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Mastering the Semi-Bluff

We’ve already covered why aggression is so valuable and how bluffing is a cornerstone of this strategy. Now, let’s take it one step further.

The semi-bluff is a valuable weapon in a poker player’s arsenal. By finding spots to make profitable semi-bluffs and having the nerve to bet them, we can persuade quite a few chips to come our way.

Let’s master the semi-bluff.

What’s a Semi-Bluff?

A semi-bluff involves betting or raising with a drawing hand. If, for instance, we hold two hearts, and the flop brings two more hearts and a spade, then we can semi-bluff the flop.

Basically, a semi-bluff differs from a pure bluff because we still have equity. There’s a solid chance that the turn or river brings a heart, giving us the best hand.

The Rationale Behind Semi-Bluffs

Semi-bluffs are valuable for three main reasons.

First, just like any other bluff, we might just win the pot here and now. This is called fold equity.

Second, we might improve to the best hand. Since we have actual equity in addition to fold equity, we can combine these two equities to get the required odds to make a profitable bet.

Third, we can disguise our hand. If we make a big bet on a wet board, then our opponents will probably think that we have a strong made hand. They might assume that we’re trying to push out the other drawing hands.

If they do call, however, then they probably already have a made hand like two pair or trips. When we do occasionally hit our draw on the turn on flush, then they generally won’t give us credit for it because we bet before we had it. They’ll think, “Oh, their hand didn’t really improve with this card, which means I’m still winning this pot.”

This opens the door for maximum value. They’ll keep calling our bets, thinking they have us beat, and then we can deliver the bad news at showdown.

Though there are times to make a pure bluff, such as with a busted draw on the river, we generally prefer to make semi-bluffs because they give us outs and improve our overall equity share.

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