Krieger had a way with words

Do you remember Lou Krieger?

One of our all-time poker greats, Lou was born in 1945 in Brooklyn, N.Y., and died on Dec. 3, 2012 in Palm Desert, Calif. He had a remarkable career as a poker celebrity. I was fortunate to get to know him quite well. And I always admired him.

An extremely popular author, Lou Krieger wrote poker columns for many publications, ultimately becoming the editor of the Poker Player newspaper. He was the author or co-author of 11 top poker books read across the world, including the top-selling Poker for Dummies. Others include The Poker Player’s Bible and Hold’em Excellence: From Beginner to Winner. 

 During his poker career, Lou became the host of the “Keep Flopping Aces” weekly radio show on Rounder’s Radio, and wrote the Poker News series “Talking HORSE with Lou Krieger.”

Personally, I have long treasured his two-part series on “Raise it Up,” featured in his regular column in Poker Digest magazine about 20 years ago. Let me share the highlights with you.

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I have read and pondered his words over and over. Each time I gain more valuable knowledge about raising. This, perhaps more than anything else, will keep Lou Krieger in my memory bank. 

Krieger’s tips for raising

Without any doubt, knowing when to raise is a key strategy for consistent winning at the poker table. 

In those two columns, Lou offered a series of five clearly stated reasons for raising in a limit hold’em game. I’ll add a few comments:

• Raising to get more money in the pot: Probably the most frequent raise is when you catch a monster hand and now want to build the size of the pot you expect to win. 

As Lou pointed out, you can also raise with a strong drawing hand — such as four-to-a-big flush. Suppose that you are on the button with A-K suited and flop two more of your suit. The Big Blind comes out betting and is called by four others. It’s a loose game.

With 5-to-1 money odds vs. 1.86-to-1 card odds, your raise offers a positive expectation. Being conservative, your two overcards give you additional outs we are not even counting. Raising is the smart poker decision.   

• Raising to eliminate opponents: Lou gave a good example of thinning the field: You are in a middle position with pocket Queens in the hole and no one has called the Big Blind. Your pocket Queens “figures to fare better against one or two opponents than a whole slew of them,” Lou observed. “Fire when ready. Go ahead and raise.”

Likewise, in a similar situation, an opponent to your immediate right raises. Make it a reraise — a 3-bet. If the flop does not include an Ace or a King, (overcards to your pocket Queens), “you’re the favorite.”

• Raising to get a free card on more expensive betting rounds: You are last to act while holding Queen-Jack offsuit in the hole — a marginal drawing hand. The flop puts 10-9-x rainbow on the board. You are up against three opponents. The first to act bets out and is called by the others. “Can you raise?” 

• Raising to prevent your opponent from getting a free card: If you suspect your opponent is drawing to catch an out that could take the lead away from your hand, do not make it easy for him. Make him pay to see the next card — or muck his hand so your path to the pot is improved.

• Raising to define your hand: Raising preflop tends to define your hand. If an opponent sees you raise, he usually assumes you hold a strong starting hand — even more so if you reraise (3-bet). The earlier your position, the more certain he is of that conclusion.

Another example would be to raise the pot preflop after several limpers. If a tight opponent calls, you can presume he has a fairly strong hand; be cautious from then on.

Whenever I think of raising, I remember the late, great Lou Krieger. May he continue to rest in peace.