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President Theodore Roosevelt introduced “big stick diplomacy” while serving as our 26th president (1901-1909). He adopted an ancient African proverb:

“Speak softly and carry a big stick. You will go far!”

The fact that he was the first American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize (1906) is testimony to his great success in his efforts to maintain world peace in a chaotic world, using “big stick diplomacy.” For him, it meant having a strong military capability.

This earned the U.S. the respect – and, perhaps, apprehension – from foreign countries. It made it possible for the U.S. to resolve international disagreements without going to war, and to mediate disputes between nations.

The “big stick” concept can be applied to the game of poker.

Playing poker, our “big stick” is aggressive play. That doesn’t mean violent behavior, nor threat of physical harm. Remain calm, cool, relaxed.

In poker, we display aggressiveness by betting, raising, or reraising. But don’t become a “maniac” – who bets and raises almost every opportunity. Your “big stick” should be selective aggression: Bet/raise/reraise when it’s to your advantage.

To best implement President Roosevelt’s “big stick diplomacy” concept, become familiar with the main reasons for raising – and use them as appropriate:

(1) Build the Pot

Raise or check-raise to increase the pot size when you have a good chance of winning. Also, consider raising for value on the flop when three or more players bet before you (no raises) and you have eight or more outs; the money odds are high compared to the card odds.

(2) Force Out Opponents

With vulnerable made hands, raise to thin the field to improve your chances of holding the best hand at showdown. Example: According to probability law, pocket aces, the best starting hand, becomes an underdog if four or more opponents stay in.

(3) Steal the Blinds

Preflop, in a middle/late position, after everyone folds to you, a “big stick” raise likely will force out the players yet to declare. Then, with so few chips in the pot, the blinds are prone to fold, also. In case someone calls your raise, you should hold a reasonable starting hand (marginal or better drawing hand, according to the Hold’em Algorithm – See ad elsewhere in GT).

(4) Semi-Bluff and/or Bluff

Bet/raise to force out an opponent who likely has a better hand than yours. This raise is most effective against a timid player or one whose actions suggest a weak hand, such as a small pair. Use the Esther Bluff as your tactic.

(5) Gain Information

How does your hand stack up against your opponents’ hands? Raise to “see” their response. A reraise suggests your hand may be second-best; be cautious from then on.

(6) Improve Betting Position

Savvy players often use this strategy. Preflop, you are in a middle/late position with a decent drawing hand; two or three opponents have called to see the flop. Your raise may force out the players behind you who have yet to declare. So you gain the virtual button position for the rest of this hand.

(7) Isolate a “Maniac”

Since a “maniac” bets/raises with almost anything, you are in a great position when your “big stick” raise “persuades” all other opponents to fold.

This strategy is best when the maniac is seated just before you, so he raises first. Then your re-raise (a three-bet) will encourage opponents to fold. Of course, you want to have a decent starting hand when you try this.

(8) Get a FREE Card

Your “big stick” raise after the flop from a late position with a drawing hand can “earn” you a free card on the next round of betting. Having just raised, your opponents respect – perhaps 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 get to see the river for free. Or, you might make a bet as a semi-bluff. Your choice.

Yes, you can “carry a big stick;” and “you will go far” while playing your favorite game of poker.

We invite your comments. Email to [email protected].

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