This is Why They Always Call Your Bluffs (Fix it Now!)

This is Why They Always Call Your Bluffs

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

Bluffing is arguably the most exciting part of poker. There’s nothing that makes you feel more like a pro than pushing your opponent out of a huge pot while holding absolute air.

However, bluffing in the wrong spots can be costly. There’s more to a successful bluff than having the nerves of steel and an unreadable poker face.

If you have a feeling your bluffs always seem to get called, keep reading.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the top 5 reasons they always call your bluffs, and what you can do to prevent it.

TLDR: Before getting into the details, here’s a quick summary of factors that make your bluffing attempts more/less +EV (expected value):

Good Bluffing Factors 

  1. Playing in position 
  2. Having the initiative
  3. Weak, passive opponents
  4. Can credibly rep a strong hand
  5. Tight table image

Bad Bluffing Factors

  1. Playing out of position
  2. No initiative
  3. Strong, aggressive opponents
  4. Can't credibly rep a strong hand
  5. Loose table image

These are a couple of key factors to keep in mind when trying you're trying to bluff. With that out of the way, let's get into more details.

1. You’re Bluffing the Wrong Opponents

The number one reason your opponents always call your bluffs actually doesn’t have to do anything with you. 

Instead, it has to do with your opponents. More specifically, the type of opponents you’re trying to bluff.

The point of bluffing is getting your opponents to fold. By that logic, you shouldn’t try to bluff opponents who don’t like folding. 

No matter how well thought out your bluffing attempt is, it’s not going to work if you try it against opponents who don’t have a fold button.

We’re talking about recreational poker players here, aka the fish. 

As a general rule, you shouldn’t try to bluff recreational poker players, period. If you take only one thing from this article, let it be this.

There are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t try to bluff recreational players.

First of all, recreational poker players play for fun, and folding is not fun. Folding means not playing, and not playing is boring.

This is Why They Always Call Your Bluffs

This is one of the reasons recreational players will keep playing the hand even if it makes very little sense to do so.

The second reason you shouldn’t bluff recreational players is because they love to chase draws. If a fish has some sort of hand equity, they aren’t likely to let it go. 

They’ll keep playing and try to “get lucky” by hitting their miracle river cards, no matter how much it costs them.

This is because poker fish have a very poor grasp of the mathematical side of poker. 

When deciding on whether or not to continue playing with a drawing hand, you need to take the pot odds and the (reverse) implied odds into account. 

Check out my other article on everything you need to know about poker odds for more info on the topic.

Recreational players either don’t know or don’t care about these concepts, and will keep playing their drawing hands because “they missed the last three times, so they’re bound to hit it this time”, or for some other nonsense reason.

Finally, another reason not to bluff the recreational players is because they often base their decisions on their emotions, instead of logic.

Recreational players are prone to tilting, which causes them to make costly mistakes they might not make otherwise.

Tilting is a state of emotional frustration that a player experiences during a game, which leads to a decline in their ability to make rational decisions. Tilt is often triggered by a significant loss, bad beats, or other frustrating experiences that can throw a player off their game.

Nobody is completely immune to tilt, and it’s one of the key reasons most players keep losing at poker over the long run.

Check out my other article on how to deal with poker variance for more info on this topic.

Bottom line: when a recreational player is tilting, trying to bluff them off their hand can often backfire.

A lot of recreational players are under the assumption everyone is out to bluff them all the time. That’s why they often make “hero calls” in hopes of catching a bluff. 

Don’t prove them right. Save your bluffs for players who are actually capable of folding.

Check out Nathan's recent video on how to quickly spot a recreational player at your table.

2. You Are Bluffing Too Much

If you have a feeling your opponents always seem to call your bluffs, the most obvious reason for that might be that you’re simply bluffing too much.

If you have a loose and aggressive table image, your opponents will give less credit to your bets, and they will look you up more frequently.

Your table image is how your opponents perceive you. This doesn’ have to do only with the number of hands you play and how aggressively you play them, but also how you act in general.

Having an aggressive table image is great because it allows you to extract more value out of your strong hands. However, it makes bluffing far less effective.

Most poker players tend to play too passively, so as a general rule, being more aggressive is a great way to improve your results. 

For more info on how to play a loose and aggressive poker style, check out my recent complete guide to playing LAG.

But there’s also too much aggression, and if you have a feeling that your bluffs always get called, it may be wise to dial it back a bit and focus on value betting instead.

If you already have a loose and aggressive table image, dial it back and wait for a strong value hand. 

Once you do get a strong hand, you’ll be much more likely to get paid off than the guy who’s been folding non-stop for hours and suddenly starts blasting off big bets.

