Drawing hands in no limit hold em are prime opportunities to make what’s known as a semi-bluff: a bet with a hand that, while currently trailing, has a lot of outs to improve to the best hand. Most players learning the game quickly realize that aggressive poker is winning poker, and they quickly latch onto the semi-bluff. In fact, many players will routinely abuse the semi-bluff, betting aggressively even where an opponent is likely to call them. The result is not aggressive, winning poker: it’s putting your entire stack on the line as a 2:1 underdog (or worse).

To be clear, a semi-bluff is still a bluff, and therefore useful only when your opponent is weak. You should semi-bluff when you think your opponent has either no hand, or some sort of mediocre hand like a weak top pair, second pair or worse. If your opponent has shown strength pre-flop and on the flop and/or the board is coordinated with straight and flush draw potential, you should be very hesitant to push your draw aggressively.

An example: Your opponent raises pre-flop in early position and you call on the button with JT of diamonds. The flop comes KQ5 with two spades. Yes, you’ve flopped an open-ended straight draw and will complete your hand 32% of the time by the river. But your opponent could have AK, AQ or KQ, trip kings or trip queens and be unwilling to release the hand. [As pointed out by Derek below, if your opponent holds aces this could eliminate two of your outs as well]. In this situation, it rarely makes sense to push your draw aggressively. You may not fold right on the flop, but you should tread carefully.

On top of that, although your hand has great potential, it’s what’s known as a pure draw. If you don’t make your straight you basically have nothing. If you had a pair and a straight draw, a straight and a flush draw, or a draw with overcards, you could have even money or better potential against your opponent. In that case, you can afford to play the hand more aggressively because your hand has so much potential.

But when you only have a pure draw, you’re a solid dog to any made hand your opponent might have. Pure draws are rarely good for semi-bluffing unless the flop is likely to have missed your opponent.

In short, don’t mindlessly push all draws you flop merely for the sake of being aggressive. Instead, read the board and consider the likely strength of your opponent’s hand before deciding whether to play passively or aggressively. If the board is dangerous and coordinated and your opponent has shown strength pre-flop and on the flop, it rarely makes sense to push a pure draw.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Tags: , , , ,