Bluff catching is one of the more difficult skills to apply correctly in NL cash games. You only have a certain amount of information and it’s easy to fill in the gaps incorrectly if you are being overly positive or pessimistic. In particular, it is difficult to fold a hand that has good absolute strength especially if you haven’t been winning many pots. Here are some guidelines to bluff catching the river correctly.
1) We need to believe that our opponent is turning part of their range for reaching the river into a bluff. If their range is mostly made hands, then it is usually correct to fold because they would check behind the hands that you beat and only bet hands that beat you. This is frequently the case if your opponent has called multiple bets on a dry board.
2) It needs to be reasonable for your opponent to believe that given the action so far in the hand, you are going to fold part of your range. If the board texture remains the same on the flop, turn and river, then it is less likely that your opponent believes that you will fold your hand.
3) The bigger your opponent bets, the more polarized their range is. If they are betting for thin value, it is more likely that they will bet a small amount to ensure that you don’t fold the hands that they beat. If they are betting big they are trying to get you to fold or call with a good hand that they beat. If it is unlikely that given the action they have the hand they are representing, then bluff catching is more appealing.
4) Is our range capped? If our range includes several nutted hands in it, it is less likely that our opponent is going to be bluffing. Sometimes our opponents will take advantage of us when we have a capped range by value betting us more thinly, so watch out.
Remember that bluff catching is not one of the ways we are going to make a lot of money in NLHE versus competent opponents, but it can be one of the ways we leak money. Often you will be faced with situations where your opponent definitely has value hands in their range and an unknown amount of bluffs. In these situations it is important to be realistic about the actual bluffing frequency our opponent is going to have. Have the courage to fold.