Situation 1. Let’s see in which situations you can use bluffing and in which situations you should not when you hold not only a draw but there is a possibility that you have much better hand than the others. For example: your hand is Ace of spades and 9 of spades, you raised from the late position and the Big Blinder called. The flop has revealed the following cards: Queen of spades, 10 of clubs and 5 of spades – you bet and your opponent calls. Now you have nuts flush draw plus an over card and plus the chance that your opponent won’t beat your Ace (analogical is the example with flush or straight draw with a lower pair). On the turn 6 of hearts your opponent again checks. How you should play in this situation?
Against a loose – aggressive player
If your opponent is a loose – aggressive player, you should better check. You may be in better position and you may have 12 outs but there is really no point to bet in this situation. A loose player most probably won’t fold a strong hand and if he has absolutely nothing he is going to fold. On the other hand, like the aggressive player, he can also raise which will cost you a bet. But after your check he can bluff and bet on the river. In this case, if you already managed to improve your hand, you can win on the river.
Against a loose – passive player
If your opponent is a loose – passive player, you should be willing to bet on the turn. The logic here is similar, as in the previous case. Besides, you should not be afraid that he’ll check – raise (the player is passive) and also most probably he won’t use a bluff and place a bet on the river. In other words, the benefit that gave you the check in the previous case here disappears
Against a tight – passive player
If your opponent is a tight passive player, the best decision for you also is to check. Do not forget that this is a tight player and he most probably won’t call on the flop if he has not a strong hand. This is especially true in situations where the flop consists of higher cards, in this case, your opponent can not have two over cards, so the probability for him to call with a draw is not too high.
Situation 2. If we change a little bit the situation and instead of an Ace you have a Jack and your opponent is a loose – aggressive player. When you had an Ace, the recommended move was to check but with a Jack, the best decision may be a semi – bluff bet on the turn. The point is that the number of hands you beat with a Jack are much less than the number of hands you could beat with an Ace. In the end, it turns out that the bluff bet on the river of your opponent for you is no more interesting and profitable. Of course, you should take also into consideration that there is a possibility for check – raise and if this possibility is high, the best decision again will be to check.
It was mentioned above the one to one game and no wonder, since the bluff or semi – bluff are not effective when you play against more opponents. Simple mathematics shows that the probability of one opponent to fold is 30 percent, for two opponents to fols is 9 percent and for three opponents to fold is only 3 percent. Besides, if you have a good draw, your action on the flop will not be a semi – bluff but value bet. In most cases to try a semi – bluff does not make sense and because the profit you are going to get from the fold of your opponents is less than the potential profit you are going to get if they stay in the game and you manage to complete your draw.
Situation 3. For example, there are three limpers in the game, the Small blinder raises and you call (from the position of BB) with 8 of spades and 7 of spades. The flop reveals K of spades, 5 of spades and 3 of hearts. The Small blinder places a bet, you call and the other two players call as well. The turn reveals a 9 of hearts (making your flush draw also a open ended straight draw) and the Small blinder again places a bet. In this situation if you raise, you’ll kick out the limpers with draws and not very high pairs maybe even with a K. But there is a very small chance you can overcome the Small blinder. He raised during the pre – flop, bet on the flop and on the turn – obviously he has a very nice hand. You can succeed in very rare situations when the limpers are pretty tight and the Small blinder is very aggressive but able to fold a good hand such as Q-Q or J-J. Nevertheless, the exception only confirms the rule – you should not use any bluff against few opponents.
The aggression is key factor in Texas Hold’em but the most effective and important weapon in the arsenal of the aggressive player is the semi – bluff. Semi –bluff i.e. bet or raise with a draw hand works effectively thanks to the combination of two factors. Ideally, your opponent folds and you take the entire pot. However, even if he calls, you still have your outs and that allows you to form a winning hand. In fact, the idea of a raise with a draw hand seems unlikely. Indeed, is it not easier simply to call?
Let us look at the situation from the other side. If you have both a nuts flush draw and a two way straight, you are going to win the pot with a probability of 55 %. In other words, in more than half of the cases, your bet will come back to you together with the pot. Maybe you prefer your opponent to fold but if he calls, you invest only 50 percent into the pot from which you take 55 %. Let’s assume that you have a flush draw and there are two more players in the game. In case both of them respond with a call to your raise (your investment is 33 % of the pot), 36 % probability to form a flush means that you have very good chances from mathematical point of view.
It turns out that actually, the draw hands are stronger than they seem to be and that means you should play them aggressively. Don’t forget that except the 36 % probability of forming a strong hand and winning the pot there is always a chance your opponents to fold. That is why semi bluffing is such a powerful weapon.