medium-strength hand.
2. Take advantage of blockers when making your decision
Blockers are another vital thing to consider when bluff catching. When you have a card that prevents your opponent from having the nuts and they’re still betting out as if they had the nuts, you might be in an excellent spot to pick off a big bluff with mere Ace high or a small pair.
Here’s an example: Let’s say the flop comes 5d 7d 3s and you c-bet with 6d 5s after raising from the button. Your opponent calls and the turn comes Qh. The action proceeds check-check, and the river brings a third diamond. Your opponent confidently fires a big bet of around 2/3 of the pot.
Since we’re holding the 6d, we know the opponent is just a bit less likely to have a flush, as we have one of the diamonds in our hand. Also, 6d blocks straight possibilities as well as a hand like 76.
With a big bet on the river, your opponent is representing a strong holding, but since we block a lot of those combinations, you have a great spot for bluff catching and can easily make the call.
3. Know your opponents
When trying to bluff catch, it is important to know your opponent well. Make sure to make your thin calls against players who have a propensity to bluff and to avoid hero calling in spots where other players are very unlikely to turn up air.
Even if their likely range doesn’t correspond with the story they’re telling and even if you’re holding blockers, you must have some discipline to give up against players who (almost) never bluff. This is especially true in passive live games, where my experience has been that many players call down against a nit, who is very unlikely to bluff, just because the math says to do so.
Aggressive poker is winning poker, but you must know your opponent.
— Jason G. (@JGoulet75) April 9, 2019
You’ll find much better spots against opponents, so there is absolutely no need to force the issue and call down players whose big river bets gravitate heavily towards the value range of the spectrum. Obviously, you will need some time and experience to identify such players, but when you do, these exploitative adjustments will help you boost your win rate.