More Info the Better: Know Your Opponent
When trying to catch bluffs and keep the other player “honest,” it is of the utmost importance to only do it against players you know are capable of bluffing.
Constantly trying to catch someone who pretty much has it whenever they bomb the river is lighting money on fire. They won’t show up with a bluff just because you want them to, so always observe your opponents and make necessary adjustments.
In online poker, you can understand a lot about your opponents’ tendencies using different poker tools and stats. Their overall aggression, 3-bet tendencies, and W$SD can give you a pretty good idea about how likely someone is to try and pull a big bluff.
In live poker, you can rely on the previous hands you’ve seen the player play, their general demeanor at the table, and other tidbits.
In some games, you’ll find reckless players that you’ll have to bluff catch more often than others. Likewise, you’ll encounter rocks who never bet without goods.
So once again, observe your opponents and make adjustments based on their playing style, information is gold!
Value of Blockers for Catching Bluffs
Blockers play a big role in choosing hands that you want to call down. A lot of the time it is better to call with relatively weaker holding, just because it blocks your opponent value hands and do not block likely bluffs, compared to stronger hands that do not have these benefits.
As you probably know by now, blockers are the cards that make it impossible (or at the very least less likely) for your opponent to hold the nuts themselves.
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In this scenario, we’re dealt Ace-Jack before the flop, put in a 3-bet against a cutoff open and get a call. The board comes with three hearts, and we have that key card – the Ace of hearts so we can comfortably barrel the flop. The opponent calls and the turn bricks off with 3c.
You can comfortably bet again in this situation on the turn and chose to do that. The river is another brick, 2c.
You can go for a value bet or play deceptively and check, hoping that the opponent has missed whatever they were after and will try to win the pot by betting.
So you check, and they come out betting all-in, basically a pot size bet! This may look scary at first, but having an Ace of hearts is a huge deal.
Our opponent is unlikely to bet so big with anything weaker than a flush, and we know he does not have a nut flush, making this bet a bit suspicious (he might choose to bet smaller with lower flushes to get value from wider range).
This is where we can rely on the power of our blocker to make the call. Blocking the nuts and facing a big bet on the river after taking a deceptive line, we must call and expect to win more than enough to make this a profitable line.
In fact, you can see that given the action, Snowie is suggesting that calling here every time is the right move, since it has the highest EV.
Let’s see how that changes when we do not have an Ace of hearts.
It may come to your surprise, but PokerSnowie suggests folding in the same situation if you do not have the blocker, so you easily see the value of these cards.
Conclusion: Bluff Catching is Just another Segment of the Game
Contrary to video poker games, in Texas Holdem, you have many options to influence your hand, and bluff catching if one of them. Picking off a big bluff on the river is cool, but this shouldn’t be your primary goal when playing.
Instead, be mindful of good bluff catching spots and pick them off as they come along. In some sessions, you might have three or four of these situations in a short period of time. In others, you won’t get an opportunity to bluff catch even once.
Learning proper strategy can take some time, but with some experience at the tables, you will be able to recognize these spots and improve your judgment. There are plenty of poker training sites that can help you with this, so choose your way to improve and never look back!
- Evaluate your opponent's actual range based on his action
- Consider your opponent’s tendencies because some players are more likely to bluff than others
- Make sure to take advantage of various stats to make better decisions when playing online
- Blockers play a big role in bluff catching, so call more when you block villain’s strong holdings
- Call more when all draws miss on the river because many players over-bluff in these spots