A much more effective weapon to have in your poker arsenal than just the ‘stone cold hope your opponent folds’ bluff, is the semi bluff. Everyone sees the bluffs made by pro players on ESPN where they had 2-5 off suit and took down a pot that had an Ace on the board, by bluffing and getting the other player to fold. However, the semi-bluff is more of a bluff that you make when you hit ‘part’ of your hand and you are pretty sure your opponent hit nothing. Let me show you what I mean.
You have A-7 suited in the Big Blind and are able to check to see a flop. The flop then comes K-7-6 rainbow. You picked up middle pair with top kicker. This is a hand that you can make a stab at with what I call a semi-bluff. If your opponent(s) does not hold a King, your bet makes it seem like you do have one, thus completing the mentality of the bluff. However, the semi-bluff can work to your advantage because you still have ‘live’ cards or the possibility of hitting your hand if you do get a call. You get the best of both worlds. If another 7 hits on the turn or river you have made your hand. If an Ace hits, you have probably made your hand as well, so you can confidently bet this hand and not be terribly worried if you get a call.
By contrast, on what I call a ‘naked’ bluff, if you get a call or a raise from your opponent, you are probably going to have to shut it down unless you think you can bluff him on another street. If you have nothing and he calls your bluff, you are in trouble. If you are making a semi-bluff, then you do have some options and may want to continue in the hand.
The same goes for hands where you have a big draw. Let’s say you are holding 6s-7s (suited) and the flop comes Ks-8s-9h. If you bet here is it a bluff? Sure, you have nothing but a 7-high in your hand. However, it is a semi-bluff because you have an up and down straight draw as well as the flush draw giving you 17 cards that could hit your hand. This is a great time to throw a bet at this pot because your odds of hitting a card that will make your hand are so high.
Especially in online poker where many times you are never sure what range of cards your opponents will be playing, I like to use the semi-bluff more than a naked bluff. Obviously, this can depend on the game you are playing, or the point you are at in a tournament, but overall, the naked bluff looks great on TV, but carries a lot of risk when it is used in online poker play.
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