call bluff


call someone’s bluff


  • to challenge to prove one’s claim, when they are likely attempting to deceive
  • to challenge someone to follow through on a threat, on the assumption that the threat was idle
  • to demand proof for a statement, with the intention of showing that the statement in question was false
  • to expose somebody’s deception, invite a showdown or argument

In poker or brag, make an opponent show their hand in order to reveal that its value is weaker than their heavy betting suggests.

Example Sentences

  1. When the employee threatened to quit if he was not given a pay rise, the boss called his bluff.
  2. David claimed he could run faster than me, but when I called his bluff, he suddenly remembered he had a meeting.
  3. “I don’t know why he still keeps boasting. I’ve been calling his bluff for weeks now!”
  4. Some opposition parliamentarians kept threatening to resign on the issue, and eventually, the Prime Minister of India decided it was time to call their bluff.
  5. Do not ask for an increment in times of recession. Otherwise, the company may call your bluff.
  6. James was tempted to call her bluff, hardly believing she’d carry out her threat.
  7. I told my friends that I could swim, but it was not true. And I was scared when Evan called my bluff and asked me to swim.


This idiom comes from poker. In poker, players bet on who has the best hand. In relation to poker, Bluffing involves betting on a hand that one does not believe to be the best, in the hopes that an opponent who has a better hand folds or withdraws from the game. Calling relates to matching a bet with an equivalent amount.

A poker player who wishes to call a bluff would bet an equal amount to the bluffing player. When the cards are revealed, the player with the best hand wins the entire pot (all the money put up by the players so far).

The term, just like poker, is American in origin and dates back to the 1800s. By the late nineteenth century, its use had made its way to the idiomatic nature we see today. “Where shall we be when that bluff is called” was an entry in the Congressional Record in March 1896, which indicates that the idiom was in use by this time.

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