Powerful drawing hands like a pair with a flush draw, or even conventional straight and flush draws, are often good opportunities to try a semi-bluff – making a bet or raise that you hope will not be called, but leaves you some outs if it is.
Here are a few dos and don’ts to consider before making such a play.
Do play a big draw aggressively on the flop. On the flop, with two cards yet to come, a big draw can actually be favored over even a hand like pocket aces. If, for example, you have 6c-8c and the flop comes 5c-6s-7c, despite the fact that your opponent has Ad-Ah, your hand will win the pot more often. In fact, you would be close to a 2-to-1 favorite.
Do attempt a semi-bluff only if you think there’s a decent chance that your opponent will fold. Otherwise, it’s really not a bluff at all. Try to get a read on your opponent. If you think he has a weak or marginal hand, a semi-bluff is probably in order.
Do make sure that your opponent has enough chips in front of him so that he doesn’t feel pot committed. Give him an opportunity to fold. If, for example, he bets 2,400 chips but only has another 2,000 remaining, a bluff probably won’t work. That’s because with 2,400 of his chips already invested, he’ll likely call any raise that you make.
And moving on to the don’ts . . .
Don’t try to make a big bluff on the turn with a drawing hand. With only one card to come, even a big draw is an underdog against a made hand. Keep the betting small.
Let’s look back at the earlier example: You have 6c-8c, your opponent has Ad-Ah, and the board now reads 5c-6h-7c-2h. With only one card to come, you’ll need to catch a 4, 6, 8, 9, or any club to win the pot – that’s a total of twenty outs. On the flop, your drawing hand was close to a 2-to-1 favorite. But now, on the turn, the pocket aces are a 55% favorite to win.
Don’t play an aggressive semi-bluff anytime you think your opponent has a strong hand. Instead, take the safer route. Just call your opponent’s bet and hope to catch your draw cheaply. If you do get lucky and hit pay dirt, that’s the time to get maximum value by making a big bet.
Don’t try to bluff a beginning player or a calling station – a weak and passive player who often calls and rarely raises or folds. If you know that your opponent consistently calls with marginal to weak hands, avoid bluffing them completely. It’s just not worth it. Instead, play cautiously, as though you feel your opponent has a strong hand. Try to see the draw cheaply and hope you catch your card. That’s the best way to take advantage against an opponent who calls too often.
These general tips will help you recognize when to play draws aggressively and when to take it slow. But remember, there are other important factors that must always be considered.
First and foremost, you’ve got to know how tough your table is. If you’re playing at a soft table against some bad players, adopt a more risk-averse style of play and avoid playing big pots with drawing hands. Alternatively, if you feel that you might be outclassed by your opponents, the best approach is to “gamble up” and hope to get lucky.
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