Bluff Catching in Live Poker

Picking off a bluff is one of the most exciting things that a
player can do in poker. On the flip side, calling a bet when you
are wrong about a bluff is incredibly frustrating. These extreme
highs and lows are an illustration of how poker works as a
whole. In live poker, you’ll have much more of an opportunity
to accurately assess the strength of your opponent. Instead of
only playing the odds, you’ll be able to use
all kinds of tells and other contextual information that you
just wouldn’t have access to with poker online. This doesn’t
necessarily mean that you should be calling a lot more bets that
you think might be bluffs, but it means that you’ll be able to make
more informed decisions.

Bluff catching seems to be a chronic condition in live poker.
There are some players who live for the thrill of winning a big
pot with a small hand. Though there’s no denying that it’s a
rush to win a
big pot with a small hand, but it’s hardly going to compensate for
all of the money lost when you are wrong. The key to bluff
catching is to make sure you aren’t bluffing into players who
love to bluff catch while also making sure that you aren’t
doing it yourself. If you fall victim to bluff catching as
either the bettor or the caller, you are going to lose an awful
lot of money in the long run. The goal of this article is to
teach you when it’s right to bluff catch and when it isn’t.

Defining a Good Situation

The first thing that you should understand about calling
bluffs is that you need to be overly certain of your reads. You
might not be sure where you stand from time to time, but you are
still likely working with some room for error. When it comes to
bluff catching, however, you should have a very strong feeling
for where you are at in the hand. If you are calling someone
down with top pair, you could win against a value bet or a
bluff. When you call someone down with bottom pair, you win
against a bluff only. Once you have a sound read in place, the
next step is to determine whether your call makes sense.

Calling Bluffs

Just because you have a good read on someone doesn’t
necessarily mean that you should call their bet. The numbers
still need to add up so that they create a profitable situation
for you. For example, if a player bets five times the size of
the pot on the river in a relatively small hand, what is the use
in calling? Yes, you might be correct and give yourself a chance
to win their river bet, but the risk is just too much. Even when
you feel all but certain about a read, there are still going to
be times where you end up being wrong.

Putting the Story Together

Piecing together the puzzle is what will allow you to make
precise reads that end up winning hands. You need to be able to
trace yourself back to the pre-flop action all the way to where
you are now. Did your opponent play the hand like they were
strong? Were they acting a bit too strong to where it seemed
contrived? Does a bluff make more sense than a big hand given
the action? These are the types of questions that you need to be
asking yourself.

One of the most typical bluff catching scenarios will arise
when a player open raises pre-flop and then continues to bet out
on each street. What will happen is that there will be one
player who calls the flop, whether to re-evaluate on the turn or
because they truly think they are ahead. The turn is then dealt,
the raiser fires again, and the caller now thinks the pot is
large enough to where it’s worth fighting for. As players we
subconsciously trick ourselves into thinking that things will
certainly get better.

In this case, we would be holding out hope for a
check on the river, even though the prior action doesn’t
make it seem like this is a likely outcome at all. The river bet
then comes and you still have the same lowly hand that you had
on the flop. At this point you are either way behind or you can
beat the other player’s bluff. This is a tough spot to be in, and
it’s best prevented by not allowing yourself to get sucked into
the “bluff vortex” in the first place. What do you do on this
river? Well, the answer is tough, and this is one of the primary
reasons why you shouldn’t rely on bluff catching to win pots.

The next most common bluff catching spot is created by some
later action. What is meant by this is that a hand might play
relatively slow before it suddenly picks up in action around
the turn. When more money is going into the pot, players will
decide that their once insignificant hands are now worth playing
all the way to the river. It’s something that you’ll notice
over and over again: players that are uninterested in their hand or their
opponent’s hand itself, but are at the same time quite intrigued by
the money that can potentially be won. If you were going to bet
and then check the river with a mediocre hand, but end up
getting check raised on the turn, you will find yourself in a
very tricky position.

On one hand you weren’t expecting this
aggression which might lead you to believe that your hand is
ahead. On the other hand, there’s a good chance that you are
going to face even more aggression on the river, which means
that you’ll need to put even more money on the line. And plus,
more aggression on the river should be what you want if you call
a turn check raise as a bluff catcher. Think about it, if your
opponent check raised the turn and checked the river, there’s a
much better chance that they have a good hand than that they
were bluffing. Though some players will give up in that
situation, many won’t.

You need to always keep the long term repercussions of bluff
catching in mind. It will seem very easy to string yourself
along in a hand by calling a flop bet, and before you know it
you are calling a river shove. You can help to prevent these
situations by tightening up. Live poker is the best arena in
which to play very straightforward poker (at least at the lower
to mid limits). By trying to catch bluffs on a repeated basis,
you are making the game much more challenging and risky than is
really necessary.