by George “The Engineer” Epstein
An opponent bets. You raise, increasing the size of the bet. In a limit game, your raise is an additional amount equal to the size of the original bet. You may get reraised. In nolimit games the size of the bet can be many times larger than the original bet, even all of the chips in front of you— “Going all in!” Casinos generally limit the number of raises for each betting round in a fixed-limit game to three or four. A player is said to “cap” the raising when he makes the final raise allowed. But there is no limit to the number of raises if the hand becomes heads-up (just two players remaining in the pot), nor is there any limit on the number of raises in a no-limit game.
Raising to Build the Pot. Everyone knows that raising an opponent’s bet can increase the size of the pot. That’s to your benefit when you hold the best hand. That raise is akin to betting for value; the more chips you get into the pot, the greater your reward when your hand wins. Your raise is most effective in late position, after everyone else has bet or called. Most, if not all of these players, having already invested, will call your raise, especially in a limit game—building the pot for you. On the other hand, such a raise—for value—is undesirable from an early position at a tight table. Everyone folds, leaving you with a tiny pot.
So it helps to know how your opponents play, and it is best to raise to build the size of the pot from a late position. Once the pot has grown significantly, there is more incentive for your opponents to call your bets on later streets—hoping for the “magic” card. (Little do they suspect that you hold the nuts!)
Raising to RSPF. Raising may encourage opponents with marginal hands to fold. They might call a single bet, but calling a double-bet is another matter. I call this Reducing the Size of the Playing Field (RSPF). This strategy is recommended before the flop when you hold a “made” hand—one that could win without further improvement. For example, with pocket aces before the flop, you are about an 80 percent favorite over each of your opponents, but if more than four stay to see the flop, you become an underdog. Then your pocket aces will lose most of the time and that’s very costly.
Ideally, pocket aces play best against 3-4 opponents, but no more. In a limit game, holding a made hand, your goal is to use the raise to get 3-4 opponents staying to see the flop. In a no-limit game, where you can get an opponent to commit all of his chips, even heads-up to the flop is OK.
There are Thirteen Reasons for Raising. That’s what I said! There are a total of 13 reasons you might want to raise the bet in a hold’em game. My Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group and I compiled these during one of our poker classes at the senior center. I will share these with you, the readers of Poker Player Newspaper; but promise not to tell others... I’ll list “The 13 Reasons for Raising” here for you and discuss some in future issues.
The 13 Reasons for Raising
• Build the pot
• Force out opponents – Reducing the Size of the Playing Field (RSPF)
• Steal the blinds
• Semi-Bluff or Bluff
• Get information (How good is my hand?)
• Improve betting position
• Isolate a “maniac”
• Get a FREE card on the next betting round
• Force out a bluffer on the river
• Buy more outs
• Protect your hand
• Create or change your image
• As a psychological weapon
George “The Engineer” Epstein is the author of The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners! and Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision. He also teaches poker at the Claude Pepper Sr. Citizen Center. He was recently elected to the Seniors’ Poker Hall of Fame. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.