Do this a couple of times, and your opponents will have an extremely hard time putting you on a hand.

It’s important to remember that the more you bet and raise, the less fold equity you have.

Fold equity simply refers to the percentage of times you expect your opponent to fold their hand. 

The fold equity depends a great deal on the situation and the type of opponents you’re up against, but it also depends on your table image and the previous history you have with a certain player.

If you’ve been pushing the same opponent out of pots for a while, you’re going to have less and less fold equity against them. 

Conversely, if you have a tight table image, you’re going to have a lot more fold equity.

It’s important to mention that you’re always going to have very poor fold equity against certain player types, namely the recreational players.

Even if you have a very tight table image, bluffing recreational players is still a bad idea, as discussed previously. 

That’s because most recreational players simply don’t pay attention to the meta-game, or much else other than their hole cards.

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3. You Don’t Think About Your Opponent's Range

Another reason your bluffs aren’t working may be because you’re not thinking about your opponent’s ranges. When your opponent’s range is strong, they’re much less likely to fold to your bluff.

For this reason, it’s better to try to bluff against capped ranges than uncapped ranges.

There are theoretically more strong hands in an uncapped range than in the capped range. 

In other words, a capped range has an upper limit of hand strength, whereas an uncapped range has no upper limit of hand strength.

Bluffing Example Hand #1:

For example, if you open-raise preflop and your opponent flat calls, their range is capped, whereas your range is uncapped.

Since your opponent didn’t 3-bet (i.e. re-raise) they aren’t likely to have very strong hands in their range like pocket Aces, pocket Kings, Ace-King and so on (hence a capped range).

Your range, on the other hand, is uncapped, meaning you can theoretically have all of these strong hands in your range. 

Let’s say you are dealt 98 on the BU (button) and you open-raise to 3x. 

Your opponent calls from the BB (big blind).

The flop is: 


Your opponent checks. In this spot, you can try to bluff them out of the pot (i.e. make a light c-bet).

Since you are the preflop aggressor, you are the one that’s perceived to have the strongest hand. 

Your range is uncapped, meaning you can have a number of strong hands in your range that connect well with the flop.

You also have some hand equity to fall back on in case your light c-bet gets called. You have a backdoor straight and a backdoor flush draw.

(A backdoor means you need both the turn and the river card to complete your flush.)

Now, let’s make a slight variation to the hand.

You are dealt 98 again, but this time, you’re in the big blind. The villain open-raises to 3x on the button and you call.

You get the same flop:


You check, and the villain c-bets to 3.5 BB.

If you were to try to bluff with a check-raise, it would be far less likely to work. 

There are a couple of reasons for this. 

First of all, you’re playing out of position, which makes bluffing more difficult.

Secondly, you are bluffing against an uncapped range, whereas your own range is capped. You can’t credibly represent a strong hand like AK, for example, because you would have probably 3-bet it preflop. 

Also, the flop favours your opponent’s perceived range far more than yours. 

Your opponent can easily have a lot of hands that connect well with this flop. What’s more, they are playing in position, so they can realize their equity for cheaper.

Now, this doesn’t mean that check-raising is totally out of the question at all times. But it’s worth noting how different circumstances affect the expected value of your plays.

Bottom line: if you decide to bluff, it’s usually better to do so against capped ranges, because they theoretically have less strong hands, and are therefore more likely to fold.

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4. You’re Using Bad Bet Sizing

If you want to bluff successfully, you need to credibly represent a strong hand. This means you need to use a bet sizing that looks like a value bet.

A lot of players make the mistake of using a certain bet sizing when they’re bluffing, and a different bet sizing when they’re making a value bet. 

This way, you’re giving off your hand strength to opponents who are paying attention to betting patterns.

There are two solutions to this. You can either mix up your bet sizing, or use a balanced bet sizing in all spots, so as to not give off your hand strength.

Let’s talk about mixing up your bet sizing first. Let’s say you’re usually betting smaller amounts when you are bluffing, and bigger when you’re betting for value.

This is Why They Always Call Your Bluffs

You can mix up your bet sizing by doing the opposite from time to time, i.e. bet smaller when you have a strong hand to induce calling, and bet bigger when you’re bluffing to induce folding.

As a general rule, the bigger your bet size, the bigger the fold equity. 

In other words, the bigger the bet, the more likely it is for your opponent to fold.

The downside is that it makes bluffing more costly. If your opponent calls your bluff, you stand to lose more than you would if you used a smaller bet size.

It’s worth noting that changing your bet sizing works only against elastic opponents, and doesn’t work as well against inelastic opponents.

