Semi Bluffing With Straight Draws...Yes or No?

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I don't care what anyone disagrees, but straight draws make the BEST bluffs, but not just because they sometimes get there.

Ever notice how common it is that someone says "I think you're on a flush draw", but it's not nearly as common that they say "I think you're on a straight draw".  Mind blown, right?  Unlike drawing to a flush, drawing to a straight has much higher implied odds because of the inherent disguised nature of the hand.

As if that wasn't reason enough to fall in love with straight draws, you'll often also be blocking some of your opponents strongest hands on all sorts of boards and runouts.

So let's dive a little deeper into straight draws, and look at some semi bluff situations relative to the stack sizes.

Semi Bluffing With Deep Stacks

Playing $1-2 NLH.  5 handed game.

Hero is in the cutoff with [9c][Jd]and opens preflop to $6.  SB calls.

Flop ($14): [Ts][8d][3d]
SB bets $6.  Hero raises to $20.  SB calls.

OK, so that's clearly a good flop for us and our open ended straight draw to the nuts.  It's an interesting donk lead by the SB for about 1/3 of the pot.  Usually, this can be looked at no differently than had the SB checked.  Given his small bet, we have to continue on this flop with a wider than normal range to avoid over folding and being exploited by a weak lead.  We want to balance our raises here with value hands as well as  bluffs.

Had the SB made a larger lead here, we need to be a little more selective with our continuing range.

Our value range for raising in this spot is A10, JJ+, 108, 88 and 33.  You'll note that I left out 1010 for our value range, because it's blocking a top pair which will be the most likely value hand for villain to have.

So that leaves us with 41 combinations of value hands, which means that by raising this flop, we're going to be bluffing more than we would like.  With that being the case, we need to choose carefully which hands we're going to use as bluffs.

In this example, our 108 is a prefect opportunity to semi-bluff for a bunch of reasons:

1. Our straight makes the nuts on either side of our open ended draw
2. On the flop, we have no showdown value at all
3. We're blocking a good number of our opponents top pairs (J9, J10 and 910)

One key concept to remember, is that we don't want to make semi bluffs with hands that have high equity and showdown value like Ad Xd.  We want to balance our raise range, so we want to make sure we're using our weaker hands for just that.

Turn ($54): [4d]
SB checks.  Hero bets $42.  SB Calls.

The [4d]is a terrible card for us, as it completes the flush.  Continuing to barrel here wouldn't be horrible, but continuing when a flush draw completes and you're on a semi bluff, you want to only do so when you have a blocker to the flush as well.  This decreases the number of times our opponent will have a flush, and we still have some equity with our flush redraw.

Without a diamond in our hand, this would have been a spot to slow down.

River ($138): [Ac]
SB Checks.  Hero bets $75 and is all in.

This river can go either way for us.  We're making a small bet relative to the pot, so we can expect to get called a decent percentage of the time.

But as always, we're not going to be results oriented.  It doesn't matter if SB has the flush or not.  We want to focus on making the right semi bluffs, even in spots where we get looked up and lose the pot.  Those will happen.

Semi Bluffing With Short Stacks

I'm going to use a tournament hand as an example here.  9 handed and the blinds are 1k - 2k with a 200 ante.

Hero is early position with [5c][6c] and raises to 4.2k (70k in chips).  Cutoff calls (55k).   Button calls (65k).  BB Calls (60k)

OK, so we've opened early with [5c][6c]and got called three times.  With the 30+ bb stacks, this is fine and our hand plays well as a preflop raise.  We don't want to open this hand against shorter stacks because of the fear of an all in, but against deeper stacks we give ourselves the chance to pick up the blinds and antes.

Flop (17.8k): [7s][4d][2c]
BB checks.  Hero bets 8.5k.  Cutoff calls.  Button folds.  BB calls.

If this were a cash game, I would love the lead far more than in a tournament.  But given the stack sizes for a tournament, I think a check is the better play here.  The effective stack sizes are now under 30bbs, and while our hand can still make the nuts, it's not as strong as I'd like it to be in the event we miss the turn and get ourselves into a spot where we have to make a hard decision on whether or not to continue after a brick.  Additionally, we don't want to be in a position where we bleed more chips by having to fold to a raise on the flop.  With a check, we put ourselves in a much better position to see our equity through.

If we were shorter stacked, I think this would be a perfect flop to open jam the flop.

Turn (51.3k): [Ac]
BB Checks.  Hero....?

Since Hero decided to continue on the flop, the optimal play on this turn is to go all in.  Every opponent left has about a pot sized bet left, so any less would be suicide.  With a full pot sized bet, we retain our fold equity as well.

Additionally, as the pre-flop raiser, we have a large range advantage over our opponents - especially after they call on the flop in a multi-way pot.

So while the Ace at first doesn't seem like a good card for us, when we break it down it really can be looked at as one.  Sometimes our opponents will have something like A5s or A3s, but very unlikely that they will have the same but unsuited.  We have probably folded out most of the AKx and AQx hands with the flop bet, and because this is a semi-bluff with out straight draw and we can always improve on the river if we get called, we find ourselves in a great position to make the all in.