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Calling Pre-Flop Raises

  It’s important to know when to call a pre-flop raise and when not to.  There is a big potential to lose a lot of money by becoming involved in a hand that you should not even be playing.  When there is a pre-flop raise and you don’t have any money in the pot, you need to evaluate your hand in a totally different way.  You need a strategy tactics for this situation.  This is what you should consider:

Who Raised?
  You have to know your players.  Is the raise from a conservative, no-nonsense player?  Or is it from the drunk who raises every hand?  Is he an average player who just won a big pot?  If so, he’s probably playing a little too loose this time.

What Position is the Raiser In?
  Is he in early position where a raise is clearly intended to drive you out of the hand?  Or is he in late position where he knows you’ll call since you already have one bet in the pot?  Does he mind your call?  A raising pre-flop who makes you call two bets cold wants you out of the pot while the raiser who lets you call one bet and then another usually wants you to stay in the pot.

How many Players Have Already Called?
  Is there enough money in the pot to give you the correct odds to call?  Did good players call from early positions, thereby indicating they have very good hands?

How Many Players Are Behind You?
  The greater the number of players behind you yet to call, the better the pot odds will be draw to your hand, and the more likely it is that you’ll be reraised after you call.  Take the time to look at the players on your left before you call.  If one of them is thinking about raising, he’ll often have enough chips in his hand to raise and you’ll know that the betting will probably be capped before the flop.  Remember that the raiser could have anything, but the callers really do have a hand.  Can you beat both the raiser and the caller in this hand?

Who Might Reraise Behind You?
  A reraise behind you cuts down on your pot odds, eliminates players, and reduces the size of the final pot.

How Big is the Pre-Flop Pot?
  Once the pot gets so big in limit Hold’em, it becomes “protected.”  That means that no matter what the flop, turn and river cards are, or how the betting goes, the final bettor on the end will be called by someone, just because of the size of the pot.  This means that you will have to have the best hand at the showdown.  This rules out the possibility of poker bluffing on the end except on those rare occasions where everybody misses every straight and flush draw.

Are You on a Draw?

  If you are, then you obviously need to improve your hand to win.  If you have a big pair in the pocket, you are protected somewhat because you will still have at least a pair after the flop.  Is your flush draw Ace-high? If not, this hand is going end that your K♥ 8♥ flush is beat by A ♥ 5♥. Are you drawing dead?  Are you holding A ♠ J♣ against a possible A♥K ♦?  You’re a big underdog if you are.

Can You Beat the Raiser at this Point?

  This is an excellent test question and it will save you a lot of money in the long run.  The best hand at the beginning is usually the best hand at the end.

  Ask yourself, “If I compare my hand with the raiser’s hand right now, who will have the best hand?  If it were a two-card contest, who would win?”

  If he has a big pocket pair and you have a smaller pocket pair, you are not a favorite.  On the other hand, if he has A♥ K ♠ against your 2♦ 2♣, you are a slight favorite if you play all the way to the end.  If he has A ♣ K ♥ against you’re A♦A ♥ or K ♠ K ♦, you are a heavy favorite and your reraise would tell him that no limit poker.

  When a player raises before the flop, the first hand you should put him on is A ♥ K ♦, and then A♣ K ♦, and then A♣ A ♦ and K♥ K ♠, in that order.  He may actually have something else, but this is what you should start with.  You will just have to know your player to know if he might have something weird or a non-standard raising hand.  You should not put him on one definite hand and play it like that until the end.  Instead, you should put him on a variety of possible hands ad then reduce the possibilities from there by the way he bets and plays the hand.

  A player who raises before the flop and then checks when there are no high cards on the flop almost always has A♠ K ♥, A ♦ Q♥ or K♦ Q♣.  This makes his hand very easy to read and you’ll always know how to play.  A bet on the turn will usually win the pot for you if it’s not a big card.  This is why you should normally bet on the flop if you raised before the flop.  It helps disguise your hand and it perfectly represents a holding of A ♦A ♥, K♠ K♣ or Q♦ Q♣.  An opponent would be hard pressed to call you on the flop unless he made a hand or a draw that in his mind could beat a big pocket pair.

  A lot of low limit players who call three or four bets before the flop become psychologically committed to defending their hands to the death.  Or at least to the end.  They will go further with their hand than its value warrants.  When the pot is very large before the flop, at least one player will have the correct odds to call to see the turn card, which builds the pot, which in turn gives him the correct odds to see the river card.  Expect to be beat once in a while by longshot draws when there is a lot of pre-flop raising and many callers.

