In a structured limit game, like $10-$20 Limit Hold’em, you’ll face simple decisions when it comes to betting: check, bet the designated amount, or raise. Players don’t have to think about how much to bet and raise because both actions are predetermined by the structure.
That’s not the case in No Limit Texas Hold’em. It’s a more complex game with multiple betting variables to consider and more decisions to make.
In this column we’ll examine one of the more common sources of disagreement among expert players: How much to raise pre-flop.
Let’s look at an example.
In a game with blinds at $400-$800 plus a $100 ante, the minimum raise is to $1,600. You won’t see many professionals make that raise, however. They’re much more likely to raise to three times the big blind – the industry standard – making it $2,400 to go.
I can live with that kind of raise in some cases but caution that you shouldn’t go with it in all situations. If you did, you’d become far too predictable and that’s bad for your game.
I tend to play a small ball style in No Limit Hold’em with a standard pre-flop raise of two and a half times the big blind. So, in this same example, I’d usually raise to $2,000 but would always leave myself betting options. Why? Because in poker, always doing this or never doing that isn’t optimal; you’ve got to be willing to mix it up.
Let’s add a twist to our sample hand.
Say two players already called the $800 bet before the action gets to you. Well, if you’re planning to raise, make it some amount greater than three times the blind. Since the other players have clearly shown interest in the hand, it’s almost certain that they’d call an additional $1,600. And that might be just what you want. If it is, keep in mind that they’d probably call another $2,200, or even $3,000 more.
You see, the greater the number of players that call the $800 in front of you, the larger pre-flop raise you should make. When multiple opponents call before the flop, the pot grows so large that they’ll be enticed to try to chase you down. The perceived payoff is worth the extra chips.
When several players limp into the pot and you want to raise, ask yourself these questions before you act:
Do I want all these players to call?
Do I want everyone to fold so I can steal the pot?
Do I want all but one of the players out so I can play the hand heads-up?
Then, after you’ve clarified your objective, decide the amount you need to raise to increase the chances of achieving your goal.
If there’s already $4,000 in there and your goal is to steal the pot without seeing a flop, make a large raise to force out players with marginal hands. That might mean raising as much as $5,000 or more.
Or, if you have pocket aces and hope to get a little action, you might raise only another $2,400. That size raise might even induce someone else to re-raise before the flop.
There’s no perfect amount to raise in No Limit Hold’em but you can properly size your bet within a range that will best accomplish your objective. As your poker skills improve, you’ll be able to read situations quickly and come up with a raise that feels about right.
As with most things in life, practice makes perfect in poker too. It will become easier to determine the proper pre-flop raise in different situations as you gain more playing experience.
Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/book.html for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.
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