Two more reasons to raise when playing poker

Jun 26, 2012 3:00 AM

In a recent column, I shared with you the 13 Reasons for Raising as developed by my Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group:

• Build the pot

• Force out opponents – RSPF

• Steal the blinds

• Semi-Bluff or Bluff

• Get information (How good is my hand?)

• Improve betting position

• Isolate a “maniac”

• Get a free card on the next betting round

• Force out a bluffer on the river

• Buy more outs

• Protect your hand

• Create or change your image

• As a psychological weapon

Well, now I have learned of two others – 14 and 15. And, these are great!

These were contributed by Tom “Time” Leonard who is a fellow poker-columnist. With Tom’s permission, I will tell you about these. Who would ever have believed there are 15? (Challenge your poker buddy: Can he list 12?)

In a recent column, Tom advised more aggressive playing when on a draw. (A drawing hand is one that usually must improve to become the winning hand, as contrasted with a made hand that could win without further improvement.)

Tom suggests when you raise with a drawing hand on the flop, you gain a read on your opponents by their reactions. “If you’re called, they have something. If they raise, they really have something, and if they fold, you’ve won.”

In a sense, that sort of goes along with two of our 13 reasons: “Raise to Get Information (How good is my hand?)” and “Force Out opponents.” For the sake of being complete, let’s label this “Gain a read on your opponents.” That’s Reason for Raising No. 14 – and Tom gets the credit.

Yet another benefit of this strategy – raising on the flop with a drawing hand – is when you have a strong drawing hand such as 4-to-a-flush or 4-to-a-straight open at both ends. By raising, thereby showing strength before you connect, your flush (or straight) is disguised if or when you make it.

The odds are only about 2-to-1 against completing the flush/straight on the turn or the river. Having disguised your hand, your opponents are less likely to fold when you do make your flush/straight and bet or raise, “which will probably lead to additional profit.” We’ll label Reason 15 for raising; “Disguise Your Hand.”

Tom lists other advantages of raising on the flop, which are already included in our original 13. Get a free card on the next round of betting and, of course, as a Semi-Bluff or Bluff.

Meanwhile, let’s not lose sight of Tom Leonard’s suggestion that you play your drawing hands somewhat more aggressively – be less passive. Tom makes an intriguing observation: By playing somewhat more aggressively, you create more opportunities (chances) to win than your opponents, and win more chips in the long run. Surely you never want to be so aggressive that we might call you a “maniac.”

Maniacs rarely go home winners. Of course, it is important to balance that aggressiveness with the poker odds so you don’t go too far out on a limb. At all times, it’s important to evaluate your opponents and use that information to your best advantage. Position is always critical. And, in no-limit games, stack size also is a key factor.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in West Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact him at [email protected]