Against players with nothing it functions a lot like a bluff. Against players with something it functions as a form of aggression. It is a powerful tool, as it can lead to a deceptively powerful hand if the cards come to you. It can also be a source of great loss if overused or misused.
Semi-bluffing in Texas Hold'em is used best in bluffing situations. Its usefulness comes from the fact that players who recognize a bluff won't necessarily recognize when you make your draw. It is more useful (and preferable) against a lot of players, as opposed to outright bluffing, since the odds tend to be better. Other than that, you'll want to use semi-bluffing in late position, usually on the flop or turn, against mediocre flops, and against poor players.
Let's look at two examples of semi-bluffing from a perspective of odds and from a perspective of bluffing:
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