Raising in poker has always intrigued me. I was discussing the topic with my co-columnist, George “The Engineer” Epstein. He sent me a copy of a column he had written back in 2012 for Poker Player newspaper, describing “The 13 Reasons for Raising.”
He developed this list with the Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group, for which he serves as the director. (Now nine years old, the group has grown to over 200 members!) The list was fascinating. George agreed I could share some of his reasons for raising with our readers in GamingToday.
Most players understand raising provides means for building a pot (raise for value), and an opportunity to steal a pot or bluff to force out your opponents (win the pot by default). Here are a few raising strategies you may never have considered:
Improve your betting position: You are in a middle/late position with a decent drawing hand; several opponents call to see the flop. Your raise at this point may force out the players behind you who have yet to declare; the double-bet (usually more in a no-limit game) scares them off. Thus you gain the virtual button position – last to act for the rest of this hand, giving you an edge over the players who declare before you.
Get important information: Often, you are not sure how your hand stacks up against your opponents’ hands. That information can help you make better decisions later in the hand when the bets grow bigger and more is at stake.
Raise to “see” how your opponents respond. A reraise by a solid player suggests your hand likely is second-best; be cautious from then on. But, if the reraiser is a deceptive player, he may be trying to bluff you out of the pot.
That’s why it is best to use this raising strategy only when you hold a strong hand or lots of solid outs, in case you are reraised. This strategy is best (less costly) on the flop, when the bets are smaller, rather than on later betting rounds.
Isolate a maniac: It seems more and more maniacs are populating our limit games. They love to bet, raise and reraise – almost with abandon. (I saw one raise without looking at his hole cards.) It’s best to be seated just to the left of the maniac.
Example: You are in a middle position. Preflop, everyone folds to the maniac. He makes his “customary” raise. A maniac often raises with a “random hand.” You reraise. Facing a double-raise (a three-bet), your other opponents fold.
You have isolated the maniac; and have position over him. Of course, you want to have a decent starting hand when you try this, in case you are called by an opponent other than the maniac.
While you did not succeed in isolating the maniac, you did learn your opponent who called your reraise probably has a strong hand, most likely a big pair or premium drawing hand. Be cautious.
Earn a free card: Everyone loves something for free! In poker, it is being able to see the next card dealt without risking a single chip. This strategy readily applies to both no-limit and limit games.
Say you called to see the flop from a late position with two honor cards. You did not connect on the flop; now you hold six (or more) outs, such as two overcards to the board. There is a bet before you and two callers. By raising at this point, you may “earn” a free card on the next round of betting, the turn, when the bets are doubled.
Since you just raised on the flop, your opponents respect, perhaps even fear you; so they all check to you. If the turn helps your hand, you can bet to build the pot or force out drawing hands that could “river” you. If you elect not to bet, you see the river for free. Or, you might make a bet as a semi-bluff.
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