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Real Poker: Bluffing The Correct Amount

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Apr 12, 2017

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Players fold different strength hands to differing bet-sizes. With the nuts, they’re never folding. With nothing they’re either raise-bluffing or folding. Sometimes, their hand strength is the only determining factor, not the bet-size. And in poker there is no value in assuming greater risks than you have to in order to accomplish the task at hand.

In a $2-$5 no-limit game, $690 deep, two tight-passive players limped to me and I raised it to $30 on the button with the 5Heart Suit 4Heart Suit. They both folded often to preflop raises, and I thought I might be able to win the pot preflop. Even if I didn’t, against these two particularly passive opponents, a continuation bet bluff would have a high chance of success and a bigger pot preflop wager translates into higher fold expected value (EV) for the continuation bet. Of course, I could still make a hand with my suited connectors, and I held the ever important position. The blinds folded, the first limper, about $550 deep, called me, and the other limper folded. We took the flop heads-up, with about $70 in the pot.

The flop came down the 9Heart Suit 8Diamond Suit 3Heart Suit giving me a small flush draw. Mr. Passive checked to me, and I bet $40 as a semibluff, which he promptly called. I thought his calling range included many draws, a small amount of one-pair hands, possibly 9-8 suited for two-pair or some sets which he was slowplaying.

The turn was the 6Spade Suit. I didn’t put Mr. Passive on any 10-7 or 7-5 combination, so I didn’t think the card improved his hand to a made hand, though it might have strengthened some of his draws. He checked again. I briefly considered betting, but didn’t perceive the value in it. Yeah, there was a small chance he might fold. And while I might win a bigger pot if I made my hand or get value from his whiffed draws if I barreled the river, I would also assume the risk of getting check-raised by his strong value hands and losing more to his value calling range. I decided to assure my equity and knuckled the turn.

By “assure my equity,” I meant that by checking I guaranteed I could get to the river and acquire any equity my hand may contain. Should I get called or check-raised, I might have just charged myself a cost I didn’t need to bear. Worse yet, I may have to fold and forfeit the equity of my hand. All in all, betting the turn was not a good option.

The river came the 3Diamond Suit. Mr. Passive checked to me once more. I didn’t think I could get him to fold any of his pair hands without betting a massive amount. And since they were only a small part of his folding range with missed draws taking up the majority of his folding range, the additional amount I would risk to fold those few extra hands would be great.

That said, he would fold all his draw hands to any reasonable bet. And since I couldn’t beat 7-high, all his drawing range beat my holding. I fired $50 into the around $150 pot, and he insta-mucked.

The hand speaks to analyzing the folding range of your opponent. What portions will fold to what bet-sizing and analyzing how you can make the most profitable play? In this case, while I may have been able to fold more hands with a larger bet-size, most of the hands I would fold would also fold to a smaller bet. Since the pot was smallish, the few additional folding hands in his range he would fold to a large wager didn’t warrant the additional risk when a small bet would fold his drawing/air hands.

When you’re thinking about bluffing, analyze what hands in your opponent’s range you are trying to fold and what bet-size will accomplish the task. Are you trying to fold made hands, or his whiffed draws? What approximate percentage of both his range and folding range contains which? Does the pot size merit a bluff based on a given bet-sizing and the odds of success for folding either or both portions of his folding range?

While you’ll never ascertain complete accuracy, understanding the questions and giving yourself a best guess estimate will improve your bet-sizing bluffing decisions and improve your EV. And improved EV equates to money in your pocket! ♠

Roy CookeRoy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.RoyCooke.com. Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at www.RoyCookePokerlv.com. You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke. Please see ad below!