Semi-bluffing is a move in poker where you make a bet with a draw that you haven't yet hit. You're still a dog to hit the draw but the chance is there, so it makes your bluff a little less risky.
The semi-bluff is one of my favorite moves in poker because it gives me two ways to win the pot: I can win by making my opponent fold and I can win by hitting my draw. But remember; even though you have a draw, it doesn't mean you're guaranteed to win the hand. When semi-bluffing, you still need to pick your targets carefully.
You'll also want to remember that the best possible outcome in semi-bluffing is a fold. You don't want to semi-bluff every single time you get a draw because in that case you'd just be charging yourself extra money to hit your draw.
Semi-Bluffing for Deception
Most of the time the purpose of your semi-bluff is to get a fold. You don't want your opponent to call but you have the draw backing you up just in case he does call. In the case of a semi-bluff, you still have a chance to win the hand if your bet gets called.
Sometimes you will be semi-bluffing to throw your opponents off balance. In these cases, a fold is fine but you don't mind if your opponent calls. When your opponent sees what you had, he'll be more likely to call the next time you bet.
This is perfect because when you have a real hand and are betting to protect it from a draw, your opponents won't know whether you're protecting a hand from the flush on board or semi-bluffing the flush.
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Choose Your Opponents Wisely
Not all of your opponents pay attention or take notes on what you do so don't go around semi-bluffing with reckless abandon. The best types of opponents to semi-bluff are the tight, non-tricky players.
The worst opponents to semi-bluff are the calling stations and the tough opponents who have seen it all before. It's harder to pull of bluffs against these types of opponents so don't waste your time. One day you'll have to learn how to bluff the tough opponents but don't worry about that until you're playing $5/$10 NL or above. Just focus on the fish and the tightwads for now.
When to Semi-Bluff
There are only three times you can semi-bluff: before the flop, on the flop or on the turn. The earlier in the hand you start semi-bluffing, the less it will cost to pull off the bluff. But the downside to semi-bluffing earlier is that your opponents will be more likely to call.
If you wait until later in the hand to semi-bluff, you'll be more likely to get a fold but the move is also riskier. It will cost more to semi-bluff because the pot will be larger by then.
On top of that, you have to be careful in analyzing the situation because if you're bluffing late in the hand, there has to be some reason why your opponent is still in the hand. If he's still in the hand because he likes his cards, you're not going to get anywhere with a semi-bluff.
Semi-bluffs that take place before the flop are a little different than postflop semi-bluffs. These are basically steals that you make with decent but not great hands. If put in a preflop raise with something like 45s, you're semi-bluffing because you don't have a strong hand but there's still a possibility that it turns into something strong if you get called.