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When to Call with a Bluff Catcher

So many epic poker stories end with a “hero call”. It takes a true master with a heart of steel to call down a huge river bet with nothing but a small pair or even ace high. How do they do it? How do they peer deep into their opponent's soul, know they’re bluffing, and find the call button?

While it usually isn’t so clear-cut as “knowing” they’re bluffing, you can use reason to determine whether it’s likely that they’re bluffing. Even if you can’t be certain, it can still be profitable—sometimes--to put in that hero call with the bluff catcher

A Primer in Bluff Catchers

Let’s start with a definition. A bluff catcher can beat all bluffs but loses to all value hands. This means that your opponent has a hand like a busted draw or just straight air, and they’re trying to steal the pot before showdown by convincing you that they actually have the nuts.

Knowing when to bluff catch and when to fold gives you a huge edge. Just remember that any hand that beats probable value bets is not a bluff catcher!

Photo: WonderHowTo

Bluff Catching Flow Chart

When you’re working through the decision, follow this flow chart. If the answer to every question is yes, then you can call. If any of them is no, then it’s probably best to fold.

1) Am I losing to value hands?

If not, then you don’t have a bluff catcher.

2) Does the opponent’s range have enough obvious bluffs?

Look at their frequencies, their player profile, bet sizing, and the board run outs to determine this.

3) Is the opponent capable of finding the right number of bluffs?

If they never or rarely bluff, especially on the river, then there’s no point in calling.

4) Is my opponent capable of turning weak showdown hands into bluffs?

Again, this comes down to player profile. A nitty, scared player is never going to do this, while a loose-aggressive maniac will do this too often.

5) Does my hand unblock the most obvious bluffs?

If you’re holding cards that would be an obvious bluff, then it’s more likely you should fold. For instance, if the board has 679 and you’re holding the 8, then you’re “blocking” 8s and it’s less likely that your opponent has it. When the open-ender fails to come in and they make a big bet on the river, you’re probably not up against an 8 that missed the draw.

In conclusion, bluff catching is all about developing good, robust systems that line up with GTO strategy while also adjusting to take advantage of what your opponent does incorrectly. Do it right, and you’ll crush it.


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