Recently, we discussed several of “The 13 Reasons for Raising,” developed by George “The Engineer” Epstein together with his Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group. As my co-columnist and poker advisor, he has allowed me to share some of these with you. Here are several more of his less well-known reasons for raising.
Protect a vulnerable hand: I will embellish a bit on the example George used: You are the big blind, holding 10-9 offsuit. On the flop, you catch top two-pair. There’s no overcard, but there are two hearts. Your two-pair is vulnerable. The more opponents who stay to see the turn, the more likely it will not hold up.
When someone draws out on you on the river, you are frustrated and seethe from within. Being “rivered” is no fun! It might be a bad beat by pocket deuces: With just two outs, another deuce falls on the river. A huge longshot, but…Or an opponent holding the lonely Ace of hearts gets lucky when two more hearts fall on the board, runner-runner.
In our example, after you flop your two-pair, the small blind bets out. You read him to have a ten in the hole, betting to protect his top pair. Little does he know you have flopped top two-pair.
So you raise, hoping to force out the players behind you. Then it is less likely one will draw out against you. That’s an an effective way to use the raise to protect a vulnerable hand. If an opponent is not in the pot, he cannot draw out on you – and seize the pot from your clutches.
Change your image: Based on how you play your hands, your opponents form an “image” of you. Having started out playing tight, that’s your image. Now, when you decide to bluff, your opponents are more likely to respect your raise and fold – making it easier to bluff successfully.
After a while, you are bound to get caught bluffing by raising. (Perhaps your opponent had a good hand.) Now, your opponents know you bluff; your image has changed. Make use of this. Next time you raise with the “nuts,” you are likely to be called – so you gain more chips than had you not changed your image. Thus, raising can change your tight image when you are caught bluffing. Use this to your advantage.
Bluff out a bluffer on the river: You are up against a deceptive opponent. He bets out on the river. You believe he is bluffing. Your draw to an open-ended middle straight missed. If you just call, his hand likely is better than yours. Raising – while using the psychological power of the Esther Bluff – convinces him to fold, leaving the pot to you. You have just bluffed out the bluffer!
Improve your outs: You saw the flop holding A-Q offsuit, a premium drawing hand; the flop didn’t connect but you hold two overcards to the board. You have six outs – three Aces and three Queens. Using the 4-2 Rule, your card odds are about 3-to-1 against. Well, not really.
If an opponent holds a King, your three outs for the Queens are somewhat tenuous. If a King falls on the board, your Queen outs are highly questionable and dangerous. By raising on the flop, you may force out an opponent holding K-rag; then, your outs are so much stronger.
A psychological weapon: A losing opponent has just been rivered again. On the next hand, after he calls to see the flop, you raise him. That can wreak havoc with his equanimity and self-control. He may even lose control of his emotions, especially if he is a tight player and losing heavily.
Agitated, he is wont to make poor decisions. Go on tilt! If your opponent gets angry, as noted in Dr. Alan Schoonmaker’s classic book, “The Psychology of Poker,” he is more likely to take foolish chances, all to your advantage.
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