Poker

How to construct a value/bluff range


We all hear that balance is important but what does that look like in practice? Dara O’Kearney shows us how he constructs his ranges.

Dara O Kearney
Dara O’Kearney 

We want to achieve a balance of bluffs and value when we bet to avoid being exploited. If we bluff too much then our opponent can exploit us by bluff catching wider and/or bluff raising us. If we only value bet when we have a strong hand our opponent can exploit us by getting away cheaply when we bet and pouncing on us when we check. 

Your bluff/value ratio is determined by the size of the bet you make. When you bet pot you give your opponent 2-1 odds, so the optimal ratio here is value betting 66% of the time and bluffing 33% of the time. If you bet half pot you give them 3-1, so 75% of the time you need the goods and 25% of the time you need a bluff. 

The bigger the bet size, the more bluffs you need in your range. 

When you construct a bluff/value range it is better if you start with your value hands then work backwards. Here is an example from a recent hand I reviewed in PIOsolver on a J 7 5flop. 

Dara O Kearney

We can keep a few hands like J5s and J7s here to slow play because they do not worry about getting outdrawn much. Likewise hands like 53o win more than half the time but make better check/calls because this allows our opponent to bluff. 89s and 89o also make better check/calls because we have a double gutter and would hate to throw it away if we got reraised. 

These are the hands the solver suggests we bet:

Dara O Kearney

If you bet pot here you need 2 value hands for every 1 bluff. Here we start from the highest equity hands we have, so KJo/JTo/J9s. They all have 70% or more equity. 

Onto the bluffs, our ideal bluffs here are hands like 84s. It only has 29% equity so if we bet and get reraised we can comfortably muck our hand. If we hit the 6 we are delighted at hitting a disguised monster. If we have 84s of diamonds, clubs or hearts we can also pick up a flush draw on the turn and bet again for another natural bluff. We can make a flush by the river.

This is one of the important lessons you learn from the solvers, they essentially work backwards by picking hands to bluff with that make very strong hands by the river. If you look at all the hands that bluff above, they are all essentially semi bluffs. Hands like K9s and QTs can all pick up a bigger draw on the turn (or better top pair) and potentially hit a monster by the river. 

You don’t have to be perfectly balanced on every street except for the river. This is because the river is the only street where you can have 0 equity, which is not true on earlier streets, even if you have a weak holding it can improve to something that beats part of your opponent’s range. 

Bluffing with hands that have some sort of draw and/or backdoor equity does the double whammy. It allows you to take down more pots uncontested and also find yourself on the river with a very strong hand. 

If you want more insight like this, Dara has a regular newsletter where he gives free tips like this all the time. 

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