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bluff-catching strategy

3 Hands That Will Help You Bluff-Catch with More Success

Is there a more satisfying feeling in poker than calling a bluff? I really don’t think there is.

I’m sure you want to experience feeling as much as possible, so you’re about to see 3 hand breakdowns that will help you sniff out more bluffs and fold at the right time. Each hand will include analysis from Upswing coach and mid-stakes crusher, Fried Meulders.

First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.

What is a Bluff-Catcher?

A bluff-catcher is a hand that can beat the bluffs in your opponent’s range, but none of the value hands. The terms bluff-catch and bluff-catching are used to describe the act of calling a bet with a bluff-catcher.

Depending on the situation, any hand (even non-made hands) can fit this criterion. For example, you could even decide that it’s profitable to bluff-catch with K-high in certain rare situations.

Now, let’s dive into the examples!

Hand #1: A Lame Two Pair

Online $0.10/$0.25. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $25.

Hero is on the Button with K 9
3 folds. Hero raises to $0.6. SB 3-bets to $2.25. BB folds. Hero calls.

Flop ($4.75): K♣ T 9♣
SB bets $3.12. Hero calls.

Turn ($11.00): T♣
SB bets $6.24. Hero ?

The Flop: When the board is very wet and our opponent bets 60% of the pot — which typically means he has a more polarized range — we can’t really construct a good raising range without leaving our calling range unprotected and vulnerable, thus calling is the best option.

The Turn: The T♣ is one of the worst cards in the deck for our specific hand. Before the turn was dealt we were winning against hands such as KJ, KQ, AK, and AA, but now we are drawing close to dead against them. On top of that, all of his flush draws have completed.

All of this means that our hand is a pure bluff-catcher now. In theory, we will need to call with this hand some percentage of the time in order to deny our opponent a profitable bluffing opportunity with hands such as AQ, AJ and A2-A8. You will have to make an in-game decision against your specific opponent — is he or is he not capable of bluffing?

If he is capable, our hand is an especially good bluff-catcher because it blocks a lot of his value betting range (99, KK, Kx) and none of his bluffs.

Fried Meulders’ Thoughts:

I basically have no raising range vs a 60%+ pot continuation bet in this spot. So I like just a flop call.

Turn kinda sucks for our hand, but we still have to call here. Yes, it’s strictly a bluff catcher / C2, but you need to call (some of) these.

Hand #2: Blockers

Online $0.10/$0.25. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $25.

Hero is in the Small Blind with A A♠
UTG folds. MP raises to $0.5. 2 folds. Hero 3-bets to $2. BB folds. MP calls.

Flop ($4.25): J 7 2
Hero bets $3.12. MP calls.

Turn ($10.50): 7♣
Hero checks. MP bets $5. Hero calls.

River ($20.50): K♠
Hero checks. MP shoves $15. Hero ?

The Flop: We have a mandatory c-bet for value on the flop, but this bet size is not ideal since it might fold out a few hands that would call against a smaller size. Specifically, hands such as 88, 99, and TT without a flush draw are more likely call against a 33% pot sized c-bet than this size.

That being said, this bet size is actually good if our opponent is on the looser side, since he will still continue with those hands against our bigger bet.

The Turn: This turn 7 may seem like a bad card (and it would be if this was a single raised pot versus the big blind), but it’s pretty much a brick here for a couple reasons:

  • The player in middle position has very few 7x hands in his range (87s and 76s) relative to his whole range since he raised and called a 3-bet.
  • The stack-to-pot ratio is much lower, which means that we can play a much more aggressive strategy from out of position because the player in position cannot leverage his stack like he can when playing deeper.

For these two reasons, and because we block a good amount of our opponent’s nut flushes and we still get a lot of value from worse hands, we should go a for another bet.

The River: As played, on the river we have an easy call down as our opponent can have a few missed flush draws (like Ax Q) and straight draws (T9s and 98s) while not so many strong hands (77, JJ, K Q, K T, Q T, T 9, and 9 8).

Fried Meulders’ Thoughts:

I think A Ax is a very good bluff-catcher since you block his nut flushes. Turn you can keep barreling. These 3-bet pots are way different from a single raised pot where you c-bet out of position on this board and then get this turn.

Hand #3: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Ain’t No Stakes Low Enough (to Keep Us From Analyzing You)

Online $0.02/$0.04. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $5.

Hero is in the Cutoff with A A♠
UTG raises to $0.12. MP folds. Hero 3-bets to $0.43. 3 folds. UTG calls.

Flop ($0.92): Q♣ T♠ 4♣
UTG checks. Hero bets $0.44. UTG calls

Turn ($1.80): 6♣
UTG checks. Hero checks.

River ($1.80): T
UTG bets $1.36. Hero ?

The Flop: We have a clear value bet on the flop. The bet size can be anywhere from 33% to 66% pot.

The Turn: We have a standard double barrel for value even though the flush draw has completed and we don’t block the nuts. If we check, we’ll miss out on some value and allow UTG to realize his equity for free with hands that would otherwise call or fold. Betting and folding to a raise is best.

The River: As played, on the river we have a pretty hard decision that will depend on the tendencies of our opponent. If he is the type to bluff hands like AK or AJs and/or value bet with AQ, then we can call. If he is a more conservative type that will only value bet with a flush or better and will play for showdown with AK, then we can fold.

Fried’s thoughts:

Turn: a bet/fold is probably the more standard line here, some check-backs are fine too.

River: I don’t think he’ll often be value betting AQ, so our AA will often be a strict bluff catcher. But we still call AA here.

Final Thoughts on Bluff-Catching

Bluff-catching is part science, part art. Through experience, you will learn how to differentiate between a bad bluff-catch and a good bluff-catch. This is probably one of the hardest skills to master in poker but it is well worth it and you will gain a lot of money if you do it right.

That’s all for this article! I hope you enjoyed it and that you’ve found it useful! As usual, if you have any questions or feedback don’t hesitate to use the comment section down below.

If you want to keep read about the other side of bluff-catching, check out Doug Polk’s guide to bluffing.

Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!

(NOTE: Want to make quick, high-quality, profitable poker decisions in 30 seconds or less? Get the $7 Postflop Game Plan mini-course and start turning “I don’t know what to do here” spots into money-making situations. Learn more now!)
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About the Author

Dan B.

Online grinder aspiring to reach the highest stakes and crush the toughest games.

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