What it is and why it's not important in low limit poker.
A semi-bluff is betting or raising when you:
- Most likely do not have the best hand right now, but have a draw to a hand that is likely to be best.
- There is a reasonable chance your opponent will fold from your bet alone
In a tight or typical poker game, the power of this technique is that you have two ways to win -- sometimes you will win when your opponent folds there hand and when they do not fold sometimes you will win when you complete your draw.
In a tight-aggressive game the semi-bluff is a valuable tool that can be the basis for the majority of your winnings, but in a loose no-fold'em holdem game your opponents will not fold and you will almost always have to show down the best hand to win.
An example of a semi-bluff
Suppose you hold
You call a bet on the flop, and the turn comes
In a tighter game, you could raise here, partially from the strength of your draws (nut flush, gutshot straight, and two overcards) partially because of the possibility that you will win the pot right here. In fact this hand is so strong that you may want to play it passively in a very-multiway pot if you have good reason to believe that others will drive the action for you. The last thing you want is to have the person to your left re-raise your bet and actually force several of your customers out!
Semi-Bluff? We don't need no stinkin' semibluff here.
The key feature of a semi-bluff is the ability to sometimes win the pot immediately from your bet. The most common scenario for a semi-bluff in a tighter game are turn raises and check-raises with draws. You hope your opponent will fold, but if they don't fold then at least you have some outs to win on the river.
The problem in a low limit holdem game is this: You are almost NEVER going to win the pot for a single bet. Since the semi-bluff requires that possibility it is almost never worth semi-bluffing in a low limit game except for deception to increase the action on the later streets if you make your hand.
In the above example, believe me that the jacks, the tens, the fours, The straight draws, the gutshot straight draws, the flush draws and any two overcards are going to call your raise.
However, in this example, you will make money by getting as much money into the pot as you can with this hand if you have more than a couple opponents on the turn. (see our percentage chart of outs with one card to come) In this case you have 9 flush outs, 3 straight outs (which don't make a flush) which is 12 outs to the absolute nuts. In addition you have two overcards which is 6 more outs of which you can probably win with 2 or 3 of them, so conservatively you have 14 outs to win. From the chart you can see that with 14 outs you have a slightly better than 30% chance to win the hand when on the river (because you are only counting outs which win your hand) That means that if there are more than two people in the hand with you you want to get additional money int he pot if you can which means definitely raising on the Turn when you make your draw.
As far as getting money into the pot -- you have to use your judgment to determine how best to do this. Sometimes betting is the right move while sometimes other players will do the betting (and raising for you). If you are given a choice always let the other players lead the betting because it gives you more options (in some cases to get out of the hand, to just call, or to checkraise).
While you are almost definitely beaten on the flop, you will still make money if you get more than a few callers (which you usually will). A key reason this is so is you are drawing to the nuts, so you can drive the action in the hand even if someone raises you can re-raise in this situation and still make money.
The important distinction in betting a draw in low-limit hold 'em is to do it because you are making money, not to semi-bluff