Welcome to part 2 of to raise or not to raise in poker (read part 1). In the previous article, we discussed how the number one reason to raise in poker is to gain information.
The number two reason for raising –
The number two reason to raise in poker is to narrow the field and reduce the number of players you face. You should keep this in mind no matter what two cards you hold. No two cards in Texas Hold ‘Em would rather play multiple opponents than just one. It includes small pairs, AK, suited connectors, and AA.
Playing with Aces
At times players are afraid to raise with this monster. They feel that others will fold, and they will win just puny blinds. But against one opponent, your aces will win 80% of the time. For each opponent that you add into the pot, your chance of winning goes down by 10%. So that means against 5 opponents, you will still win against any one of them but an underdog against all of them together. But would you want your aces to win less than 30% of the time against a full field when they can win more than 80% of the time against one opponent?
If you limp with AA and invite other players to call, you will be the pot favorite. But you are without information and with unnecessary additional variance. Let’s say that you do limp with AA and the Big Blind checks. If the flop is 4d-5d-6s and the Big Blind moves all-in, you don’t know much about his hand. He could have anything from a naked steal or a draw to a set or a straight. And you wave goodbye to your chips as they disappear into the Big Blind’s chips.
But if you do make a pre-flop raise that forces the Big Blind to be selective when he enters the pot on the flop, you know that you do have the upper hand. He could have a set, but also likely to have an overpair or the straight draw or flush draw. You should not be worried that he has any low two pair or any low straight. Your raise should have driven him out of those hands.
Low and Middle Suited Connectors
Aces do play well against narrower fields, but so do low suited connectors like 87s. Some might say that they are drawing hands and are suitable to play in a multiway. The majority of the pots that you face with middle suited connectors will miss completely or hit a pair, one middle pair. You should keep in mind the small pots that you can win when you bluff your single opponent with a hand that did not improve or improved just a little.
If you do make a flush, you are likely to be paid off by an opponent. If you make a flush with a hand like 8d 7d on a board of Kd-9d-2s-3h, you are more likely to get paid off with a hand like KQ. Against one opponent, you are less likely to face a bigger flush or a singleton flush when the fourth card hits, and you are less likely to get drawn out when the board pairs, against fewer hands.
These are other types of hand that players claim to love in multiway pots if you improve the hand. If you flop a set with a pocket pair, you have the best hand in multiway.
The problem is that you tend to improve small pairs once in every eight tries. When you have pocket Sevens against one opponent on a board like J-9-2, you feel that you can win the pot. But against Multiple opponents, that hand looks like a comfortable muck.
In conclusion, every hand performs better against fewer opponents. No matter what hand you have, you are more likely to end up with the best hand. And more likely to have other ways to win, like betting on the flop with nothing.
The number three reason for raising –
The third reason to raise in poker is that it gives you power. Let’s look at an example of why it is so powerful. Let’s say that As Js limps into the pot, pocket 5 raises and As Js calls. AJ doesn’t have any information about what his opponent is holding. The opponent could be raising to take advantage of the limp. He didn’t narrow the field and didn’t take the lead. The board comes Qs-9d-2d and AJ Checks to pocket 5. Now the pocket 5 bets and AJ folds. The pocket 5 rate to win the pot is 75% of the time after the AJ misses on the flop.
But if AJ had raised like he was supposed to in the first place and pocket 5 called, he would lead out on the Qs-9d-2d board, and the pocket pair folds. The worst hand wins just by raising pre-flop and taking control.
It is crucial to remember that even if one hand dominates the other, say AJo versus ATo, the player who raises first and the first bettor is likely to win. Because neither hand loves that flop of Qs-9d-2d and when one hand bets first, the other hand goes away. It doesn’t matter who has the best hand, but what is important is who has the head in determining who wins the pot. And that is how most hands of Texas Hold ’em play out.
This takes us to the next important concept of Bluffing. See you there!