Common Mistakes: Bluff-Catching Versus a Range That Contains Zero Bluffs

4 months ago - written by Sean Belton
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In this common mistakes series, we’ll cover some of the most frequently made mistakes by beginner and even intermediate players. We’ll discuss what they are, why they’re so detrimental to your win-rate and, most importantly, how to avoid making them.


This week we’re going to take an in-depth look at the erroneous logic behind calling with a bluff-catcher against a range that doesn’t contain any bluffs. On the surface, this seems obvious; if your opponent isn’t bluffing, you shouldn’t call with a hand that can only beat bluffs. However, this mistake is made surprisingly often in the low to mid-stakes, most likely due to complacency.


Let’s go through a hand that was sent to me recently. While I think both players make a few mistakes throughout the hand, we won’t overly concern ourselves with how it plays down the streets; we just want to focus on the river action:


£1/1 Live Cash Game; £300~ effective stack

Hero is dealt in the cutoff.
Folds to Hero, who raises to £4. BB 3-bets to £14. Hero calls.


Flop (£29)
BB bets £18. Hero calls.


Turn (£65)
BB bets £18. Hero calls.


River (£101)
BB bets £60. Hero raises to £150. BB 3-bets to £260 and is all-in. Hero calls.


Showdown (£621)
BB shows for a full house, tens full of sevens.



I want to start by saying I’m not a huge fan of our river raise in general. While a straight can conceivably be ahead of some parts of our opponent’s range, it’s simply too optimistic to expect enough worse hands to call us to justify raising. Once our opponent has 3-bet the river, they are clearly very strong, which makes our call a massive cause for concern.


At a first glance, it may seem as though the raise is simply too small for us to consider folding, but this isn’t true. Let’s break down BB’s continuing range facing our raise.


What hands can our opponent be bluffing with?


At this point our opponent is simply not 3-betting as a bluff. We don’t have enough money behind for them to think they have any fold equity.


What worse hands can our opponent be value-betting?


We can expect the two-pair combos that our opponent realistically bets on the river, AA and AK, to almost always fold facing a raise.


What about trips? As our opponent has shown up here with T7s, it’s reasonable to assume they can also have JTs, T9s, and T8s in their range. Our opponent may occasionally fold some of the worse trips combos to our river raise but will probably lean towards calling. These are literally the only combinations of hands we are targeting when we raise J9 on the river on this board.


Once our opponent has put in the 3-bet, however, there is zero chance that we are up against one of these hands, as that would mean our opponent has turned trips into a bluff and we have already ruled out bluffing due to a lack of fold equity.


It’s also fair to assume our opponent isn’t jamming with the same hand, because it’s still a little too thin versus our value range, on top of which the only combination of J9 that is likely to barrel the turn is .





Now that we’ve broken down our opponent’s range, we can see that they are not bluffing, and will either fold or call worse value hands. That means the only hands we face a 3-bet from are hands that we lose to.


I think a lot of players will try to reason that they are priced in, since they’ve committed £200 already and it’s only £100 more to win a £500 pot. However, based on simple pot odds, this logic only works if we have the best hand at least 17% of the time. That means our opponent needs to be bluffing or value-betting a worse hand more than one in six times and, since we can now see that this is not the case, we should be able to find a fold here.


In conclusion, this hand has cost us at least 110 big blinds more than was necessary. In fact, we have allowed our opponent to show a profit with a hand that shouldn’t be able to 3-bet the river. If we continue to make mistakes like this with any regularity, then we will simply not be a long-term winning poker player.


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