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Bad Bet Sizing: When Is A Raise Not A Raise?

When I raise, I want every person left in the hand to think, “I am not sure what I should do.”  Why do I want that?  Because the alternative reaction is, “This is an easy decision.”  Here is a typical situation that falls into this bad category.

Three limpers at $1-$2 and someone raises the $11 pot on the Button to $7.

The person in the small blind is going to be fairly certain to be able to put in $6 to see a $28-$42 pot.  This is unlikely to be the right odds to play out of position, but he will often take it.  The $5 call is automatic for most limpers, and each caller makes the next more likely.

The button gets virtually no chance to take the pot down pre-flop.  The Button is likely to be the last to act in a 4-6 person pot.  This pot is going to be bloated, and hand ranges will be very hard to predict since they are really just the limping ranges.  If the Button gets beat by some really wonky two pair in this spot, it is their own fault.

What kind of raise is going to give the limpers a tough decision?

Imagine we are on the Button with three limpers.  Our call makes the pot $11.  At minimum, we should raise the value of the pot by making it $13.  Because each limper knows his call will cause more people to call after him, they are more likely to call.  Think about this, how often have you heard, “I would have called if someone else would have called.”

Actually, because people are so likely to call raises at $1-$2, I have a standard raise of about $10-$12 plus one big blind for every limper.  That means I would raise to $16-$18 here.  In all but the wildest games each limper is going to really have to consider if they should call here.

What if I have a real hand and I don’t get any action?  That is fine with me.  Picking up $9 without a fight with Aces is a decent result.  The reason that is a decent result is that I am just as likely to be making that raise with TT, AK, A3s, KJs.  Those hands are quite happy with the same result.

I am in there raising the limpers from the button a lot.  The opponents just don’t know if I have a “real hand” or not.  This makes their decision hard, and they make mistakes on hard decisions.

Doug Hull
Doug Hull
I am a poker player and author of the book "Poker Plays You Can Use". Contact me if you are looking to improve your live poker game.
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