One of the most exciting things a poker player can do is pick off a bluff. On the other hand, it can be very upsetting to call a bet after being incorrect about a bluff. These extreme highs and lows serve as an example of how poker functions generally.
You will have many more opportunities to gauge your opponent’s power effectively when playing live poker games. You will be able to use a variety of tells and other information you wouldn’t have access to when playing poker online, so you won’t have to rely solely on the odds. However, this doesn’t mean you should constantly call bets because you think your opponent is bluffing.
You’ll need to consider some things if you don’t want to make a costly mistake.
What Is Bluff Catching?
Bluff catching is when you make a call with a hand with virtually no potential to defeat any of your opponent’s valuable hands. However, this can depend greatly on your specific holdings.
For instance, if your opponent places large bets on the river while you have a flopped set on a board with four hearts to a flush, he is probably not doing so with two pairs. He typically plays either a flush, which beats your set, or playing an absolute air.
In this situation, an absolutely strong hand is less important because all you need is just a hand powerful enough to defeat the bluffing range.
In different circumstances, you could be tempted to look your opponent up with a hand as poor as King or Queen high. These circumstances arise, though uncommon, and making a successful call is one of the greatest feelings in live poker.
Yet, how can you reach the point where you can genuinely base these decisions on more than simply a gut feeling?
Attempting Bluff Catching
Use Blockers to Your Advantage When Making Decisions
It is important to consider blockers when bluff catching. You might be in a great position to call a large bluff with just Ace high or a small pair when you have a card prohibiting your opponent from holding the nuts, but they are still betting out as if they did.
For example, the flop comes 5d 7d 3s, and you raise from the button and c-bet with 6d 5s. Then your opponent calls, and Qh shows in the turn. The action continues with a check-check, and the river delivers a third diamond. Your adversary boldly places a large wager of about 2/3 of the pot.
You know the opponent is slightly less likely to get a flush because you have one of the diamonds in your hand. Moreover, the 6d card blocks straight possibilities.
Your opponent’s large bet on the river indicates a good holding, but since you block certain combinations, you are in a great position for bluff catch and can simply call.
Take Into Account Your Opponents
Knowing your opponent well is essential while attempting to bluff catch. You can make thin calls in response to players who tend to bluff. However, avoid hero calling when other players are improbable to turn up air.
You must have some self-control to give up on players who never bluff, even if their likely range doesn’t match the story they are telling and you’re holding blockers. Instead, when calling with a bluff catcher, you usually want to focus on loose-aggressive opponents that are happy to bet and raise with weak hands or even nothing at all.
Constantly Consider Ranges
The degree to which your opponent’s actions make logical sense is essential to consider while attempting to call a bluff in live poker tournaments.
You can be in a position to pull off a bluff catch if you have an obvious range advantage on a particular board texture and your opponent continues betting. If it seems like they’re practically representing the nuts when they bet into you without any fear, they might not be bluffing. However, if the story they attempt to tell might not always be compelling, you should try to bluff catch.
So when you try to reconstruct the hand range mentally, consider the pre-flop behaviors, their seating arrangement at the table, and other crucial elements. How do their actions and the board’s texture relate to one another? Even with a medium-strength hand, you will likely knock the pot down if the story does not logically fit together.
Consider Betting Size
The size of the bluff and if your opponent’s stake size makes it enticing to call both need to be carefully considered.
Use your knowledge of the opponent’s betting or bluffing patterns to determine the appropriate bet size. A large bet with strong hands will be less enticing to call, but it could be a sign of a bluff if the player prefers to make small value bets before betting big.
Important Note to Consider
You shouldn’t automatically call someone else’s bet when you play live poker because you have a strong read on them. The numbers still need to add up to make things profitable for you. What good is calling, for instance, if a player bets five times the amount of the pot on the river with a tiny hand? The risk is too great to take even if you were right and gave yourself a chance to win their river bet. There will be occasions when you wind up being mistaken, even when you feel almost positive about a read.
Bluff catching is one of the many profitable poker strategies, but it’s important to remember that the numbers still need to add up. You should take into account your opponent’s betting patterns, pre-flop behaviors, seating arrangement, playing styles, and more before deciding if you are in a position to pull off a bluff catch.