While calling may be a good defense against the semi-bluff in situations similar to the three described, remember that normally the correct play is to fold with marginal hands, and if folding isn't correct, then you should raise. We'll conclude this chapter with an example of each response to the possible semi-bluff:

Seven-Card Stud

(Small Pot)


Your opponent bets. How should you play?

You should fold without hesitation. Even though your opponent may be betting a four-flush or a straight draw, you have too many ways to lose. Your opponent might not even get the flush or straight but make a pair of 10s or kings to beat you:

Seven-Card Stud

(Medium-sized Pot)

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Your opponent bets when he pairs the 5 s. How should you play? Your should raise. If your opponent has only one pair, you want to make it expensive for him to draw another card, perhaps even forcing him to fold. If he does have two pair smaller than your kings, you're not that much of an underdog. He may even fold two small pair. If he does call with them, he figures to check to you on the next round, giving you a chance to take a free card. The only hands he might have that are real trouble for you are aces up and three 5s, but there is no reason to think he has them:

Hold 'em

(Medium-Sized Pot)

5a a

You bet, and your opponent raises. How should you play?

The question you are facing here is whether your opponent has a flush draw, an open-ended straight draw, or something like 10,9 — or whether he has a better hand than yours, something like an A, 10, a K, 10, two pair, or three-of-a-kind. Since the combined chances of your being beat already or being outdrawn make your opponent the favorite at this point, you should call rather than raise. But on the next card you should come right out betting, unless a heart, 6, 9, or jack falls. If your opponent raises again, you should usually fold; most players won't bluff or semi-bluff a second time in this spot.

When someone bets or raises but may be semi-bluffing, your decision is one of the trickiest in poker. You must choose whether to fold; raise; reraise; call and bet on the next round; call and check-raise on the next round; call and then check and call on the next round; or call and fold on the next round if the card your opponent catches would make the hand with which he might have been semi-bluffing. Making the correct decision consistently separates the true champion from the merely good player.


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