Poker Strategy: The Art of The Semi-Bluff

Poker is one of the world’s most popular card and casino games. It has an enormous player base, with over 100 million people playing online poker worldwide, and that does not even consider the hundreds of casinos that all offer poker. Besides a large casual player base, it also has a great competitive scene. There are many long-running, high-stakes poker tournaments like the World Series of Poker. These tournaments have million-dollar prize pools and are even broadcasted around the world.

A big reason why poker is this popular is its skill requirement. The basic rules of poker are simple, meaning it is easy for beginners to start playing. However, poker also has near-limitless strategic depth, as there is always something new to learn. Beginners may be intimidated by all the terms and techniques they must remember, but thankfully, there are tons of resources to help you improve. This poker guide is one of them and focuses on a vital technique for aggressive players: The semi-bluff. It will explain what it is, how to use it, and why you should use it.

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What is a semi-bluff?

A semi-bluff is a bluff made with a drawing hand. It uses two core concepts of poker math: Pot equity and fold equity. Pot equity is the chance of your hand being the strongest at a certain point, while fold equity is the chance that your opponent folds to a bet you make. The semi-bluff is great because it combines the two to give you two ways to win the pot. Like a standard bluff, your opponent may fold, which wins you the pot outright. Unlike a regular bluff, if the opponent calls, you still have a chance of hitting your draw, allowing you to win a large pot at the showdown.

Advantages of semi-bluffs

Semi-bluffs have a few advantages that make them better than regular bluffs:

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What hands to semi-bluff

Hand selection is critical when semi-bluffing, as a hand without enough equity is just a regular bluff without a high chance of success. Your hand needs to meet specific criteria to become a good semi-bluff. It must not be strong currently, but it should also have the potential to improve and not have direct showdown value. Suppose you have a showdown value in the form of pocket pairs. In that case, checking is usually better because you want the opportunity to see the following cards without committing too much money. If you are confident you have the best hand, you should instead be value betting.

With those selection criteria in mind, here are some hands you should consider semi-bluffing with:

These hands have enough equity to have a decent chance against solid pairs. You should avoid hands that do not have enough equity to do that, like:

How to semi-bluff better

Semi-bluffs are great, but they can sometimes be tricky to pull off if you do not understand your pot or fold equity. Here are a few tips to improve your semi-bluffing success:

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Practicing semi-bluffs

We hope this article taught you how to play poker by semi-bluffing well. If you want to try them in real games, visit sites like GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room. Online sites have benefits over casinos, like being easier to access and faster-paced. They even allow you to use poker tracking software to analyze your play style and find weaknesses.

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