What is the Real Difference between Value and Bluffs?

Poker Academy
30 Mar 2024
30 Mar 2024

Have you ever heard the common advice for poker beginners "Be sure of whether your bet is for value or for a bluff'"?

This is good advice in terms of having a clear intention in your actions, but I believe that if players who have studied the game take it literally, it could hinder their growth in poker.

This is because betting and raising serve the same purpose, and the terms "value" and "bluff" are simply shortcuts for them.

What is the difference between value bets and bluffs?

Many players categorize all bets in two ways:

  1. Value bets are made with strong hands to encourage opponents to call with weaker hands.
  2. Bluffs are bets made to force your opponents folding with stronger hands.

I'm sure you remember some exceptions, such as bets that can hardly be categorized as value or bluff. This is a misconception in poker.

This article may cause some people to think, "What the heck are talking about?", but it could be a significant revelation for others.

Why are value bets and bluff bets essentially the same?

When asked, "What is a value bet?", what would you answer?

Actually, I don't think there are many people who can accurately answer this question. A common answer is "a bet you make to get a weaker hands to call''.

I don't think this is a wrong explanation for value betting, but let's dig a little bit deeper.

What is a strong hand? When you have nuts on the river and have 100% equity, it's definitely a strong hand. What about 70%? It seems strong. Is 51% a value bet?

What about bluff? Is this a bet to get a stronger hand to fold? So, if you have a hand with 51% equity and you bet and opponent folds, is this a bluff bet?

In reality, you can't see your opponent's hand, so it gets more complicated. And as you can see, the concepts of value and bluff are actually ambiguous.

The essence of poker lies in two fundamental actions: make the pot bigger and make a profit, or make your opponent fold and make a profit.

And it always takes place unless you or the other person is drawing dead.

Let's look at an example here:

Let's say we have a BTN vs BB on board AK6r (a typical polarized spot), a c-bet from BTN of 125% of pot, BB calls, and a 5 of spades falls on the turn.

Let's take a look at AKo. GTO Wizard bets 125% and 75%:

In this case, AKo's equity against the opponent's range is 92.2%, although it varies slightly depending on the hand.

This hand gets a large percentage of profit (EV) from growing the pot. However, the opponent still has 7.8% equity. This bet gives you very little fold equity (BB doesn't fold draws in equilibrium), but your opponent gives up quite a bit of his equity. For example, T6s and J6s (not spades) do fold, but they might get a 6 on the river and win.

So even such an extreme "value bet" diminishes a very small portion of your opponent's equity and therefore can partially be considered a bluff.


What I want to say in this article is that there are both value and bluff elements to betting. In poker, there are only two ways to make a profit: make the pot bigger and make a profit, or make your opponent fold and make a profit. This applies not only to Texas Hold'em, but also to Omaha and Short Deck.

When choosing an action, consider how much equity you have against your opponent's range and how much fold equity you can expect to have by bet and raise depeding on their sizing, and consider how profitable it is against checks and calls.

What I have introduced here is only hand vs. range equity and it does not take frequency into account, so it may seem kind of incorrect from the basic learning method of GTO, which considers things in terms range vs. range. However, I believe that it is an essential element in deeper understanding of poker and becoming a real PRO.

There are no comments here yet, you can be the first!