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Fear of raising preflop #1; what can happen if you raise

December 5, 2007

Apparently I go through phases of comfort with raising preflop. Sometimes it’s fun, other times my heart races and I’m afraid to watch what happens. When I’m just watching someone else playing it’s much easier to make the calls. So, what I want to do is step through some of the scenarios.

In some ways this could be construed as the extension of the beginners guide that I posted a while back, except that I’m not assuming a beginner at this point; I’m writing to clarify for myself.

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What can go wrong if you raise AK early? AK late with limpers ahead? JJ in mid position? 98s from the button folded to you?

First off, the assumption is that it is being raised properly. This means 2.5-4 times the big blind, plus one additional multiple for each limper already in the pot when applicable.

Well, preflop, the worst thing that can happen is you get callers, lots of them, and especially bad if they have position (are behind you). All hands, including AA/KK, lose winning percentage the more opponents there are alive playing against you, but hands like AK really lose winning probability the more hands stay in (remember, this is one of the reasons that you raise in the first place; to cut down on the number of players still in the hand). And AQ loses power even faster the more hands stay in. Hands like JJ are faced with the danger that the more hands that stay in, the more likely someone has called with KQ on a K or Q high flop (players at low levels play any hand that has an Ace anyway, so often raises don’t chase them anyways). Basically, the more hands that stay in, the less chance you have of winning, unless you hit your hand. You get to the point where, unless you hit your hand, you’re just check/folding to stay out of trouble.

There’s a lot of variations on what might happen:

  • Raise from early, and the result is:
    • 1 caller in blinds OOP
    • 1 caller behind
    • multiple callers
    • Reraise from late
    • Reraise from blind
    • All fold
  • Raise limpers from late/late-mid, and the result is:
    • Caller behind, limpers/blinds fold
    • 1 limper or blind calls OOP
    • Multiple callers OOP
    • Caller behind and limpers OOP
    • Reraise from late
    • Reraise from blinds
    • All fold
  • Folded, raise from button, SB ,BB, and the result is:
    • Called
    • Reraised
    • All fold

All folded is great; you win the pot. Reraises you have to decide the likelihood that 1) you’re ahead of his range, or 2) you can out play this person on the flop, or, a variation on 1), 3) he’s LAG and doing this to challenge you without a monster hand. Otherwise, you assume he has a monster hand and fold.

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The full series

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Compendium of instructional posts:

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