This article walks you through the theory of bluffing and semi-bluffing in 6+ Hold’em.
You will learn the math behind it and get a calculator on Google Sheets, which can be used to figure out if your preflop limp/shove is good or if your check/shove on the flop is likely profitable. You don’t have to know the math in every situation to be good at poker, but it can be useful for making your own tools and it can give you some deeper understanding and confidence in your plays, e.g. semi bluffs.
We will give you a grid showing the required fold % you need to break even with a jam of a certain size when you have x % equity when called.
At the end of the article I have made an example. Skip to the bottom if you don’t like math!
Let’s start with the basics.
For this example we assume that you are on the river and betting with 0% equity, so a total bluff. You bet 100$ into a pot of 100$ you will have to win 50% of the time to break even. Required fold equity for break-even bet: Bet / (pot + bet) = 100$ / (100$ + 100$) = 0.5 = 50%.
Fold equity is your share of the pot based on how often villain is folding. So if villain in this river example is folding 75% of the time your equity is 0.75*(100$ + 100$) – 100$ = 50$.
The formula is: Fold % * (pot + bet) – bet.
In this river example you would win an average of 50$ every time you bet. Very profitable.
However, this example is assuming you have no equity when called. In many situations, e.g on flop or turn you will have equity versus villains calling range so you will win when he is folding and you will win the total pot sometimes when he is calling you.
Formula for calculating your total equity:
(F% * FEpot) + (C% * W% * Total pot) – Bet
Formula for calculating required fold equity for break even bet:
1 – 100 / (FEpot – Total pot * W%)
F% = How often villain is folding. If you think he will fold 40%, then use 0,4 in the formula.
R% = Villains raise %. E.g villain jam vs your bet 20% of the time and you fold, put 0,2 as R%.
If you jam 80a into 100a pot with a gutshot to the nuts on the turn we normally have roughly 15% of hitting on the river. Without this equity you would need villain to fold 80 / 180 = 44% of the time.
Since you have 15% equity when called we only need: 1 – 100/(180 – 260 * 0,15) = 0,29 = 29% folds to make it profitable.
At the bottom of the article there is a Google Sheet for calculating spots like this.
For example if Villain ISO pre and c-bet 12a into a 24a pot and you have 90a left.
Flop is: A♣ 7♠ 6♦
How much fold equity do you really need to check-jam 88 profitably?
To figure this out we need to assume villains c-bet range and how much he is calling with vs. your jam.
19% range. Weaker colors are weighted down.
If we plot these ranges into the GTO+ solver and give it 50% c-bet size, it suggests 100% c-bet frequency and it calls off any Ax to a jam. However, this is not a GTO tutorial, so we will not use the solver more than this.
Versus villains calling range we have about 35% equity. Villains calling range (all Ax combos + QQ) makes up about 50% of his c-bet range. We can plot this information into the calculator in the google sheets and it shows us that our total equity of this move is 25%, which means 0.25 * 24 = 6 chips +EV in a vacuum:
Even if villain only folds 35% to your jam due to a tighter c-bet range we will profit 9% from this move.
This is how the grid/sheet looks like:
This grid should be studied to gain a better feeling for how powerful semi bluffing can be. You can jam 2x pot with a gutshot (25% equity) on flop and profit if villain is folding 43% of the time. One must be mindful before applying this because there are scenarios where villains range is very nutted and your gutshot will not have 25% equity when called or that you have less than the required fold equity versus their range.
To do your own semi-bluffing calculations open the sheet below and make a copy.
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