All poker players, good and bad, bluff. The good players know when they can bluff and when they shouldn’t. Bad players usually bluff without rhyme or reason.
Every once in a while a situation comes along where a bluff is not only desired, but is almost mandatory. Semi-bluff opportunities are one of those situations. This article focuses on teaching you how to steal an insane amount of money using semi-bluffs.
Tip! Practice makes perfect. Try your semi-bluffing strategy while using free bankroll dollars, and you can increase your skill without decreasing your own money supply.
What Is a Semi-Bluff
Semi-bluffing is bluffing with the worst hand when it has a good chance of improving on later streets. Draws create some of the best semi-bluffing opportunities. It’s highly unlikely that your hand is ahead now, but you have a few ways of winning if you raise.
First, your opponent could fold and you could take the pot down right away. Second, your opponent may fold to a continuation bet on the turn. It’ll be hard for your opponent to continue without a very strong hand when you raise the flop and bet the turn. And finally, your draw could hit giving you the best hand.
When to Semi-Bluff
There are all kinds of situations where you can semi-bluff. For example, semi-bluffing the flop works well when you’re out of position against a pre-flop raiser. The standard move is to check/raise when the pre-flop raiser makes a continuation bet. You’ll win the hand a large percentage of the time when the board is dry (ex. J52 with two hearts and you have the flush draw) and you have a solid chance of improving if your raise is called.
When you’re in position, you can use semi-bluffs to apply a lot of pressure to your opponent. Here’s an example:
A loose-passive player limps in early position and you raise to isolate with AT of hearts. The flop comes J52 with two hearts. Your opponent checks and you bet and your opponent calls. A lot of opponents, not just loose-passive ones, will peel a card on a flop like J52 so the check/call doesn’t necessarily indicate strength.
The turn is an off suit 9 and your opponent checks again. What do you do?
This is a great spot to make a 3/4 pot bet as a semi-bluff. There’s a good chance your opponent will give up middle pocket pairs and weak jacks when you barrel twice on a dry board and if your opponent calls again, any heart on the river gives you the nut flush and your Ace and Ten outs might be good as well.
When Not to Semi-Bluff
There are times, however, when semi-bluffing isn’t your best option. It’s generally bad to semi-bluff when it’s likely that your opponent has a strong hand and opening or re-opening the action could cause your opponent to raise you off a hand where you have great implied odds.
For example; a tight, inexperienced opponent with a 150 big blind stack raises from early position and you call on the button with T9 suited. The flop is K87 rainbow. Your opponent bets the pot into you. What do you do?
Your opponent could have AK or AA. Maybe he has QQ or JJ and wants to know if it’s good. If you raise, you’re opponent could move all-in and you’d be forced to give up the hand. Calling is a better option.
When you call, your opponent will check his marginal hands and you can semi-bluff the turn without risking the all-in shove that could have happened on the flop. If you’re opponent bets big again, you know he has a big hand and you can safely fold.
The real money comes from the times your opponent bets big when a Jack or a 6 hits the turn. Inexperienced players have a hard time getting away from top pair/top kicker or overpair hands and there’s a good chance you’ll stack him.
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Semi-bluffing is a strong move, but don’t use it blindly. Analyze the situation to see if your semi-bluff has a high chance of succeeding or if another option will make you more money.