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Expectation And Hourly Rate The Fundamental Theorem Of Poker The Ante Structure Pot Odds Effective Odds Implied Odds and Reverse Implied Odds The Value of Deception Win the Big Pots Right Away The Free Card The Semi-Bluff Defense Against the Semi-Bluff Raising Check-Raising Slowplaying Loose and Tight Play Position Bluffing Game Theory and Bluffing Inducing and Stopping Bluffs Hands-Up On The End Reading Hands The Psychology of Poker Analysis at the Table Evaluating the Game

We’ll look at two examples of semi-bluffs from seven card stud. In the first, you are making a semi-bluff bet because your hand is worth a call if you checked and you opponent bet. Let’s say you have:

                

Right off the bat a queen raises you. You know the raiser is not a very imaginative poker player but he may be raising with a three-flush or sometime like a pair of 7s in the hole. You call. On the next card, you catch an ace, giving you a pair of 8s and an ac4e, king kicker.

Your opponent catches a small card. You are high on board, and now it is very important to bet because with a pair and two overcards your hand is certainly worth a call if you check and your opponent bets.  Furthermore, you have little reason to think your opponent will raise because he now fears that you have made a pair of aces or even aces up.

In fact, your opponent may fear what you are representing so much that he might fold the best hand. The added equity of possibly winning right there when your opponent folds is the primary reason to semi-bluff. If you had checked your pair of 8s with an ace, king and called your opponent’s bet, you would have a reasonable chance of making kings up, aces up, or three 8s to beat his queens or queens up. By betting out instead of checking and calling, you add to these chances the possibility of winning right away.

This possibility gives a semi-bluff great mathematical expectation than checking and calling since it adds another  way to win besides winding up with the best hand in the showdown. If you know there is no chance that your opponent will fold a pair of queens, the semi-bluff is a bet where there is some chance your opponent will fold a hand he should have played. However, since you would call your opponent’s bet anyway, betting yourself still has certain advantages. Your bet suggests more strength than you actually have.

Suppose you catch something like two running 6s. When you bet with nothing but 8s and 6s, your opponent will probably fold a hand that he shouldn ’t have if he knew what you had. Even when a semi-bluff has no chance of making an opponent fold immediately, it may lead him to fold later when your board appears to improve to a better hand than you actually have.

This situation comes up only in stud games, both high and low, where your opponent can see you “improve.” It does not occur as much in hold’em, where everyone shares a common boards, nor, of course, in draw. In the second semi-bluff example from seven card stud, you are more of an underdog if your opponent has the hand he is representing. Nevertheless, a semi-bluff is indisputably the correct play:

                        

You

                        

Opponent

Your opponent raised on the first round, and you called with a three-flush. Now when you pair fours in sight, you must bet even though you have only a small pair with no poker overcard and your chances of making a spade flush are about 9-to-1 against. Your opponent will fold without a pair, which is to your advantage, and he may fold a higher pair, thinking you’ve made three 4s, which would be great. On the other hand, if he calls your bet, you still have several ways of beating him.

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When Not to Semi-Bluff

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