Selective raising

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Everyone knows that raising is betting to increase the size of the pot after someone has made a bet. In a limit game, it is making another bet the size of the limit.

In many casinos, there is a limit of three, perhaps four, raises that are allowed on a round of betting. In a no-limit game, the raise is a bet greater than the previous bet, all the way up to all the chips in front of the raiser – “going all-in.”

Raising is a way to increase the size of the pot, or perhaps to encourage opponents to fold when you are bluffing. But there are other reasons for raising.

You gain an edge when using other reasons for raising, of which your opponents are unaware. “Selective” raising is making the raise when it is in your best interest, but first you must fully understand the reasons for raising.

RSPF: Raising preflop to “reduce the size of the playing field.” This ploy forces out some – but not all – of your opponents. It is a prudent strategy when you are dealt a made hand: A-A. K-K and perhaps Q-Q.

Such a hand has a reasonable chance of winning at the showdown even without improvement. According to probability law, A-A is an 80 percent favorite or more against any other two-card hand an opponent might have been dealt.

To take the pot at the showdown, the A-A must “hold up” to beat all of the opponents who stay in. With three opponents, the A-A is still a favorite, but it becomes an underdog against four or more opponents.

In a limit game, ideally you would like to play against two, three or perhaps four opponents – but not more than that. Note: The more opponents staying to see the flop, the greater the implied pot odds and the chance your A-A will not hold up. “Aces Cracked!” can be costly.

Positional: This involves raising on the flop in late position with a drawing hand that has a reasonable chance to improve to a likely winner (at least six outs). It can also be one that plays best against a small field, such as middle pairs or small two-pair hands.

Example: On the flop, one opponent has bet. Instead of just calling with a middle pair or small two-pair, you raise. Your opponent may have a better hand, but since he doesn’t know the strength of your hand, he is likely to check to you on the turn when the bet’s double in size.

Now it’s your option. You can also check and see the river for free or make a continuation bet and perhaps take the pot if the opponent folds.

To get info:
Especially preflop or on the flop. If you are re-raised, it’s probably against a strong hand. Play more cautiously and don’t bet on the turn and river when the wagers are double the size. If the re-raise is by a tight player, consider folding. Stay in if the re-raise is by a deceptive player.

There are other reasons for raising – to build “your” pot (rather deceptive), as a value bet and to get a free card on a later street when wagers double. You gain an edge when using these strategies while your opponents are oblivious to them.

Any comments or questions, “The Engineer” can be reached 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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