Calculating the math behind bluffing in Texas Hold’em

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Posted on: July 22, 2020 6:00 pm EDT

It’s important to understand the value of a bluff before making the call

One of the concepts that is popular in Texas Hold’em is bluffing. This is an essential part of a game in which chance can be taken advantage of to make your opponents’ think your hand is way better than it actually is. It sounds simple, but if not done with care – and a little bit of math – bluffing might put you in a complicated situation. Therefore, with a little basic information and a low of extra practice, you can learn how to estimate the correct value of certain bluff plays at the table.

The math behind bluffing can help you understand how often your opponent needs to fold based on the size of your bluff. In order to run a bluff, you need to understand first what the break-even percentage is. It is a mathematical formula that helps you determine the overall expected value (EV) of a possibility in a given hand – it can be 0EV, -EV and +EV. The formula is quite simple; break-even % = Risk / (risk + reward) – the risk is considered the size of the bet; the reward is the size of the pot. With only those two numbers, you can determine the total break-even percentage. Focusing on risk, reward and value are common aspects of playing poker and a certain amount of risk is taken to get a bigger reward.

In an example of a formula, $4 / ($4 + $6.50) = 38%, the final result is the one helping you decide whether to move forward with the bluff or not. If the opponent folds 38% of the time, the bet is breakeven. On the other hand, if he or she folds less than 38% then it is a -EV bet and you should not go for it. However, +EV results are for those who fold more than 38% of the time. If the result is outright +EV, go ahead and take the risk.