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Texas Hold’em Raising

Today I’m going to go over raising in Texas Holdem.  There are a number of reasons why you raise and some of the are more obvious then others.  Being a player that does more raising and folding is always better then being a player who just calls.  The article below lists the following reasons to raise: more money in the pot, information, free card, limit competition, bluff and deception.  By reading this you’ll have a better understanding of what raising can do and how you can apply it to your game to make you a tougher texas holdem player.

Get More Money In the Pot: This is the most well known reason to raise.  You think you have the best hand so you want to make the other guy put more money in the pot if he wants to play. This may also include being in late position and having an open ended straight draw or a flush draw on the flop.  You may raise here to put more money in because you are getting about 1:2/1:3 odds to catch your flush by the river.  If there are a number of other people in then it is a great move to raise since if you catch the flush half the time, you’ll be making a nice profit on the play. Note that sometimes if your hand is very strong, the last thing you want to do is cut anyone out of the pot so you slow play and raise on a more expensive street (turn card or river). An example of that would be flopping a set, flush or straight.

Information/Slow Someone Down: This is a powerful tool that can win pots as well as save you money.  Often times it is much better to find out where you are at on the flop then it is to pay someone off.  For example let’s say you have a hand like QT and someone raises it after you preflop.  The flop comes back and it gives you top pair.  The person could have you beat with AA or KK or even AQ but they also may have JJ, TT or AK. Because of that you may want to bet right into the person and see if they raise you.  Or you may want to check raise them and see if they three bet you.  If they do, then the most likely case is they have you beat.  At that point you can either fold or call another bet to see the turn card.  If it doesn’t improve your hand then you can fold and save yourself two big bets (turn and river). Notice that this is much different then just checking and calling since that really doesn’t tell you anything.  This trick isn’t fool proof though because sometimes people will three bet you or raise with AK with nothing on the flop.  Or they may decide to just call you down or raise you on a later street. But generally speaking it is a good indication of the strength of their hand since low limit holdem players aren’t very deceptive. And if the person is willing to raise or three bet you with AK with no pair on the flop then you’ll most likely be able to see that level of aggression in other parts of the game.  And when that happens, you’ll decide to call them down more.

Free Card: Raising on the flop to get a free card is another good tool.  Technically speaking it isn’t free but it is cheaper.  Let’s say for example you raise on the button with AK.  Now the flop comes back and you don’t have anything.  Let’s say it is T56.  Someone bets into you.  A raise here wouldn’t be bad at all.  Most likely the person will just call and then check it to you on the turn card.  At that point you can either take the free card, or bet if it improves your hand.  You will also get to see the river card for free too. Notice that this move works best from late position.  In a number of books you see people mentioning raising your straight draws and flush draws for the free card.  In low limit holdem I don’t consider that move to be as much of a free card raise as I do getting more money in the pot.  I will raise my flush draws in late position and then keep betting them instead of taking the free card. The AK example above probably isn’t the best example of raising for a free card but it is adequate.

I don’t use that play often but every now and then I will. Earlier today I won a pot because I raised on the button with a hand that I knew wasn’t the winner yet.  I had AQ off suit on the dealer button.  I raised preflop and the flop came back KQ5.  One person bet into me.  I raised because I was fairly sure he wouldn’t three bet and I wanted to see the turn and river card for free as well as cutting out the other two people.  Sure enough, they both folded and he called.  He checked the turn which didn’t help me at all but the river was an A.  Now I had two pair (Aces and Queens).  He quickly bet into me knowing that I didn’t have a King and I thought for a second and raised.  He made a couple remarks about how lucky I was and in my head I chuckled.  One thing you’ll notice about poker is that people don’t like losing and they will rarely differentiate between a good play that beat them and a bad one.  Even if you have a legitimate draw that gets there on them they will call it chasing.  That’s fine, as long as you take home the money they can complain all they want. Just smile and agree with them that they are just unlucky and you are having a lucky day.

Limit The Competition: This is a very important feature of the raise. Like I mentioned in other articles, some hands play better against lots of opponents and some hands play better against fewer.  You raise AA and KK preflop in low limit holdem to limit the competition.  On the flop if you catch top pair with your hand, for example you have KQ and the flop is K97, you raise the person who bet into you so you can cut off the other people behind and force them to call two bets (this is called calling two bets “cold”).  You don’t want a guy with QT calling just one bet to see if he can hit his gutshot straight draw.  Or a person with A9 calling trying to catch two pair or trips.  Make them pay two bets for that.  Here is another example.  Let’s say you have AJ of spades and the flop comes back A76 all diamonds.  One person bets and you are next with a few people behind you.  A raise here is the best choice because you would hate letting some guy in with Jack of diamonds for cheap.  Another example would be if you have a hand like 88 and the flop is 743.  You raise on the flop because you don’t want to let a hand like KJ in for cheap to run you down. Make them pay if they want to draw against you. Draws aren’t profitable when you have to pay a lot for them so by raising and making it two bets, you turn a potentially correct call on their part into a wrong one.

Bluff:  You’ll probably be using this the least in your game but it is worth mentioning.  A raise for a bluff is always more potent then a bet.  Also the check raise is even more potent.  Bluffing sometimes is fine and it takes skill to find the times when it will work.  You need to know what the opponent has as well as what he thinks you have.  Picking a time when he is sure you have a certain and you play consistently with that is perfect.  It also helps if you are heads up and the person doesn’t have much themselves. If they already have a lot of money in the pot then it is unlikely they will fold.  A good opportunity to bluff is when you are fairly sure you opponent missed his straight or flush draw but you did as well.  You bet right into them or even raise and then they will most likely fold.

Deception: This is a necessity in higher limit games but it also works very well in low limit.  You don’t want everyone to know what you have each time you play.  If you only raise with AA then you’ll be too easy to read.  Often times the biggest pots you win are because someone misreads what you have.  For example let’s say you raise preflop with 88 on the button after tons of people are in. Now someone three bets you and everyone calls.  You might as well cap it (make it four bets).  Everyone assumes you have AA or KK now and if the flop comes back with an 8 on it (as it will 1:8 times), you’ll sting them incredibly bad.  And the great thing about this is that a flop like J84 looks really safe to people and they are likely to try to catch two pair or a straight.  On a similar note, sometimes NOT raising can be just as deceptive.  An example of this would be if you raise preflop with AA and someone three bets you.  Instead of capping it like most people would assume you do because you have the best hand, you just call.  The last thing the guy will think is you have AA and you’ll make him pay accordingly.

Initiative: This is who is in charge of the hand, the person doing the betting.  Here is an example of why iniative is important. Let’s say you decide not to raise AK in the back because no one has called yet and you don’t want to to just steal the blinds.  Well that may seem like a decent move but it hurts you in the long run.  If no one flops anything, which is very likely – let alone something worth calling – then you have the lead and most likely will win by just betting.  You don’t want to make a guy think his middle pair with bad kicker is worth calling you down with. There are two exceptions when you wouldn’t want to have the iniative.  The first is when you are trying to draw and a bet or raise might cut off other players that could make you more money if you catch.  The second exception is when you are slow playing.  Note that in both examples the goal is to regain the initiative.

That sums up this article on raising in low limit texas holdem.  You shouldn’t be concerned with memorizing the examples as much as understanding why you would do each and what benefit you’ll reap.  If you can do that then you’ll reach a level of situational play and more opportunities will present themselves then those just mentioned above.  That’s the ideal and that’s what you are aiming for.  So go out and raise some guy and have a little fun!