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StrategyFixed Limit

Post-flop: Semi bluff and pure bluff

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This article explains
  • The two types of bluffs
  • Bluffs are only good when the opponents can fold
  • The more opponents there are, the less the chance of bluffing with success

On television we often see how the best poker players attempt the most dangerous bluffs and get away with it. Many beginners want to imitate them so they make weird bluffs that lose them a lot in the long run. This article will explain both types of bluff and explain when it is profitable to make such plays.

We can distinguish between two types of bluff

  • Semi-bluff
    This is a bluff with a hand that is very likely to be behind, but that has the potential to improve, i.e a flush draw. You can win the pot either by forcing your opponents out, or by completing your hand.
  • Pure Bluff
    This is a bluff with a hand that is probably a losing hand, with little or no potential of improving, so you could only win by forcing opponents out of the round.


Extended charts for playing before the flop

An overview on the mathematics of poker - Odds and Outs

Video: Post-flop - Semi bluff and pure bluff
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The semi-bluff


You make a semi-bluff when you don't believe that you hold the best hand, but still have sufficient chances of obtaining it.

The reason for making a semi-bluff is simple. By betting or raising into your opponent, you hope that he folds his hand allowing you to win the pot directly. In case it doesn't work, you still have a good chance of improving your hand on the next streets.

You can play a semi-bluff in almost all variations. You can play it as a simple bet, as a re-raise or even as a check-raise. What defines the semi-bluff is that you should only bet with a draw that has the chance of developing into the best hand.


The main advantage of the semi-bluff is that your opponent might fold and directly give you the pot, which you might lose under other circumstances. Besides this, there are other advantages.

If you semi-bluff a drawing hand instead of calling your opponent's bet, you are paying the same amount as you would when calling, but have an added advantage given that your opponent might fold. If you take the initiative from our opponent, it also gives you the possibility of taking a free card on the turn. Additionally, if you do hit your draw, the opponent might not believe you at this point and pay you off. 

It only gets difficult if the opposition re-raises your semi-bluff. You should then play purely according to odds and outs. Do you have the outs for a call? If so you can call, but otherwise you must fold.

The pure bluff


In contrast to semi-bluffs, pure bluffs can only win if your opponent folds. This is becasue your hand's expected value is very limited and there's only a very small chance that it can win in a showdown.

If a semi-bluff only has low chances of being successful, then you should be even more cautious when attempting a pure bluff. Especially in loose games, pure bluffs are very often not profitable.


You can attempt a bluff when you estimate that the probability of your opposition folding is greater than your pot odds. In this case, a bluff has a positive expected value.

What does this mean? It's simple. Imagine you're on the river against a single opponent. There are $10 in the pot and you must bet $1. You have pot odds of 10:1 so if your opponent folds, in at least 10% of cases (1:10) a bluff would be both justified and profitable. As you can see, playing a bluff has a lot to do with experience and reading the game.

Pure bluffs are almost only profitable against a single opponent. With multiple opponents in the round, your chances drop in proportion to the rising number of opponents. Double the number of opponents and you roughly halve the chance of the bluff being successful.
The bluff and semi-bluff are important parts of the game because they will help you build deception into your game; this means that disguising your hand. This is important because your opposition will see through you very quickly if you always play straightforward hands and bet in the same way. Good players will see through you and if you're easily read, you will no longer be paid off for your good hands.


Play a bluff when you believe that there is a high chance your opponent will fold. The probability that your opponent folds must be higher than your pot odds. The more players in the hand, the less you bluff.

You should not bluff too rarely nor too often. Opportunistic bluffing projects the image of a tight player whose bluffs are still frightening enough to be effective, but that also fail enough to make regular hands well paid. Knowing all about when to bluff and playing within the perfect odds takes a lot of experience.


Comments (2)

#1 mouse89, 06 Oct 08 14:17


#2 krumvirek, 15 Aug 10 22:30

thanx u