Someone e-mailed me this question recently, and as I began to compose an answer, it occurred to me that it could make for an interesting blog post:
Recently a friend of mine and I were batting around a question about the pros.
Essentially it came down to this:
“Do pros grinding online make more money from value bets, or from bluffs?”
I don’t want to go any further into our analysis, but I was wondering what you think.
In one sense, the answer is easy: value bets make more money than bluffs. Strong hands make more money than weak ones. It’s pretty rare that I win a guy’s whole stack on a bluff, but I do it all the time with value bets.
The real answer, though, is that your value never comes solely from one or the other. Here’s a simple demonstration:
You hold As Ks on a Qs Ts 8h 4d 2s board. There is $100 in the pot, and $100 left in the effective stacks. You shove, and your opponent calls 50% of the time. So, half the time you win $100, and half the time you win $200, for a final EV of $150.
Somehow, you realize that your opponent is only calling 50% of the time. So, you decide to start shoving 9h 7h as a bluff. Half the time you lose $100, and half the time you lose $100. Break-even play, right?
Except that your opponent catches you in the bluff, and starts calling 75% of the time. Now your EV is $175 when you shove As Ks.
But did that extra EV come from the bluff or the value bet? In fact, they are two sides of the same coin. I would argue that no bet has value in a vacuum. Even your whole range in a given spot can’t really have an EV, since it is dependent on what has happened earlier in the hand and what may happen later in the hand (in the example above, there was $100 already in the pot, which may have gotten there semi-bluffing on earlier streets, but it’s being accounted as EV from a bet now).
Value is a function of your entire strategy. Everything you do, everything you have done, everything you could do and might do and will do in the future. This is why we had so much difficulty trying to enumerate all the potential sources of value in a bet.