Looking at your raise sizes pre-flop

How much you raise to pre-flop or even if you should raise at all is a very important issue in no limit Texas hold’em. For example, if you have a 100bb then many players mistakenly see this as a deep stack. All experienced no limit hold’em cash game players only ever view 200bb+ stacks as deep. Let us say that an opponent opens for a 3.5bb raise in the hijack seat. You deem them to have a 20% range and your hand is A-Qs. In this situation then your equity is around 60% but the question is ‘should you 3/bet??

If you have overestimated your opponent’s range and it is something like 25% then you have slightly better equity at around 62% and 58% against a 15% range. So we can see that once we know our own hand that we can make a broad guess as to our opponent’s range and be there or thereabouts with our estimation. The difference in equity between our hand and a 15% range compared to a 25% range is only 4%. However as a favorite in the hand then we would ideally like to retain all of the weak parts of our opponents range in the hand.

This allows us to be able to make more money post flop than just the pre-flop money if we 3/bet. Ideally, of course, we would like to get our opponent to call with their entire range when or if we 3/bet and so we can adjust our bet sizing here to try and achieve that. If your opponent has a 25% range and we have A-Qs then we have around 60% equity against that range. If we 3/bet to something like x3 their raise size then we are making it 11bb. However we are risking 11bb to win an initial 5bb and so in betting parlance, we are taking around 1-2. So in that instance then we need to have a dominating equity edge of around 66% and we are not quite achieving that.

The problem comes when we 3/bet and get called. If our opponent calls with something like 7% of their range then we are even money when our 3/bet gets called. Your opponent simply calling the raise is no green light to simply blow them from the pot. In escalated pots then you need to be very careful and especially during the early part of the session where you only have 100bb. If you make a pot sized 3/bet and it gets called then you are looking at a pot with almost 25bb in it with three entire betting rounds to go.

This can mean that with 100bb stacks that there are only two pot sized bets and calls left before you are all in with a 100bb stack. Even if you bet less than pot then you will still be all in by the river. The bottom line is that you will be all in if the betting action continues. This is something that you will not want to happen with hands like top pair and top kicker or even two pair hands.

Because we want to get our opponents to call our raises with weaker hands and still face their entire opening range then raising less than the pot is an attractive proposition. This is why the infamous “min-raise” is popular with some professionals. In this instance then a min-raise or even a 2.5x raise would probably extract a call from all of your opponent’s range of holdings.

The plus side of this smaller raise is that it controls the pot more than a pot sized 3/bet does. If we look at the effects of a min-raise as opposed to a pot sized raise in terms of measuring two identical lines then the results are instructive. For example, a pot sized 3/bet and call places around 25bb in the pot. If one player bets pot on each round and is called then there are no less than 675bb in the pot at the showdown. Clearly, it is unlikely that both we and our opponent will have such a stack size to build a pot like that.

A minimum raise with the same post flop betting sequence reduces this to only around 418bb by the showdown. This is still enough to get all in with 100bb stacks but it does give you room to maneuver post flop and even more so if you only called the raise instead of 3/betting. For a pre-flop 3/bet to be strong then you are usually better off totally crushing your opponents range if a variance is an issue with how you play! If you are playing for rakeback or sign up bonuses then you need to give as much action as you possibly can without draining it away on the actual tables.

Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

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