Poker Tips: How to act when caught bluffing

There’s an old poker axiom that says if you never get caught bluffing, then you’re just not bluffing enough. A corollary to that might be if you keep getting caught trying to bluff, then you must be doing it too often. Either way you look at it, there’s no getting away from the fact that anytime you bluff at a pot, you must take the risk of being called and having your poker lie uncovered. In this Poker-Tip we will answer the question how to behave right when caught bluffing.
Beim Bluffen Erwischt Pokerface

Getting caught bluffing is a critical situation

For many players, that’s a big part of what makes bluffing so much fun — that thrill of taking that chance in order to buy a pot without the best cards. Of course whenever you get caught in a bluff, that’s the not-so-fun part. Some players actually get embarrassed when they are nailed in a bluff attempt. But unless it was a particularly stupid attempt, there is never any reason to feel bad for trying to bluff in a poker game. The question then becomes: How do you respond when you do get caught?

In the immediate sense, suppose you bluff at another player and he comes over the top of you? Now what? A kind of fight-or-flight response sets in and you are faced with a decision. Do you just fold and just let him have the pot (essentially admitting that you were on a bluff) or do you try to re-bluff him by raising yet again? The short answer to this is that unless you are very good, and know this opponent very well, it’s usually better to fold and wait for a better spot to try and get your money back.

Beyond that, what you do get caught trying to bluff another player, then that’s probably a good time to switch gears and tighten up your game a bit. Being caught in a bluff loosens your table image significantly. Even against the most brain-dead fishy players — they might not notice much in the game, but they will remember when another player bluffs them (or tries to). It makes a big impression. And the one undeniable benefit of getting caught in a bluff is the “advertising” value it brings. In short, you’ll get called down more afterwards.

Betting and Raising for Value

Almost universally, poker players hate to get bluffed out of a pot, so now that your opponents have seen you try to bluff at them once, don’t be surprised if some of them start playing “sheriff,” calling down your bets with just about anything. So exploit the situation by betting and raising for value more. And recognize that — at least for awhile — it will be difficult for you to bluff at these players successfully.

Trying to get caught deliberately can make sense

The value of advertising is such that some players will deliberately try to get caught bluffing at the very beginning of a poker session, just to induce all those extra calls later on their strong hands. This ploy can be especially profitable when used against opponents who already call too much, as it coaxes them into making even more loose calls. But there’s a caveat. This tactic, if it’s used at all, should be reserved for tighter games full of reasonable players. In the loose, lower-limit games teeming with calling stations, it’s pretty useless (for that matter, bluffing itself is generally futile in these games).

Even in a tighter game, this strategy can easily be overused. For one thing, there’s no guarantee that you will get any great hands to get paid off on during this session. And by pulling that “please catch me stealing so you can see what a loose aggressive player I am” stunt at the start of the game, you’ve severely compromised your ability to buy any pots later with your lesser hands. Never forget that the main purpose of bluffing is to win the pot. Advertising when you get caught is a side benefit, a way to make the most of a bad situation during those inevitable times when your bluff doesn’t work.

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