Learn When To Raise & Not to Raise in Poker – Part 1

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Learn When To Raise & Not to Raise in Poker - Part 1

Reason To Raise In Poker

To begin learning when to raise in poker, let’s say that you are not at the blinds, and players have already bet out in front of you; you now have a pretty clear idea and a reason to enter the pot when many have folded in front of you. But if you are playing up front, that is where the disadvantage lies. Your information disadvantage is extreme, and you will act first in the hand. In such a situation, you would prefer to have a higher probability of starting with the best hands. If you are playing in the middle, you can play with slightly looser hands, whereas when you are in the late position, you can play with any hand. That is why in most of Hold ‘Em games, positions play an essential part (Read up on our previous articles on the position in poker for a recap.)

If you raise, you need to have an apparent reason to do so. For example, if you are in a Rs. 10 / Rs.20 table, and you enter the pot for Rs. 60, you need to be sure what those extra 40 chips are doing for you. 

“To build the pot” is one of the most frequently used reasons to raise a poker game. But that is not always correct. Raising Pre-flop isn’t advisable because most of the variance happens when the flop hits. You should not get a huge size of your money at this point of high variance when there is a lot of betting to come unless you have a reason to believe that you have a very strong hand. 

Poker is a game of decision-making under situations of uncertainty.  One of the crucial aspects of entering the pot should be to reduce this uncertainty. You should leverage your chips to extract information from your opponents from the beginning of the hand. The sooner you figure what they have, the better your decisions will be for the rest of your hands, allowing you to play effectively. 

Limping in Poker

Learn When To Raise & Not to Raise in Poker - Part 1

Let’s say you have AQo and are in late position, and you limp into the pot. The Small Blind Folds, and the Big Blind Checks. You have not learned anything new about the Blinds that you didn’t know before limping into the pot. Most of the players don’t prefer to Check Pocket Aces so that you can eliminate that hand and Pocket Kings. But Big Blinds would check Queens, AKo, 72, and every hand in between. So if you limp into a pot and the Blinds check, you don’t learn much about his hand.  If you aren’t using chips to extract information, you are not using them to any significant impact.

Learn When To Raise & Not to Raise in Poker - Part 1

Limping in an early position is not recommended at all. Limp breed limps, and the range of hands that limp behind a limper can be pretty broad. If you limp in, maybe other hands that were about to fold, might also limp behind you. Limpers behind you could have a broad range of hands like 65, J8s, or even a 77. You learn less and less of each successive on hand that limps in. All those hands will have a wide range, and they all get to act after you on every single betting round.

Learn When To Raise & Not to Raise in Poker - Part 1

But what happens when another player limps, and a third player raises. How much do you know about the raiser’s hand? But he has raised a couple of limpers, does he even have a  real hand? 

Let’s say you hold a 77 and limp in. You are raised since your opponent could be holding the whole range. If you fold this hand, you would be folding the best hand, as a pair is considered the best hand against a player who could be merely raising. But if you don’t fold, how do you play forward? If you call, you will find yourself mostly checking the flop or folding whenever overcards hit the board. But if only one overcard hits, you need to figure out how to play the hand out of position, whether to lead out and get raised, or heck and call the guy down and if you should check-raise to semi-bluff. These are not good plays, because they all-involve post-flop action out of position. 

All in all, when you limp with that 77, you have no rational play against a raise and are in the most dangerous position with the least information. 

Raises & Appraises

When you raise, your opponents think twice before entering the pot. If you raise enough to make them selective of their hands, you narrow down their possible holdings. So when you raise in a late position and a blind calls you, he would probably have a hand in the top 25% to 50%  of the hands he has dealt, depending on how loose a player he is. He might knock out two to three players from his calling range. This information is helpful when you are in position as well as out of position. 

If you Open-Raise (Raise First In) your opponents need to make sure of their decision. This reduces down what they could be holding. When you limp in an early position, and an opponent calls you, you would know very little of his hand. But if you raise in an early position and then get called, they are likely to be strong as well. 

So when an opponent right behind you calls your early-position raise, you know his hand is strong, but not super-strong. There is a probability that it might be two unpaired big cards (but not AK), a middle-sized pair or if the opponent is on the loose side, suited connectors. 

Such information is powerful, especially considering you have a worse position. Knowing that much about what your in-position opponent holds helps you make much better decisions on the rest of the betting rounds. This is just one of the myriad reasons why it is always better to raise than limp in any hand you choose to play.

Conclusion: Observe The Difference

When a player raises your limp, you learn nothing new about the raiser’s hand. When a player raises your open raise, you can reliably place it in the top 5%-10% of hands.

Now think about your 77. If you open raise in the first move, when you get re-raised, you have either an easy fold, since the hand that re-raises is almost always better than yours, or the decision to try to call and hit a set if the price is right. 

 If you limp or call a raise, it will cost you more than open-raising in the first place. But if you open-raise and don’t get re-raised, you learn much more about your opponents’ hands for a lower price. That’s more information for less money. Doesn’t that sound good?

That leads us to part two. See you there!


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