The No-Limit Toolbox is a new series that showcases the array of tactics available to no-limit players.
The Play: The Flop Overbet Semibluff
How It Works: You flop a draw. Your opponent bets, and you move all-in as a semibluff.
The Play In Action: You’re in the big blind in a $2-$5 game with $900. Everyone folds to the button, who opens for $15. He has about $200 remaining. You call with the K J . The flop comes A 9 4 giving you the nut flush draw. You check, and your opponent bets $30. You move all-in for $170 more.
Why It’s Good: Fold equity combined with winning chances if called. By moving all-in, you force your opponent to have a hand or fold. Indeed, many players might fold hands as strong has top pair/weak kicker to the all-in, assuming that you likely have at least top pair with a better kicker. Since it’s uncommon your opponent will have better than top pair/weak kicker, your bluff will work a significant percentage of the time. If called, your draw still gives you solid winning chances. The combination of your fold equity and equity when called make it a profitable play.
When It Works: The Flop Overbet Semibluff is stack size sensitive. It works best when the all-in raise will be roughly 1 to 2 times the size of the pot. In the above example, the semibluff raise was $170, and the pot at the time was $90, so the raise was slightly less than twice the pot size. This stack size is best because it is large enough to get many hands to fold, but not so large that it risks too much those times you happen to run into a good hand. It’s also the right size to look like a natural raise with a strong hand. For instance, in the above example, you might well play AK the same way on the flop (preflop call notwithstanding). You can perform the play with draws of varying quality: big combination flush and straight draws, ordinary straight or flush draws, draws on paired or otherwise scary draws, or even gutshots or just overcards. The weaker your draw, the more you should insist on appropriate stack sizes and a good chance to fold out your opponents.
When It Doesn’t Work: The Flop Overbet Semibluff doesn’t work as well when the stack sizes are out of the sweet range. If the stacks are too short, then you don’t get much fold equity as your opponent will be more willing to call you with a weak pair or even ace-high. If the stacks are too deep, then you risk too much to win too little. Your bet may also look peculiar, which could induce calls from some players with weak hands. (You can take advantage of this tendency by overbetting similarly with your sets.) When the stacks are too deep, avoid shoving with weak draws. And with good draws, sometimes you are better off simply calling, hoping to set your opponent up for a big pot if you make your hand.
Variations: Your all-in move need not be a raise or checkraise; you can open-shove on the flop as well. Sometimes that play is better if the pot is already in the sweet range, as letting your opponent bet may make the pot too large relative to your raise, cutting your chance to get a fold. And you can sometimes use the play on the turn, though it’s riskier since you have only one card left to hit your hand. With deep stacks, for instance, you might simply call on the flop with a very strong draw. Then if you miss on the turn, you make an all-in raise. Playing it that way could ensure your raise is in the sweet range for maximum effectiveness.
Tags: combination-draw, flush-draw, fold-equity, no-limit-holdem, overbet, poker, Poker Made Simple, preflop-raiser, semibluff, stack-sizes, the-no-limit-toolbox