Semi Bluffing Tips

Most new poker players who are studying and learning the game don’t take very long to realize that winning poker is aggressive poker. You only have to look at high stakes poker games to quickly figure out the best players are very aggressive. They have this fearless approach on the felt because it’s a winning strategy.

It’s important to know that the majority of hands in no limit texas hold’em don’t actually get to a showdown, meaning you don’t always need to have the best hand in order to win the pot. Although players will get the same number of good/bad hands in the span of their poker career, the difference between good and very good players is the ability to steal pots away from the other players. The players who can “steal” the most will be the biggest winners in the game.

Drawing hands are interesting hands to play in no limit hold’em due to their semi bluffing potential plus of course they make big hands that very likely to be the winner at showdown. That said, these hands can be very easily overplayed, either by being too aggressive with missed draws when you don’t want to give up the pot, or calling with inadequate odds.

When it comes to being aggressive with draws, drawing hands, especially strong draws like overcards and flush draws, are good hands to include in a semi bluffing range when you have taken the betting lead in a hand and want to continue to represent a strong hand. While you currently don’t probably have the best hand, considering you don’t even have a pair, it doesn’t matter, because a big bet can get weaker hands to fold, especially when the board looks scary, and when you can credibly represent a big hand.

Unlike a pure bluff in which a player is betting with nothing and really hoping that the other players will just fold, in this scenario, the player who is bluffing basically has no chance of winning the pot when they are called. Hence, the reason you want to avoid making this play, since you never want to be drawing dead, unless you have some sick read and know for sure the player will fold if you bet.

A semi bluff, on the other hand, is still considered bluffing, but it’s betting with a hand that still has decent equity even when called. How much equity depends on the strength of the draw. A small flush draw could easily be dominated for one, and it will also have fewer outs to hit, in comparison to combo draws and draws with overcards, such as AhQh on a Kh-7s-8d flop. The better the draw, the better it is to be aggressive with, if you can expect folds a decent percentage of the time, because you have more outs to hit on the river.

Most weaker players are scared to play their draws aggressively, based on the fact that they currently don’t have a hand, and only want to invest more chips into the pot when they actually hit their hand. This same logic applies to their reasoning for limping with hands like AK, which is a terrible play for obvious reasons. The result is weak/passive play, always relying on the cards to dictate the outcome of the hand for you, which is absurd, considering your opponents don’t actually know what hand you have. If you aren’t brave enough to deceive your opponents into thinking you have a better hand than what you really have, then maybe you are playing the wrong game.

For the sake of clarity, though, you don’t always want to be aggressive with drawing hands. Keep in mind, there is a good chance you don’t have the best hand at the moment, and need to rely on fold equity to make betting the optimal play. If you’re playing against a calling station that is calling you down with middle or bottom pair, then getting aggressive by semi bluffing draws is not a good idea, since you’re always getting called.

Don’t just mindlessly double and triple barrel your opponents for the sole reason of being aggressive and trying to run over your opponents. There should be a reason to the aggression. For instance, he very likely has a weakish pair on this board after check calling my continuation bet, it’s a good spot to continue the aggression on the turn betting my J high flush draw with one overcard, as I think he will fold a lot. Because if he calls another bet on the turn he will be worried about having to call another big bet on the river.

You should always consider the strength of your opponent’s hand before deciding whether to semi bluff when you have outs. If the board texture is really scary and your opponent has shown strength in the hand, it likely isn’t a good semi bluffing opportunity.