Fear of raising preflop #3; Psychological elements

December 10, 2007

Having an idea what you might want to do on the flop and later after raising preflop is a help. But even so, there are psychological elements at play.

On a social networking site I started playing the poker they have there. I expected inexperienced players who are just playing for a bit of entertainment, which is what I got. Third time trying it out, (at a rate of about 4 hands per session) second hand at the table in the SB I get AA. Full table, almost everyone is in. I raise and a couple people fold. Flop comes Q high with a couple lower cards, flush draw, so I bet 1/2 pot, get one caller. Flush completes on the turn so I check it down and so does my opponent. He had nothing and I won, but the interesting thing was that I looked around, and half the table was gone. My interpretation was that I was playing too aggressively for this level of playing, not playing “nicely” and people didn’t want to play at a table where someone was playing like this.

This is one area of discomfort with raising preflop, (especially for some, not all, women). Lawrence Kohlberg developed a theory regarding ethical development, and this seems to me an issue connected with stage 3. Stage 3 is a social stage, and has to do with behavior being viewed as ethical or not when it’s consequences are evaluated in terms of a person’s relationships. In other words, “play nice, and get along with your friends”. Have you ever felt uncomfortable doing something, even though you’ve done it before, just because no one else is doing it? Or the reverse; have you ever felt like you should do something that you ordinarily don’t do, just because everyone around at the moment is doing it? This is a version of stage 3 at work.

This is a danger for poker players. Not playing the way you believe that you should play and instead limp/calling because everyone else is, or joining in with the loose maniacs who are taking down pots with A3s is a sure way to make friends, or at least not offend anybody. But it has a cost; the cost of donating money to those that play this way all the time and know how to play it better than you do.

It’s tough; you get 2 limpers in ahead. They’re saying, I want to play this hand. You sit behind them with TT/AJ/KQs. You’re probably ahead of them, but don’t have a monster hand. You know that the more people you let see the flop, the better the chances are that someone will flop a better hand than you have. On the other hand, there’s a good chance that you’ll miss the flop, or in the case of TT, at least one overcard will come. By raising now, to 6xBB, you pressure them, risk looking like a bully (very impolite), and then what happens when you miss the flop? Lie, and c-bet? Check the flop and admit that you don’t have a winning hand after all? Or fold when someone bets into you? Or, someone behind you or even a limper re-raises your preflop raise. Then you have to decide to call, 4-bet, or fold and look like either a wimp or a lying pot-stealer. In other words, more tough decisions may come specifically because you raised preflop, and these decisions involve a higher degree of “face” because you’ve upped the stakes by raising.

Therein lies the “advanatage” of playing weak poker. You never, or rarely, make a statement about having a good hand. You just call/limp preflop, taking your chances and hoping to catch a flop. If you make a hand, wait just in case someone else has a hand too. If they do, well then just call in case their hand is better than yours. You play “inoffensive poker” or “minimal vulnerability poker“, hoping to get a good board with the winning hand, never sticking your neck out or drawing attention to yourself.


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