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StrategyFixed Limit

Concepts: Semi-Bluffs - Theory & Practice

Video: Click here


In this article

  • The mathematical background of semi-bluffs
  • The practice application of semi-bluffs
  • When they are worthwhile, even on the river
A semi-bluff, just like its pure bluff counterpart, has the aim of getting the opponent to fold better hands. In contrast to the pure bluff however, you have a hand with moderate to good chance that it is still the best, or may become the best.

With a semi-bluff, we are trying to maximise our expected profit by combining fold equity and hand strength.

In this article we will discuss the mathematical foundations of semi-bluffs using examples, and explain the conditions where they are suitable at a poker table.


Pre-flop: Hero is MP2 with A , Q
4 folds, Hero raises, 4 folds, BB calls

Flop: (4,5 SB) T , 7 , 2 (2 players)
BB bets, Hero calls

Turn: (3,25 BB) J (2 players)
BB bets, Hero raises …

You have a monster draw: 9 outs to the flush, 3 more for the kings (we exclude the king of spades) plus two overcards, which can count as another ~3 outs - makes a total of 15 outs. You have a good chance of having the best hand by the river, but are unlikely to have the best hand on the turn.

You decide to raise here on the turn because you know that there are better hands that the opponent can fold here. How often must they fold a stronger hand here in order to make our semi-bluff profitable? How do we know whether a raise is better than a call? How do we assess whether the opponent folds better hands sufficiently often? These and many other questions concerning semi-bluffs will be discussed in the next section.


That's not the entire article...

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Comments (4)

#1 DaveX77, 06 Mar 09 15:47

Very nice article, thank you.

#2 pumacy, 03 May 10 03:01

very informative, thank you.

#3 datsmahname, 20 Jun 11 06:26

Maybe it was mentioned in the article, but I missed it so maybe it wasn't explicit enough.

Given our semi-bluff formula:
P(F) > (1–2*EQ)/(P+3–EQ*(P+4))

When EQ=0 and P=1,

P(F) > (1–2*0)/(P+3–0*(P+4))
P(F) > (1–0)/(P+3–0)
P(F) > 1/1+3
P(F) > 1/4 = .25

Which suggests that in a 1 bet pot we can bluff/raise drawing dead as long as he folds >25%... which is wrong.

He would have to fold >50% of the time because we're obviously getting even money, 2:2 odds on our bluff.

The formula only works when EV(call)>EV(fold), or when EV(call)>0.

#4 sigauli, 09 Jul 11 12:17

But when we have 0 EQ this means we are going to make a pure bluff. And you never have a 1 SB pot in FL. Minimum is 2.5 SB HU on the flop in 1/2 SB structure. This means to attack such a board you need.

P(fold) > Bets/Pot

P(fold) > 1/2.5
P(fold) > 40%