The semi-bluff is one of my favourite moves in online poker because it can be used in a massive range of circumstances and boards.
The difference between a semi-bluff and a pure bluff is that with a semi-bluff you still have some “outs” in case you get called by your opponent. Whilst the aim of a semi-bluff is to coerce your opponent into folding, you can also earn implied odds and other advantages from your opponent calling your semi-bluff. In other words, a semi-bluff can be +EV regardless of how your opponent reacts afterwards.
Which Hands Should You Semi-Bluff?
The beauty of the semi-bluff is that you can bet a range of hands across different board textures over and over again without getting caught.
Because a semi-bluff requires you to have some equity in the pot (20%+ is a recommended amount) the most common hands that regulars semi-bluff with include combo-draws, flush draws, over cards, middle pairs and bottom pairs. All of these hands have plenty of “outs” which will allow you to win the pot outright should you get lucky in later streets.
A typical example of when you might semi-bluff an opponent is when you have AQ on a 7-10-3 board or QJ on a 10-K-3 board. In both of these cases you have a lot of equity in the pot with one or more overcards, a straight draw or an Ace high. You don’t have the best possible hand but even if your opponent has connected strongly enough on the flop to call you bet you still have plenty of chances to improve your hand and win by show down.
Advantages of Semi-Bluffing
The semi-bluff has numerous advantages that will serve to increase the number of chips that you win in online poker to build a poker bankroll in the long term.
Semi-bluffing when you’re behind gives you more opportunities to win pots. It also lets you play a higher range of hands pre-flop profitably against holdings that you might normally just fold, e.g. 67s or 910 off suit. Technically speaking you can semi-bluff with a massive range of hands and even more so against TAG opponents who fold under pressure.
Range balancing is another massive advantage to the semi-bluff which becomes steadily important as you crawl your way up to the mid-stakes games. A player who manages to balance his range correctly will earn far more money than any other player seated at the table. Range balancing involves blurring your hands in different situations by either making the same bet with a wide range of hands or playing the same hands differently. By balancing your range, you make it harder for your opponent to narrow down your hand range accurately. This helps to maximise calling value when you’re in front yet to maximise folding equity when you’re behind.
For example, you may normally only continuation bet the flop when you miss the board with AJ+. However, if you start making bets with bottom pair, mid-pair or even various draws (67 on 3-4-8 board) than you make it harder for your opponent to balance your range.
In conclusion, the semi-bluff is a precious move that is under credited by most amateur poker players yet it can earn you more chips in the long run than any other type of bluff.
The implied odds of hitting your draw with a semi-bluff makes it a deadly move to master. In fact, I always look for position to semi-bluff my opponent when I can see that everyone at the table has enough chips behind them.