Bluff Catching in Poker: How to Catch Your Opponent’s Bluffs

Bluff catching is a powerful move that can be very profitable if you know how and when to do it.

Bluff catching is particularly profitable in low stakes games where you'll find many loose-aggressive opponents with high bluffing frequencies.

Picking the right spots for bluff catching, however, is not easy. In this post, we'll take a look at the principles that can help you decide whether to call or fold when you think your opponent could be bluffing.

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What is a Bluff Catcher

Bluff catching is done in situations where all you hold is a mediocre hand or "bluff catcher".

A "bluff catcher" is a hand that is not strong enough to value bet and can only win when your opponent is bluffing. In other words, a bluff catcher loses to your opponent's value-betting range, but beats his bluffing range.

When to Bluff Catch

In the training video below, Tim "onthestoop" goes over some interesting hand examples, discussing the factors you need to take into account when deciding to bluff catch or not.

Bluff Catching Principles

To recap, these are the bluff catching principles discussed in the video that can help you decide whether to call or fold:

1. What price are you getting on a call?

The first and most important principle that you need to think about is the price you are getting on a call.

The pot odds that you're being offered, determine how often you need to win the hand in order for your call to be profitable.

onthestoop-pot-odds

We need to win this hand more than 26% of the time for a profitable call.

Here's a quick way to calculate this while you're playing.

You simply take the amount you have to call and divide that by the total pot after calling.

Here, the pot is 262 and our opponent bets 140. So we take 140 / (140+140+262) = 0.26. This gives us the minimum % of times we need to win: 0.26 x 100 = 26%. If we think our pair of 7s is the best hand more than 26% of the time, we can make a profitable call.

To calculate how often you need to be right to make a profitable call with a bluff catcher, use this formula:

If you'd like to know more about the mathematical side of bluff catching, check out this excellent article by Andrew Brokos on Thinking Poker.net, where he talks about game theory optimal calling frequencies for bluff catching.

2. The weaker your hand looks, the more you should be inclined to bluff catch

An important factor to consider is how strong or weak your hand looks in the eyes of your opponent.

If you've shown a lot of weakness in the hand, your opponent is more likely to attack that weakness by bluffing.

Especially if your opponent makes a really big bet, he is unlikely to have a strong value hand. This is because strong value hands would usually bet smaller to keep you in the pot now that you've shown some weakness. So the weaker your hand looks, the more you should be inclined to bluff catch.

3. If your opponent has a polarized range, your actual hand strength becomes less important

Sometimes your opponent will have a very polarized range. This means that he either has a very strong hand or nothing at all.

In that case, your actual hand strength becomes less important. In other words, if your opponent has a polarized range, you can bluff catch with weaker value hands.

4. The looser your opponent is, the more he is going to have to bluff to compensate

If your opponent is very loose and plays a wide range of hands, he is going to have to compensate by bluffing a lot. Players who play a very wide and weak range, are simply forced to bluff more often in order to win pots. A lot of the time, their hands don't have the natural hand strength to win at showdown, so they're going to have to try and make you fold in order to win. 

Against loose players who have a lot of weak hands in their range, you can make lighter calls. In other words: you can bluff catch with weaker hands against loose players.

Bluff Catching Like a Pro

How good are you at bluff catching? It is a vital skill for any poker player and can be a very profitable move, especially on the low stakes.

Bluff catching involves making a call with a hand that is not strong enough to value bet and can only win when your opponent is bluffing.

Use the following principles to help you decide whether to call or fold with your bluff catcher:

  1. What price are you getting on a call?
  2. The weaker your hand looks, the more inclined you should be to bluff catch.
  3. If your opponent has a polarized range, your actual hand strength becomes less important.
  4. The looser your opponent is, the more he is going to have to bluff to compensate. This means you can bluff catch with weaker hands against loose players.
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