It seems like every no-limit hold’em cash game or tournament on television has a few spots shown where one player makes a large all-in semi-bluff. There is a lot of flash to going all-in with only a draw, and it makes it very difficult for your opponents sometimes if they know you could be making the same play with a big hand like a flopped set or two pair. A lot of players try to emulate the professionals they see going all-in on television by trying to make the same plays in their home games or in small stakes games on the Internet, and often these players seem frustrated when they get called down by the types of hands that normally fold on television. These mishaps can usually be avoided by understanding the advanced concepts in poker math that tell us the value of semi-bluffing all-in in certain spots. Here we’re going to look at one way to estimate if a semi-bluff will be profitable based off of some advanced mathematical ideas.

When you make a bet that’s an all-in semi-bluff, there are a number of variables that come into consideration. There’s the pot size, the size of your all-in, how often you expect your opponent to fold, and how much equity you expect to have against his range of hands that actually call your all-in. Working with four variables in your head and keeping everything accurate can be extremely difficult, and here I’m going to show a proven method to make these types of decisions much easier in heads-up spots.

The first part of the calculation is to find what portion of the final pot you expect to get back on average when your opponent calls your all-in. You do this by taking the same percentage of the final pot as your percent equity in the pot the times your opponent calls. You’ll never know your exact equity because you can never know your opponent’s exact calling range, but a good estimation is fine for our purposes. So for example, suppose you’re shoving \$100 into a pot of \$100 and you expect to have about 20% equity when your opponent calls. Then the final pot will be \$300 if your opponent has your stack covered, and you’ll get back 20% of that which is \$60.