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Holdem Essentials – The Semi-Bluff

Holdem Essentials – The Semi-Bluff

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The semi-bluff is essentially God’s gift to the beginner trying to cope with those darn straight and flush draws that always seem to suck so many chips out of his stack on account of the fact that he can’t get away from them and that they seem to seldom fill up. Yes indeed, for a beginner, playing such draws can be extremely tricky. It seems like opponents always make him push a bunch of chips into the middle whenever his draw fails to get there, and they get out almost immediately whenever he manages to make a hand.

The answer to all these woes is the semi-bluff. The semi bluff gives players a smart way out of the above said predicament, by offering them two ways to take down the pot: by forcing their opponents to fold or by filling up the draw and taking it down at showdown. The semi-bluff basically introduces added equity for the bluffer in the shape of fold equity.

What exactly is the semi-bluff though? The semi bluff is a bet or a raise fired out on a drawing hand. The reason why it’s not a proper bluff is that the player isn’t firing out those chips with air, he actually has a hand that can potentially turn into a monster.

As every other more or less subtle move, the semi-bluff is best pulled off from position. The advantages offered by the semi-bluff are numerous. In addition to the added fold equity discussed above, the semi bluff will get more chips into the pot even when called, which means that if the semi-bluffer does manage to fill up his draw, he will take down a much bigger pot than he would take down otherwise. The semi bluff also has a balancing effect on raising and betting ranges. It will mix up the semi-bluffer’s play and make it harder for his opponents to put him on a correct range, which is a great added benefit indeed.

Now then, does this mean you should semi-bluff every time the flop hits you with a draw? Not really. Draws on the flop are relatively frequent and abusing them through semi-bluffing every time will make one predictable and thus vulnerable too. Semi-bluffs have to be positioned and timed well, and the equities involved have to be worthwhile too. The pot equity is about the amount of money in the pot and the actual strength of the player’s hand. If there’s a pot with $100 in it, and our player is semi-bluffing with a flush draw, he’s looking at a $35 pot equity. Obviously, the better the pot equity is, the riper the situation becomes for a semi-bluff.

The fold equity is about the amount of money one stands to win if he manages to force his opponent to fold, without filling his flush. The bottom line is that the bigger these two equities are, the more one stands to profit off his successful semi-bluffs. Other factors one needs to pay attention to is the texture of the board and the type of opponent one is aiming to bluff against. Most importantly: one should always remember that the primary goal of a semi-bluff is to force an opponent to fold. Everything else is plan B, so unless you think your bluff stands a good chance of achieving its primary objective, don’t resort to semi-bluffing.

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