  If a pre-flop raiser checks to you on the flop and turn, you should bet into him with just about anything on the river, unless you think the river card somehow hurt you.  I would check if the river card is an Ace or King in this situation because you don’t stand to gain that much by betting.  Many players will raise pre-flop with A♦ K♠ in the pocket, flop nothing and check it to you when they make a pair of Aces or Kings on the river.  If there is a third or fourth player in at the river, then you should be aware that an Ace on the river probably made someone Aces-up.

  A player who exercises his option by raising himself while in one of the blinds will usually have a pretty good hand.  The reasons are: He knows he’ll be in a terrible position throughout the entire hand (first position), he knows he’ll be called, and he knows that he gave away the strength of his hand voluntarily, yet he thought it was worth it to get more money in the pot.  He will usually have a very good hand.  Players don’t raise in this situation unless they expect to win the pot no limit texas holdem poker give him credit.

  You can often steal a pot from a pre-flop raiser, even if he has a big pair in the pocket.  And especially if he’s a good player.  If it’s just you and the raiser head-up, and the board pairs on the turn, you can represent trips, whether  you actually have them or not.  You can either bet into him if you’re first and have been checking and calling up until now, or you can check-raise on the turn.  Obviously, if he’s first and bets into you, you should raise without hesitation.  If he has A ♠ K ♦ he’ll have to throw it away without seeing the river.

  The good part about this play is that many players will give you credit for the trips and throw away a big overpair.  Sometimes he will read you correctly (on a steal) and call your raise.  If he really reads you correctly, he’ll reraise with nothing in an attempt to represent Aces in the pocket.  That is why you should play it exactly like this when you actually do have the trips.  You will get paid off for your better hand.  And the next time you try it, he won’t be sure of what you have because you’ve shown him that you’re capable of check-raising with trips and with nothing.

  When you reraise a raiser pre-flop, you usually get credit for having at least one Ace in the pocket.  If there’s an Ace on the flop and it’s checked to you, you should definitely bet against only one opponent.  He’ll throw away everything except A♣ A♥ and A♠ K ♦.  Since he knows you’ll bet anyway, he will often check if he does have one of these hands.  You have to be very careful if you’re facing a set and you’re drawing dead.

  Exactly how to play specific hands will be covered in a later chapter, but there is one hand that deserves special consideration while we’re on the subject of calling pre-flop raises.  That hand is K ♥ T ♣, suited or not.  You have a problem hand that could cost you a lot of money if there’s a raise before the flop.

  Compare your K ♥ T ♣ to the possible raising hands poker basic rules.

  • A ♦ A ♠ - You’re already beat and you’re a big underdog.
  • K ♣ K ♠ - You’re already beat and you need to make a straight or trip T’s.
  • Q ♦ Q ♣ -  You need a King with no Queen on board, then you have to call.
  • J ♠ J♣    -  You need a King with no Ace or Jack, then you have to call.
  • A ♣ K ♠ -  You need a Ten with no Ace or King; you can, however, make the nut straight with Q J 9xxx(no 10).

Checking and/or Folding on the Flop

  The flop is definitely the time to get away from the hand, if you’re going to.  This is when the players who have big pairs in the pocket, overpairs and top pair with top kicker, bet and raise to make the draws pay, and to protect their hands.  Depending upon what your hand is and what the flop is, you should know exactly what the odds are of making your hand and how much money is in the pot.
  Refer to the table of drawing poker odds From a Deck of 47 Unseen Cards on page 204.  It will tell you what your odds are for making your hand by the river.  You will often have to check and fold on the flop if there’s a bet.  Here are some common situations that your necessitate a fold on the flop:

  1. You have Two Big Cards

You have two big cards such as A ♥ K ♠ and the flop is something like 8♣ 3♥ 5♦ and there is a bet.  You should usually muck your hand.  Using the same table as mentioned above on page 204, you see that you have six outs which gives you only a 24.1% chance of hitting an Ace or a King by the river. The problem is, an Ace doesn’t necessarily help you because it could likely make someone else Aces-up.  A king doesn’t necessarily help because you can’t be sure if it makes the best hand or not.  You should fold and not chase the hand.

  1. You have a Big Pair

You have a big pair in the pocket and there is a uniform flop that does not give you a hand or a draw.  For example, you have K ♣ K ♠ and the flop is J ♥ 9♥ 8♥ and there are several callers.  Let it go.  Anyone holding just one card to the straight flush has a 45% chance of making a straight or a flush.  This is not counting the fact that you could already be beat and are drawing dead.

