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You hear the term bluff catcher.

What is a bluff catcher?

When do you play it and how do you play it?

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A bluff catcher is a hand that isn't necessarily strong, but strong enough to call an opponent and beat them if you believe they're bluffing. It's a hand that's not good enough to value bet, as you'll have to fold if raised as it isn't good enough to beat your opponents value-betting range. However with that said it is strong enough to call your opponents bluffing-range.

It's a tricky one to play, especially if you're a player who struggles with putting players on a range. I'd argue that if end-up on the river not having a solid range for your opponent you're wasting your money by attempting to bluff catch.

An example of this could be something like a fairly middling board, unconnected board, maybe something like

FLOP: J♥9♣5♠

Turn: 6♦

River: 2♣

Say you have 8♠8♣, the villain raised pre-flop, bet the flop, checked the turn and bet the river. In this situation it's unlikely he's made a straight with the cards on board, so their cards could likely be AK, maybe a small pair, but also they could be value betting. So in this situation you're hand isn't good enough to raise with because you'll have to fold if re-raised, but it's good enough to call with because the villain's range is likely to contain all his bluffs too.

(Small note on the example, this is just my logic applied, you could argue other hands here of course. It'll depend massively on the players, something like A,x could even be a bluff catcher against really aggressive players. This is simply just an example)

It's something you can use against players who bluff too much, and is a way to turn middle strength hands into money-makers.

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  • I think this is a great answer. May I suggest you flip the turn and the river. A bluff is less likely on a blank. With 88 you have a blocker. KQ is another hand villain could be on. – paparazzo Oct 27 '16 at 17:15
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A bluff catcher is a hand that has some value but only enough to beat a bluff. It doesn't have enough value in itself to bet with as no worse hand would call.

When faced with a bet on the river, you may know that your opponent never bets for value with a hand that's worse than you're holding--so it would dumb of you to call, unless your opponent may be bluffing with a worse hand. So that very last part is the key--that your hand has a least some value, like a small pair or sometimes even Ace high--after all, you can't catch a bluff when your hand is 8 high!

There are times where a strong hand in a vacuum, like a straight or three of a kind, is nothing but a bluff catcher. For instance, if you have J9 or Q9 on a TQQKA board with 3 hearts, your opponent shouldn't ever be betting for value with a worse hand. It's conceivable that they are bluffing though with maybe 44 since their hand is worthless now but they know the board could be scary to you. If you have reason to think that's likely enough, your hand would then work as a bluff catcher.

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I encourage other answers. No value in me accepting my own answer.

A bluff catch is a hand you don't think will win the showdown. But if they bluff then is will beat an outright bluff. No sense in calling what you think is a bluff if you cannot beat a bluff.

There is a hand where a pro called with bluff with jack high. Yes he was up against a full house but there but a lot of bluff you could not beat with jack high.

It is also called a hand with showdown value. You want to get to the showdown as cheaply as possible.

Say from the button you call a 3x raise with 78s. Flop comes KQ7 with a flush draw that you do not have a part of. KQ is in your opponents range so you don't want to inflate the pot. Bottom pair might be good and you have 5 outs to improve.

You call a 1/2 pot bet on the flop as you still have 5 outs. And both check the turn

Board finishes KQ75T and does not makes the flush draw

Your opponent bets the 1x the pot on river
You do not put him on a K or Q has he would have bet the turn

So at this point he either has you beat or is bluffing. Any T, A, or J has you beat. If he did not make his hand that is a scary enough board and T is a scare card. That is good spot for the villian to bluff.
Call or not is another decision but you do have a bluff catcher.

If you thing he is bluffing 33% of the time or more you should call. At 33% you are a wash (EV = 0). I would suggest a call if you think it is even as villain has to show first so you get information.

If you are going to call a bluff then be sure you have a bluff catcher. And if you have a bluff catcher then try and keep the pot small.

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    Just to fix your math a bit: you say he bet the pot on the river. You should call if you think the chance of him bluffing is 33% or more, not 50%, since you're getting 2-to-1 on the call. – Lee Daniel Crocker Oct 31 '16 at 17:02
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My rule of thumb is that a bluff catcher is in the area of bottom pair, or a pocket pair below bottom pair.

I would consider playing a bluff catcher if I thought my opponent had nothing - ignoring any made hands on the board - perhaps following a semi-bluff on a missed draw, or when their betting indicates a highly polarized hand range and I have a read on them. The texture of the board would have to be considered as well as the betting patterns of the player and any reads on them.

Ace high can sometimes be a bluff catcher, but your opponent could have an ace as well, so unless you have something like AK it's less effective as a bluff catcher because you'll sometimes get caught by your opponent trying to reverse bluff catch you.

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  • Not worth a reverse bluff catch. You are only gong to call a limited number of bluffs. Be sure you can beat a bluff. – paparazzo Nov 1 '16 at 10:05
  • @Paparazzi Sorry, by reverse bluff catch I mean with a weak ace your opponent might put you on a bluff and beat you with a better kicker. – user1934 Nov 1 '16 at 14:34
  • I know what you mean. – paparazzo Nov 1 '16 at 16:36

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