Price elasticity is a term borrowed from economics. Simply put, it means that different bet sizing affects how often a player chooses to continue playing the hand. 

The smaller the bet size, the more often they’ll continue the hand, and the bigger the bet size, the more often they’ll fold.

Inelastic opponents, on the other hand, don’t care about the bet sizing, and will continue playing the hand regardless of the price.

Recreational players tend to be inelastic, while more skilled players are more elastic.

You can use this to your advantage and charge more for your strong value hands against inelastic players. Conversely, you can bluff with a smaller bet size to give yourself a better risk-to-reward ratio.

Of course, as mentioned, you should be very careful when trying to bluff recreational players, because they tend to call a lot.

Another way to conceal your hand strength against more observant players is to use a balanced bet sizing. In other words, you always use the same bet size, regardless of your hand strength.

For example, you always bet a half pot on the flop.

The downside to this tactic is that you may not extract the most value with your strong hands. You’re also getting a worse risk-to-reward ratio in case your bluff gets called.

Bottom line: against inelastic opponents, use exploitative bet sizing (bet more for value, and less for bluffs). Against elastic opponents, mix up your bet sizing or use a balanced bet sizing.

For more info on how to win bigger pots by using exploitative bet sizing, check out my complete guide to optimal postflop bet sizing.

5. You Don't Think Your Bluffs Through

The key to a successful bluff is telling a believable story. When you’re bluffing, you’re trying to represent a strong hand. If you can’t represent a strong hand, you shouldn’t bluff.

Thinking that your opponent has a weak hand is not enough to pull off a successful bluff.

Even if your opponent does have a weak hand, they still may try to bluff catch against you if they suspect you’re full of it.

If you just decide to randomly bluff in the middle of the hand, your opponent may figure out something doesn’t add up.

So how do you figure out if you can credibly represent a strong hand? 

You play the hand back in reverse in your hand, and figure out if you would play the same way if you actually did have a strong value hand.

For example, if you were the preflop aggressor, you c-bet the flop, c-bet the turn. Now you’re considering pulling off a huge bluff on the river with a third shell.

You can credibly represent a strong hand, because your actions displayed strength throughout the hand.

Even more so if the board favours your perceived range.

Firing a third shell on the river is called triple barrelling, or triple barrel bluffing in this scenario.

Now, let’s consider a slightly different scenario.

You raise preflop, c-bet the flop, check the turn, then bet on the river as a bluff.

Your bluff could still work, but your opponent might wonder why you missed the turn c-bet, and decide to look you up.

In other words, your story is less congruent than in the first scenario.

Of course, you can sometimes skip a round of betting in order to conceal your hand strength. In that case, checking instead of betting can have a certain “deception value” that can allow you to extract more money later on in the hand.

This is discussed in more detail The Microstakes Playbook.

Important note: if you’re playing against recreational players, it’s better to just play your hand straightforwardly. 

Chances are, your attempts at deception will just go right over their head, and missing a round of betting will just result in leaving money at the table.

Against more skilled opponents, you can go for deceptive lines like slowplaying to keep them guessing. 

Check out Nathan's recent video for more bluffing tips.

This is Why They Always Call Your Bluffs - Summary

Knowing when (and when not) to bluff is an essential part of a successful advanced poker strategy. If you have a feeling your opponents always seem to call your bluff, it probably comes down to these 5 reasons:

1. You’re bluffing the wrong opponents

As a general rule, you shouldn’t try to bluff recreational players due to their tendency to overcall in most situations. 

You can only bluff successfully if your opponents are actually capable of folding, which is often not the case with recreational players.

2. You’re bluffing too much

Having an aggressive table image is great, but there’s such a thing as too much aggression. The more often you bluff, the less fold equity you have. 

If your opponents are always calling your bluffs, switch gears and wait for a strong value hand to bet heavily with.

3. You don’t think about your opponents range

Your opponent is more likely to fold if they have a weak hand, so think about how their range connects with the board. 

As a general rule, it’s better to bluff against capped ranges, because they theoretically have less strong hands, and are therefore more likely to fold to a bluff.

4. You’re using bad bet sizing

If you always use a certain bet size when you’re value betting, and another bet size when you’re bluffing, you’re giving off tells to opponents who are paying attention to betting patterns.

If you want your bluff to be believable, use a bet sizing that you would use if you had a strong value hand. You can use balanced bet sizing or mix up your bet sizing to always keep your opponents guessing.

5. You don’t think through your bluffs

In order for your bluff to work, it needs to tell a believable story. If you can’t credibly represent a strong hand, you’re better off refraining from bluffing altogether.

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This is Why They Always Call Your Bluffs