Semi-bluff is an essential tool that every player must have in their kit, at all levels of the game. In this article, we’ll take a look at exactly what it means to semi-bluff, as well as figure out which draws you should use.
What Exactly Is a Semi-Bluff?
Let’s kick things off with a quick definition. If you know that your hand is behind in terms of equity, but you bet or raise as if you were ahead, that’s bluffing. But if your hand is one that can dramatically improve later in the hand, you still have a chance to win.
So, whenever you’re betting with a draw, you’re not completely bluffing. You are said to be “semi-bluffing”. You know you’re not ahead yet, but you could still get there.
Semi-Bluff vs an Outright Bluff
The exact strength of draw required to be classed as a semi-bluff is debatable. But we can confidently say that betting with a flush or straight draw is semi-bluffing.
If you’re betting three of a kind, you’re never really drawing to a full house; it is more towards value betting. If you only have a pair, you can’t really claim to be drawing to two pairs. So, this is more likely to be in “bluff” territory.
The advantages of semi-bluffing are pretty clear and you simply must build it into your game.
- Equity denial. You can make a better hand fold;
- Gaining position. By taking the initiative in the hand, people will likely check to you next time, making life easier;
- Disguising hands. It’s always good to remain unpredictable at the poker table.
So What Makes a Good Semi-Bluff?
Assuming we’re on the flop, we should be looking to bet any hand with no real showdown value. Some of these will be total bluffs, of course. But others will be hands with little to no showdown value, which could still improve to be very strong.
The specific board texture will determine what we mean by “strong”. However, as a general rule, you should be looking to semi-bluff with:
- Open-ended straight draws
- Bigger flush draws
- Combo draws (straight and flush draws)
Avoid semi-bluffing with small flush draws and gutshots because they don’t have a great deal of equity. You’d rather be betting with those hands than outright bluffs, of course. But the idea is to have a draw with a good chance of hitting and that will almost certainly win if made.
If we’re faced with an action flop, it’s generally a good idea to fire a c-bet with any draw.
Check back if it’s a draw to the nuts, such as an ace-high flush draw. You’ll want to take a free shot at making that hand. You can also justify checking back with the lowest of gutshots. Basically, you can safely semi-bluff pretty much any other draw in this spot.
On a very dry board, there simply won’t be many draws. That’s the definition of a dry flop, after all. So, any gutshots and backdoor draws are good semi-bluffing hands. Otherwise, you’ll need to find other unmade hands to bluff with if you’re looking to balance your range.
Out Of Position
When we’re out of position, we should be checking a lot more often, especially if up against a call from a tight player. A good strategy that’s easy to implement in such a spot is to simply check every time. Then, you can check-raise with combo draws and the nut flush draw while check-calling every other draw.
On a dry board, there will be very few hands to work with. You are obviously going to bet your value hands anyway and check when you’ve missed completely. So the most likely candidate for a semi-bluff is something like a suited unmade hand.
For instance, let’s say the board is A(Heart)-8(Club)-3(Spade). Here, a hand like T(Club)-9(Club) works as a semi-bluff. You could backdoor a flush, straight, or even trips to pick up the pot later on.
Consider Your Opponents
As with most spots in poker, you’ll need to factor in the tendencies of the other players when choosing to semi-bluff.
Remember that one of the main reasons for bluffing is to get your opponents out of the pot. So if you know someone is always going to call, there’s not a lot of point in betting. After all, you would have a hand with little showdown value that now has no fold equity either.
Semi-bluffing is a must at the poker table, but choosing the right draws can be difficult. As a general rule, we should be looking for draws that are more likely to complete. And naturally, they should almost certainly win the pot if they do. But our relative position also plays a big part in the decision-making process.
Now that you understand what semi-bluffing is and how to do so naturally, why not sign up for a free account with Natural8 today and start practicing?
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