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How to Semi-Bluff in Poker

Home » How to Semi-Bluff in Poker

How to Semi-Bluff in Poker

A poker player reveals their hole cards: a pair of nines.

Whether you’re playing land-based or online poker, winning a round whilst semi-bluffing is one of the best feelings a player can get. Playing aggressively is essential to success at the table and knowing how to bluff in poker is at the forefront of an aggressive strategy. Bluffing in poker is an art; it allows players to win pots when holding weak hands, creating the opportunity to win throughout the game, no matter the cards’ strength.

Semi-Bluffing and Bluffing: What’s the Difference?

From traditional poker to the humble beginnings of online poker, the game has evolved massively from the poker boom of the 2000s. Innovative strategies have come into play, but two have remained since the beginning: bluffing and semi-bluffing. 

So, what is bluffing in poker? Simply put, outright bluffing is the process of raising the pot and playing until the end of a round when a player holds a poor hand with little or no chance of it improving. 

Semi-bluffing occurs during the flop or turn and is the process of betting or raising when a player is holding low-value cards but still has the chance to win the round based on what the dealer puts down.

Let’s look at the best moments to semi-bluff and why it is an important strategy to adopt.

When Should I Semi-Bluff?

A poker player looks over the top of their hand of cards.

Online poker tournaments traditionally last several hours, so it’s common to go through waves of receiving weak cards – some will experience this for much of a game. This means continuing to play is essential, even when winning doesn’t look likely. However, timing is everything and it’s important to know when to bluff in poker.

Pairing Cards

Two cards that change your hand from weak to strong can happen in several variations. Firstly, if you’re holding a low, double pair and the flop presents high-ranging cards, it’s not all lost. If the dealer puts down your card on the turn or river, it changes your hand to three of a kind. Moreover, if the dealer puts down two pair and a card with your number, it results in a full house.

Additionally, two cards with similar ranking numbers can open you up to a flush or straight in the later rounds. For example, a flush can occur if you’re dealt a 2 of hearts and 5 of hearts and three more hearts appear from the dealer. Alternatively, if a 4 of spades, 3 of hearts and an ace of hearts appear, it results in a straight. Both are very strong Texas Hold’em poker hands.


During live poker tournaments, your position at the table should influence your decision to semi-bluff or not. When a player is in a strong position, it gives them the luxury of seeing how the surrounding opponents play and the chance to bet accordingly. If you notice hesitance around the table, it suggests players are not confident in their cards, meaning it may be a good chance to semi-bluff.

Opponents’ Poker Personalities

This relates well to positioning, as you’ll come across a variety of poker personalities when playing live poker online. For example, some players bet conservatively only when they have strong hands. If you notice these players raising or betting, it’s a good moment to hold back from semi-bluffing. In contrast, when some aggressive players bluff it may be a good time to consider semi-bluffing.

Stage of the Game

The best online poker players will concur that the beginning stage of a match is when one should play patiently – a key poker tournament tip. This is because the early stages of live poker tournaments consist of many players, making your chances of winning slim. To increase your chances of semi-bluffing successfully, think about doing so as the table begins to thin out. 

For other poker tournament tips, follow professional poker players on Twitter. They have some really great advice for beginners, novices and even experienced players.

Advantages of Semi-Bluffing

A poker player reveals their hole cards: an offsuit seven and a two.

Similar to most casino table games, strategy in poker is crucial. Involving yourself in more rounds allows you the chance to win often, even when dealt weak hands. Moreover, causing players to fold due to raising can be an effective technique for building a pot.

It’s crucial to be unpredictable during a game of online poker and using methods such as semi-bluffing allows a player to be just that. This can help to intimidate opponents, even when they hold strong hands. Another advantage is that it gives you the initiative in the hand and, as a result, it can disguise your hand by making it look as though it has a strong probability of winning.

Notable Semi-Bluffs in Major Poker Tournaments

Now that you have a good sense of what semi-bluffing is in poker, here are some examples of top professionals using it in major poker tournaments over the years. 

  • Chris Moneymaker’s semi-bluff with a 5-4 offsuit in the 2003 WSOP Main Event.
  • Daniel Negreanu’s semi-bluff with 6-5 suited in the 2015 WSOP Main Event.
  • Phil Ivey’s semi-bluff with 7-5 suited in the 2009 Aussie Millions.
  • Vanessa Selbst’s semi-bluff with ace-4 offsuit in the 2010 Partouche Poker Tour.
  • Phil Hellmuth’s semi-bluff with 10-7 suited in the 2008 WSOP Main Event.
  • Antonio Esfandiari’s semi-bluff with queen-jack suited in the 2012 Big One for One Drop.
  • Erik Seidel’s semi-bluff with king-queen offsuit in the 2011 Aussie Millions.
  • Liv Boeree’s semi-bluff with 10-8 suited in the 2010 EPT Sanremo.
  • Tom Dwan’s semi-bluff with 9-8 suited in the 2008 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship.
  • Joe Hachem’s semi-bluff with 8-7 suited in the 2005 WSOP Main Event.

Look up these examples online to get a sense of how these professionals were able to outfox their opponents and demonstrate the strategic use of semi-bluffing in major poker tournaments.

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So, register with BetMGM today to stay up-to-date with specialized poker tournament tips like running it twice or understanding whether controlling the pot still works along with a ton of other resources.

What is a semi-bluff? How is it different from a bluff? Let’s look at what it is, when you should semi-bluff and why it’s a good strategy to adopt.