When to Fold and Raise

At this point, we said that the two main defenses against the semi-bluff are just giving up and folding, or raising. (We are assuming the pot is comparatively small in all the case.) The problem is when to do the first and when to do the other. That means when do you raise and when do you fold?

You fold when you have the worst hand. You raise when you have the best hand unless it's so big that you want to slow playing and deceive your rival later. The problem to make decision occurs when you have a medium-value hand. There are three principles where you can decide when to fold and raise:

The chances of your rival is bluffing or semi-bluffing.

The chances that rival will outdraw you if he is betting with the poor hand.

The chances you will outdraw that rival if he is betting the best hand.

The larger you think your rival is bluffing or semi-bluffing and the greater your chances of outdrawing him if he really have a legal hand, the more you will tend to raise. However, the smaller these chances are and the greater the chances your rival will outdraw you if he is betting the worse hand, the more you would tend to fold. Recollect the example earlier in this chapter. The chances that your rival had the best hand were high (48 percent); the chances of outdrawing him were very low as almost absent. At the same time, the chances of your rival outdrawing you were very high. (You were only a 6-to-5 favorite if he didn't already have you beat). It was the mixture of all these chances that command a fold.

Exemption When Calling is Correct

We told that either folding or raising is the correct play against a possible semi-bluff most of the time. There are three cases in which only calling would be correct.

To Call a Probable Semi-Bluff When the Pot is Large

Firstly, when the pot is large you would call, even if there is a chance your rival is semi-bluffing. Acquiring any sort of competitive hand yourself, you definitely don't want to give away a huge pot to a probable semi-bluff. Therefore, you cannot fold. Simultaneously, you cannot take a risk to raise since, because of the size of the pot, your rival will call even if is semi-bluffing. If he has the best hand but he is not semi-bluffing, he may re-raise you. Thus, the only play is to call.

Calling a Probable Bet On the Come

Secondly, in playing stud and hold'em games, it is generally a mistake to raise with a good but not a best hand when you think your rival - particularly a very hard rival - has bet or raised on the come for a flush or a straight. If his bet was legal, he possibly has you beat, so you are basically bestowing money in the pot. If he was on the come, he has an easy call of your raise that removes many of the reasons for you to make it. Thus, even if you are sure that the Q J 9 earlier in this chapter had only a four- flush, you would be incorrect in raising. You would only call.

Though, when you call a rival who you think is on the come, you normally do so with the object of betting right out on the next round any time that rival gives you a blank card which could not make his hand even if he was on the come. Now, you become a favorite if your rival was on the come and you do not wish to give him a best hand free card.

There is an arithmetical reason for you to play your hand this way. Suppose, you bet with two cards to come and somebody raises you. You evaluate that there is one-third chance that player has you beat and a two-thirds chance he is on a draw. Nonetheless, he is mathematical favorite in most cases. So you can call the raise since you are the underdog. However, when the next card cannot have made his flush or straight, if he was drawing to it, with only one card to come, you are reversed to being the favorite. So you generally bet. On the contrary, if that card makes flush or straight, you should check and fold if your rival bets, if you are getting enough pot odds to chase. Your rival basically has you beat, whether he was betting a legal hand or betting on the come.

It can be explained with an example of calling defense against a probable semi-bluff that came up when I was playing in a seven-stud game. I had three-flush and a 10 and was fortunate enough to make three 8s on fifth street . I bet and a player who had K (heart) with the J (heart) as his door card raised. I reasoned the raise meant one of three things. My rival either had started with kings in the hole, in that case he was raising with the best hand; or has started with two jacks, made kings up, and raised, thinking I was betting 10s and 8s; or he had a flush or a straight draw. I called the raise. When no heart, ace, or 9 fell on sixth street , which may make a straight or flush, I bet, much to my rival's surprise, as my rival desired to get a free card. In fact, it turned out that the rival was on a flush with a small pair, and three 8s held up. (Obviously, if a heart, ace, or 9 had fallen, in this case the play poker would have been to check and call as there was a fair chance to me to make a full house on the last card.)

The Delayed Semi-Bluff Raise

Thirdly, calling against a probable semi-bluff may be a good play is what I call the delayed semi-bluff raise. It is a play I make against very rigid player who subsequently semi-bluff and who are very well known with the ordinary semi-bluff raise as a response to their semi-bluffs.

Here's how it worked out. In seven-card stud I may have a queen showing and a queen in the hole, giving me a pair of queens and rival with a king showing raises. I doubt this player may be semi-bluffing with a small pair or even less but I call. On the next card we both chase blanks and the rival comes out firing. Now what I do is raise! I raise with a pair of queens into likely pair of kings. It looks like a bizarre play but it contributes a perplexing twist to the ordinary semi-bluff raise. When I call the first bet, my rival doubted I had queens; yet I could have had something such as three-flush. Now, when I raise him on fourth street , my rival would think that I have made queens up. Except, he has two kings, he cannot possibly call with like ace or king high. And I want him to fold even if my pair of queens is the best hand. According to the Fundamental Theorem of Poker, I want him to commit a mistake because having two overcards or a small pair and one overcard, he is getting enough odds for a call.

Let's say my rival actually did have kings. I am not in good poker position but my rival probably will not re-raise with a fear of my queens up. Subsequently, he will check to me on the next round if his hand hasn't improved and I can get myself a free card. Will this card give me an open pair, it would be very difficult even for a pair of kings to call my bet since it looks as if there's a good chance now I have made a full house.


As calling may be a good defense against the semi-bluff in case similar to the three described, do not forget that usually the correct play is to fold with an average hands and if folding is incorrect, then you should raise. As a conclusion of this chapter we take an example of each response to the probable semi-bluff:

Seven-Card Stud

(Small Pot)



Your rival bets. How will you play in this case?

You should fold without unwillingness. Even if your rival is betting a four- flush or a straight draw, you will lose in several ways. If your rival does not make a flush or straight draw, he can even make pair of 10s or kings to beat you:

Seven-Card Stud

(Medium-Sized Pot)



Your rival bets when he pairs the 5s. How will you play?

Your must raise. If your rival has only one pair, you want to make it costly for him to draw another card, indeed forcing him to fold. If he has two pair smaller than your kings, you are not much of an underdog. He may even fold two small pair. If he calls with them, he checks to you on the next round, giving you a chance to take a free card. The only hands that may take you in trouble are aces up and three 5s, but there is no reason to think he has them:

Texas Hold'em Poker

(Medium-Sized Pot)

(Hidden cards)

You Rival


You bet and your rival raises. How will you play?

The problem you are facing is whether your rival have a flush draw, an open-ended straight draw, or 10, 9 - or has a better hand than yours something such as A, 10, K, 10, two pair, or three-of-a-kind. As the combined chances of your being beat already or being outdrawn make your rival the favorite at this moment, you should call rather than raise. But, on the next card you should bet until a heart, 6, 9 or jack falls. Again, if your rival raises, you should probably fold; many players will not semi-bluff or bluff a second time in this moment

If someone bets or raises but may be semi-bluffing, your decision is one of the deceptions in poker. You should select whether to fold; raise; re-raise; call and bet on the next round; call and check-raise on the next round; or call or fold on the next round if the card your rival chases can make the hand with which he might have been semi-bluffing. Taking the right decision constantly separates the real champion from the simply good player.