Bluff Catching in Poker – When Is a Good Time to Do It?

Bluff Catching in Poker – When Is a Good Time to Do It?

The feeling of getting away with a bluff is certainly one of the best you can experience at the poker table, but bluff catching with the right call with a fairly weak hand and catching your opponent with their hand in the cookie jar is equally as satisfying. 

Modern poker includes a whole lot of bluffing, and playing at most poker tables these days, you are going to end up in situations where you have to make a big decision with a relatively weak hand. 

Making such calls, or bluff catching as it is called, is an important poker skill you will need to master if you are to become a well-rounded poker player. 

In this article, we are going to explain the concept of bluff catching in poker, go into specifics on when you should bluff catch and how to pick the right hands to do it with, and more. 

Keep reading to learn all about the subtle art of bluff catching and all the little details that go into making a successful bluff catch. 

What Is Bluff Catching in Poker?

Before we can proceed to explain the specifics, it is important to understand the concept of bluff catching as such and what exactly it means to bluff catch. 

In essence, anytime you make a call that can’t beat any of your opponent’s actual value hands, you are bluff catching, regardless of the absolute strength of your hand. 

What Is Bluff Catching in Poker | Robbi Jade Lew vs Garrett Adelstein with Jack Four

For instance, calling a river bet with KsQs on a KdQcJdTs6d board is pure bluff catching, as it is highly unlikely for your opponent to be bluffing the river with a hand weaker than two pairs on this highly connected board. 

In some situations, you might even be tempted to bluff catch with a hand as weak as Jack-high, much like Robbi Jade Lew decided to do against Garrett Adelstein in that legendary HCL hand

Of course, not all bluff catching attempts actually make sense, and some players bluff catch way too often, which is why we are here to teach you exactly when it makes sense to bluff catch and how you should pick the right time to make that call with a marginal holding. 

When to Bluff Catch: Putting Your Opponent on a Hand Range

You probably know by now that you should never think about your opponent’s hand in terms of two particular cards but rather a range of all the poker hands they could have in a given spot. 

When thinking about bluff catching, you should also think in terms of ranges. If your opponent’s range is weak on a particular board, this is a good time to consider making that hero call and bluff catching the river. 

A good example of when bluff catching makes sense is in scenarios in which hyper-aggressive opponents 3-bet or 4-bet you before the flop and then continue to barrel off on boards that highly favor your range over theirs. 

For instance, let us consider the following scenario:

Playing in a $1/2 cash game with effective stacks of $500, we open from UTG with 9s8s to $6. Other players fold and the small blind 3-bets to $25. We make the call and go to a flop of:


Our opponent c-bets $30 into $52, and we make a fairly standard call in position. 

The turn brings the 7h, and our opponent once again bets out for $85 into the $112 pot, representing a strong hand. Once again, we call and go to the river. 

The river brings an inconsequential 4s, and our opponent now goes all in for $360 into the $282 pot. What do we do?

Clearly, our one-pair hand is not a monster in this spot, but what we should focus on more is what exactly our opponent is representing. 

If they had pocket Aces or Kings, which is what they were representing preflop and on the flop, would they really keep on barreling every street like this without ever checking to pot control and potentially catch some bluffs of ours?

On the other hand, with the 3-bet from the small blind, what strong hands does our opponent have? A hand like TT or 88 is certainly possible, but that’s really one of the only hands that make sense in this given spot. 

Brock Wilson
Brock Wilson

On the other hand, our opponent could also have a whole bunch of Broadway’s hands with clubs that bricked out on the flush, as well as straight draws like QJ that they decided to take all the way. 

One thing to remember is to always consider your opponent as well and not to make these kinds of calls against players who typically don’t empty the clip for no good reason. 

On the other hand, playing against your typical aggressive cash game player these days, a call with a hand like 9s8s in this spot could make a lot of sense and prove to be extremely profitable. 

Things to Consider: Player Tendencies, Blockers, and Unblockers

Before you make a big hero call, it is worth taking your time to consider all the available information. After all, the more things you have to work with, the more correct your decisions will be. 

The first thing to consider, as we already mentioned, is your opponent’s tendencies. This cannot be overstated, as knowing who you are up against is critical. 

Some players will almost never fire 3-barrel bluffs regardless of their hand, position, or the situation, while others are constantly looking for spots where they can do just that. 

If you want to be successful at bluff catching, doing it against the right players will be of critical importance, and we highly recommend only ever making big bluff catching attempts against extremely aggressive players. 

Another thing worth considering when bluff catching is blockers. Blockers are cards that you are holding that block your opponent from having a certain hand.

Perhaps the best example of blockers is holding the As on a board with three Spades, where you believe your opponent would only be making a big river bet with a flush. 

Holding that As means your opponent can’t possibly have the nut flush and generally decreases the number of flush combos they could be holding. 

Similarly, holding TsTc on a Js9h8h5c5s board gives you a great bluff catching opportunity, as the two Tens in your hand make it that much less likely that your opponent has a flopped straight. 

Things to Consider: Player Tendencies, Blockers, and Unblockers

Sure enough, you will run into some AA or KK in spots like these, but you will also often end up being against a missed heart draw that kept on barreling. 

On the same hand, the concept of unblockers also comes into play. While you have two Tens that block your opponent from having a straight, you also hold no Hearts, which means you are not holding any of the cards that make up your opponent’s main bluff candidates. 

So, the next time you are considering bluff catching, remember to take into account your cards and how they prevent your opponent from having certain hands or make it more likely that they do. 

How to Make Money Bluff Catching

When you play poker, you will have to make some tough calls and sometimes put a lot of money into the pot with a marginal hand, especially when playing against very aggressive opponents. 

If you bluff catch often, you will be right every once in a while, but that alone is not alone to actually make you money in the long run. 

If you want to turn bluff catching into a profitable endeavor, you will need to bluff catch at the right time, against the right opponents, and with the right hands. 

We already briefly discussed how you should pick the hands you bluff catch with in terms of blockers and unblockers, but it’s also worth talking about some other points that are key in making money with bluff catching. 

The price you are getting laid on a call is an important one, as you typically want to be getting a reasonable price when calling with nothing but a bluff catcher. 

The smaller the bet your opponent makes, the less often you need to be right on your bluff catching attempt to make a profit. 

For example, anytime your opponent bets a full pot on the river, you need to be right one out of three times just to break even. At the same time, you need to be right only one out of four times if your opponent bets half pot instead, and that can make a huge difference in the big picture. 

As long as you have a hand that can beat a reasonable number of bluffs, you are facing an opponent capable of bluffing in a given spot and are getting the right price. You should be more or less printing money by calling river bets with your bluff catchers. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Bluff Catch and Lose

Many players who are not very experienced at poker are afraid of making a call and looking bad when they end up losing to a monster hand instead of a bluff. 

Anytime you try to bluff catch, you run the risk of your opponent having a big hand, but that’s really nothing to worry about. 

As long as your bluff catchers are good often enough for the price you are getting laid, you will be making money and winning in your games, and that’s all that matters. 

The opinions of other players should not concern you too much, and if they happen to think you are bad at poker because of a call you made, that can only help you get them to play badly against you in the future hands you play together.

Scroll to Top