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Real Poker: Bluffing With Equity

by Roy Cooke |  Published: May 10, 2017

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Many poker columnists and authors state you should quantify the value of your bluffs in “immediate fold equity.” For example, if you bet half-pot as a bluff, you need your opponent to fold 33 percent of the time or greater to have positive immediate fold equity. Make a pot-sized bet and your opponent needs to fold 50 percent of the time in order for you to have positive EV (expected value) immediate fold equity. Thinking solely in such terms, take your opponent’s range, their propensity to fold, quantify the odds, and choose to bluff or not.

But that equation isn’t conceptually correct! There is another significant factor seldom discussed in depth. How will your hand play should it be called? If you’re getting called better than 50 percent of the time, the volume of possible scenarios makes the equity of your hand in that scenario highly important.

Say, in position, you open-raise to $20 in a $2-$5 no-limit game and get called by the big blind. You’re heads-up on a board of ASpade Suit 8Heart Suit 4Club Suit, and he checks to you. You have the KDiamond Suit 9Diamond Suit and continuation bet $20 in the hopes of picking up the pot right there. Should your opponent have an ace and call, your showdown wins are limited to some variation of two kings and nines coming. Therefore, the equity of your bet is almost exclusively limited to your immediate fold equity.

Now, let’s change your hand to the 7Spade Suit 5Spade Suit in the identical situation. Once again, you continuation bet $20 on the same flop. Let’s say your opponent calls you 50 percent of the time. In this scenario, you will make the nuts on the turn about 8 percent of the time he calls. And if he checks the turn, which he’s likely to do, it’s 16 percent by the river. Not only does the additional gut-shot win you the pot added times when you’re called, but you should also be able to extract extra value from your opponent’s future calls. Furthermore, you might pick up a spade draw on the turn and possibly set up a potential +EV double barrel wager. Adding the flush wins equity can easily tip a non-profitable double barreling bluffing situation into a profitable one.

Against some fold-heavy opponents, it’s +EV to continuation bet both hands, though, all else being equal, the 7Spade Suit 5Spade Suit holding was always going to be a higher +EV wager. However, if the situation is marginal and/or you want to balance your range against the current opponent, betting the 7Spade Suit 5Spade Suit and checking the KDiamond Suit 9Diamond Suit is probably a better play.

All that said, when analyzing whether bluffing will be +EV, don’t just think about your opponents’ calling/folding ranges and the odds that he will call, but also think about any additional value the hand may possess should you be called. The greater the additional value, the higher propensity you should fire the bluff. So, when pondering whether to bluff or not, don’t just think in terms of immediate fold equity, add the equity of your hand into the equation also.

And you’ll find way more profitable bluffing situations! ♠

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!