The best time to raise in low-limit poker games

Apr 10, 2012 3:07 AM

In these tough times, paying more than you need to doesn’t make good economic sense. Same thing in low-limit hold’em – why pay a lot to see the flop? Unless you have A-A, K-K or Q-Q, you’re better off not raising before the flop in low-limit games.

Why? Because so many players call raises before the flop – and they call with a wide (make that "wild") assortment of hole cards. Whereas big pairs can win the pot without getting any help from the board, almost all your other starting hands will need some improvement to win.

When you’re in the big blind, the small blind or early position, you’re in a tough spot on all subsequent action because you’ll have to act before most of your opponents – and that’s a bad thing. Further, when you’re the "middle man" sitting between the raiser and the re-raiser, you definitely want to avoid three-way raising action on the flop or turn.

Remember this basic winning tip: The later your position, the more often you can call a raise on any betting round.

I often see players jam the pot with A-K before the flop, flop nothing except overcards, and still continue playing the hand. They call raises after the flop and sometimes even go to the river trying to snag an ace or king.

Occasionally they catch one and still lose; or they miss and complain Loose Louie called several raises before the flop with 6-5 off suit, made two pair and beat them. Who played worse, the guy who made two pair and raised or the player with the A-K who flopped nothing but overcards?

Even if your A-K is suited, it is still a drawing hand, not a made hand such as A-A, K-K, or Q-Q. The big pairs can win pots without any help from the board, but A-K usually needs a good flop to win.

Keep in mind that when you have Big Slick, you will only flop a pair to it about 30 percent of the time, and will flop a flush draw only about 11 percent of the time when it is suited.

Here’s the lowdown on raising in low-limit games: Unless you hold a big pair, do your raising after you see the flop, not before. That way, you can save money by folding if you don’t flop anything.

And if you hit the flop, you can make money by charging your opponents extra bets to draw against you.

Shane Smith is the author of Tournament Tips from the Poker Pros and three other books for low-limit poker players.