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Raising in Poker

By Gary Steele

Raising seems like such a simple idea. When you think you have the best hand, you raise to get more money in the pot. Fundamentally, this is correct, but if this is the only time you ever raise, you are missing a lot of other advantages the raise has to offer. Also, if you only raise with great hands, how long is it going to take other players to figure out your strategy?

One important thing a raise can do is to provide you with information. This is most obvious pre-flop. If you have a decent starting hand, such as king/queen, a raise will convince some of the hands, such as 8/9, to drop out and make the big blind pay to stay in the hand. Your raise will limit the number of times you lose to bad hands. If there is an Ace on the flop, you can also be pretty sure you are beat, since players with good hands will pay your raise to stay in the hand.

A raise is also very useful when trying to force your opponents out of the current hand. It takes some knowledge of how odds are calculated when doing so. For instance, say you have two pair on the turn and only the river is left to come. There are two diamonds on the table and you believe your opponent is looking for the third diamond to make a flush. Your opponent’s chances of getting the card he or she needs is about one in five, or twenty percent. Your bet should be substantially more than twenty percent (I prefer closer to 50%) of the pot to force your opponent out of the hand. Even if your opponent calls you are making him or her pay more than they should to stay in the hand. This is profitable in the long run for you (this is not a pot odds article, but trust me).

Raising is also a means of bluffing. This, of course, is raising your opponent with no hand at all. This is often very risky and cannot be counted on to work against inexperienced players. Often, by observing players, you can tell how they will react to certain situations. You may notice a tight player who folds to any decent bet. You can use this information to take pots away from this player with a well timed bluff that takes away the players odds to stay in, as long as he or she has not already made a decent hand.

Raising in late position on the flop to receive a free card or as semi-bluff on promising hands are both often profitable. These raises are made when you have not yet made your hand, you are close to last to bet, and there are outs to help your current hand. Occasionally these raises will work as bluffs and everyone will drop, which is perfectly alright with you since you have not made a hand yet. The object of this raise is to give yourself a chance to get the cards you need to make a good hand without anyone else raising after the turn. If you get the card you need on the turn, you keep raising as if you had it all along. If you do not get the card you need, you can raise again to continue projecting a powerful hand, or simply check to see the river (if nobody else bets).

These are a few of the common ways to use the bet and raise. For a much more comprehensive overview of raising there are many books available such as David Sklansky’s The Theory of Poker.

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