Semi-Bluffing Is A Profitable Poker Move.
Here We Look At Both The Basics And Some Advanced Concepts.
Semi-Bluffing in poker tournament play describes a situation where you are raising (or even re-raising) with a hand that may not currently be the best, but has chances to improve. The classic example is a drawing hand – that is 4 cards to a flush or a straight.
The reason that semi-bluffing works is that you have 2 ways to win the hand. You can either win immediately (if your opponent folds) or you can improve your hand and win a showdown. The combination of these two factors mean that you show a profit over time on such raises – whatever the outcome of the current hand.
Factors Which Affect Your Semi-Bluffing Success Rate
There are several factors which affect whether your semi-bluff will be successful, and indeed whether you should make this move at all. These include:
- How obvious your draw is to your opponents, for example if you hold the ace of clubs and the flop comes with 3 clubs your observant opponents may realize that a flush draw is a strong possibility. In this case they are less likely to ‘pay you off’ if a 4th club comes.
- Your bet sizing. You need to bet enough so that your opponent can consider folding, otherwise you are not semi-bluffing at all – you are building a bigger pot in the hope that you make your hand. Exact bet sizes will vary with different opponents and stack sizes but be aware that a small raise loses the ‘bluff’ aspect of the play.
- Your Opponent(s) Tendencies . Some players will never fold once involved in a pot! These types are known as ‘calling stations’ and are not good candidates to semi-bluff against. Remember that you need 2 ways to win to make this a profitable move!
- Your Position at the table. If you are last to act after the flop and your opponent checks to you then you have the opportunity to take a ‘free-card’ which might make your flush or straight. Balance your play here by sometimes raising as a semi-bluff and sometimes checking – you’ll be difficult for your opponents to read and can thus profit over time from this.
Semi-Bluffing Poker Guide - Moving Beyond The Basics
Once you have mastered the basics of semi-bluffing you will be ready to include some advanced factors into your game. These focus on a key factor in No Limit Texas Holdem Tournament Poker – implied odds. This describes your potential profit from making your hand at the same time as your opponent makes a hand strong enough to play a big pot with. An example of this is that you make a straight at the same time as your opponent makes top 2-pairs… there are likely to be fireworks!
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The first advanced semi-bluffing concept is that you should be more inclined to check and take a free card when an over-card to the flop will make your draw. For example you are drawing to the nut flush (highest possible flush). If the flop is all low cards then a picture card of your suit will make your hand. In this case your opponent may make a strong hand at the same time as you complete your draw - by pairig the picture card. In this case your implied odds are very high. Giving a free card early in the hand could enable you to win your opponents entire stack!
Secondly you should be more inclined to semi-bluff if your draw is not to the best possible hand. A good example here is that you are drawing to a straight when the flop shows a pair. Here the ‘bluff’ side of the semi-bluff becomes more important – since giving a free card may make your opponent a stronger hand than the one you are drawing to. When not drawing to the best possible hand your semi-bluff raise can provide you with valuable information. If your opponent sets you all-in then you can fold your draw safe in the knowledge you are behind and move on to the next hand.
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