Even with limit hold’em poker, we’re raising!

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With today’s column on “13 Reasons for Raising,” we will have discussed 11.

Playing limit hold’em, in a late position, you entered the pot holding J-10 suited, along with four opponents. The texture of the table is loose-passive – lots of players to see the flop and relatively little raising. That’s to your liking.

Thus far, the poker gods have been good and after an hour at the table, you are ahead.

The flop brings three unconnected medium-small cards, rainbow. You have three-to-a-flush and two overcards to the board. An early-position bets out and is called by two other opponents. It’s your turn to declare. Think how you should play your hand here.

Since there have been no raises pre-flop or on the flop, you reason that pairing one of your hole cards would likely put you in the lead, especially if no ace, king or queen falls on the board. Never mind the possibility of catching runner, runner to make a jack-high flush.

You plan to stay to see the turn and possibly the river.

Maybe you should raise!

With six outs (three Js and three 10s), and the turn and river cards yet to come, the 4-2 Rule says you will catch your big pair about 24% (6 x 4) of the time. So the odds against you are about 3-to-1 (76%-to-24%). Look at the pot. There are about 30 chips representing the lower end of the game limits.

It will cost three chips to call, or six to raise. Either way, the pot odds are much higher than the card odds – 10-1 if you call, 5-1 to raise. It’s a Positive Expectation bet for both options.

But there is one thing you can gain only if you raise! After your raise, any opponents who remain in the pot will have due respect for you; indeed, they are somewhat scared by your raise. They reason that you must hold a big hand; the flop must have hit you. You can almost hear your opponent thinking: “He must have hit a set.”

That’s reasonable, especially since you have earned a tight image (by folding so many previous hands as you played only those hands that meet the Hold’em Algorithm criteria.) “Yes, he must have a set.” Why else, they contemplate, would you have raised on the flop?

Still, most if not all who have made the bet will call your raise to “protect their bets,” hoping to connect on the turn. You have gained control of the game. Since your opponents fear and respect you, after the dealer lays down the turn card, they all check to you.

Now it’s your option.

If the turn didn’t improve your hand, you can check along and get a free river card, thus having saved one small bet. Over the course of the session, that can add up and be the difference between going home a winner or a loser.

Alternatively, you might elect to contine to bet even with your unimproved hand. Your goal is to force opponents to fold, leaving the pot for you. It’s a semi-bluff: Even if an opponent calls, you still have a reasonable chance to catch the winning hand on the river.

And, if the river card fails you, you can try another big bet as part of your Esther Bluff on the river.

Raising to gain outs

Using this hand (J-10 suited), your overcards are “good outs” only if there is no opponent with a higher card in the hole – A, K or Q – with a jack or 10. Raising on the flop may force out opponents holding higher overcards, such as K or Q-10 and possibly others (very tight players) with even higher overcards.

To that extent, as opponents toss their hands into the muck, your overcards become more viable as true outs. And the probability of winning the pot when you pair up is that much greater.

(“The Engineer” is a noted author and teacher of poker. Contact him by email at [email protected]).


About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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