How to Semi Bluff in Poker
During televised poker games you can often see players making very aggressive plays. Indeed aggression is a key element of Texas Holdem Poker and semi-bluffing is one the most formidable weapon in the arsenal of the aggressive player.
The semi-bluff tactic should be used when betting or raising with a drawing hand, and there are two scenarios: either your opponent folds right away and you win the pot without much effort, or if he calls you have enough outs to potentially hit a big hand and win an even bigger pot later.
For better understanding of the idea of the semi bluff, think about it this way. In case you have both a flush draw and a straight draw, your chances of hitting a draw are 55%. If your opponent does not fold, you have invested 50% in a pot where your expected value is 55%. This is a great play showing that drawing hands are extremely strong and must be played aggressively.
Semi bluffing strategy
The best thing to do for understanding the importance of semi bluffing is to put yourself in the shoes of your opponent, who is trying to read you at the poker table. If he thinks that you only raise with strong hands, he will be able to make good decisions systematically: he will fold unless he has a monster.
But if you also make big bets with semi bluffs, you will have learned a very effective poker strategy. This tactic will force your opponent to make mistakes. He could either call when you have a better hand or fold with the better hand. This means that by being aggressive with semi bluffs you open new opportunities that did not exist with a predictable straightforward style of play.
Spend time developing and testing your semi bluffing skills. You need to make sure that your semi bluffs are believable. Most importantly always bet as if you had a strong hand.
For example, let's say that you call a pre flop raise from the big blind with ATs. You are heads-up post flop with a board QJ2 with two cards of your suit. A transparent player will make a donk bet with such a strong drawing hand. A more subtle approach is to try a check-raise, not too large so as too really look like a strong hand and not a strong attempt to make your opponent fold.
One semi bluff technique consists in making a small check-raise at the flop, such as a min check-raise, in order to induce a call. Then you make a big bet on the turn. This is how a player would play a strong hand. If your opponent does not fold at the turn and depending on the board texture and the river card, you can even attempt a third barrel bluff.
This is a powerful move because all your previous actions support the fact that you have a strong hand. Observant thinking players will fold unless they have a very strong hand. Only the most daring players try that move (and the donks).
The is one of the methods that you can use to manipulate the other players. As you develop your game, you need to learn the characteristics of each player and to act based on this information.
If there is a player who is afraid to call big bets, he is a good candidate for the occasional semi-bluff. If another player is a deep thinker, the three-barrel bluff will work if you have only showed strong hands each time there was a showdown after you bet aggressively.
Use the semi-bluff when you have a draw or a pair at the flop to force your opponent to fold.
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