  1. You Raised Pre-flop

You raised pre-flop and you totally missed your draw.  You might be able to run it through one or eve two players, but if there’s more than two players, you should check and fold.  It’s too likely that any flop would have helped one of the several callers.

  1. You Have an Ace

With a mediocre kicker and an Ace Flops, let it go if there’s any interest at all in the pot, especially from an early position.  It’s just too expensive to call all the way down just to find that your kicker is no good.  At least, but you will have a split pot and even when you do occasionally hit your kicker, the hand will still not show a profit in the long run.  It’s difficult to flop a pair of Aces and then throw it away, but it’s a move that you should get accustomed to making with a bad kicker.

  1. You Have a Small Pair

You have a small pair and you get no help on the flop.  Since you have only two outs, the chance of making the hand by the river is only 8.4%.  And this is not even considering the times you make your hand and still lose.
If you have 5♥ 5♠ and the flop is 8♣ 7♦ 6♠, you almost cannot win even if you make your hand.  A 9 gives you a straight but it’s very likely that it made someone else a higher straight.  A 5 makes you a set of 5’s but it makes a possible straight limit poker for everybody else.  A 4 makes you a straight and this is actually the best card you could hope for, even though you could still be beat.  This type of hand just doesn’t show a profit in the long run, especially if you play it against many players.

  1. You Get a Nondescript Flop

You get a nondescript flop and the blind bets into a large field.  He will often have flopped two pair and has to bet it to protect himself against the possibility of an overcard on the turn helping against the possibility of an overcard on the turn helping another player.  The blind will ordinarily not bet if he has just a pair with a medium-strength kicker.  He will have a much better hand than that.  You should throw away most average hands in this situation.  If you call, you’re just playing a guessing poker game because a blind hand could have anything.

  1. If You Are Check-Rasied

You are check-raised on the flop and you have only an average hand.  You will usually be beat at that point and the check-raiser is trying to build a pot and he knows you’ll call.  You should not call if you read him for a bona-fide hand.
  Being able to throw away a hand when you only have to call one bet to see the next card is one of the hallmarks of a great player.  It’s difficult to do at first, but it’s very profitable.  One good way to figure out what to do is to ask yourself, “Does he expect me to call his check-raise?” If you feel that the answer is “Yes,” then you should fold.

  1. When the Flop Contains a Pair

When the flop contains a pair and you don’t have one.  This is especially true when it’s a big pair because of the likelihood that players call with the big cards.  You should normally not draw to a straight or a flush when the flop has a pair.  The chance that someone flopped trips and the fact that you’ll make your draw only 35% of the time, makes it a very expensive proposition.  You could already be facing a full house on the flop and you could still lose even if you do make your draw.

Here’s a good rule of thumb that will keep you out of trouble and save you a lot of money:  When the flop contains a pair, you need to have one of the paired cards (to make trips), or an overpair to continue playing.  Do not be lured into a false sense of security if a pair comes on the flop and no one bets.  It would be correct for a player who flopped trips to check on the flop.  He would be slowplaying the hand and giving everyone a free card to catch up with on the turn.

Checking with the intention of calling any bet is a very common situation on the flop.  When you check on the flop, you should try to convey the impression that you have a hand, but you are opting to check anyway.  If you instantly and enthusiastically check on the flop, and pick your cards up like they’re two pieces of garbage, the other players will bet into you with anything, everything and nothing.  You encourage bluffs when you make it obvious that you flopped nothing.

You should also be careful that you don’t check out of turn.  This indicates that you have a hand that you don’t want to invest any money on and that fact will also induce bluffs against you.  An opponent will now be encouraged to bet into you with a weaker hand than usual because he knows that there’s a better than average chance that you won’t call.  This is costly because it deprives you of the opportunity to win a pot when both of you have a weak hand, but yours is slightly better.
The most common situation in which you would check and call is when you flop a straight or flush draw and you don’t want to be raised if you bet.  You would also check if you flopped a monster hand and wanted to slowplay it, or to give the impression that you don’t have anything if you intend to check-raise on the turn.
Two out three times that you flop a split pair, you will have second or third pair. For example, if the flop is J ♠ 8♥ 5♦ , you will be holding an eight or a five.  Generally, if you wouldn’t call with bottom pair then you shouldn’t call with second pair, either.  If another player has a Jack with a good kicker (in this example), then it  makes absolutely no difference if you call him down with a eight or a five.  You have exactly the same chance of improving with either hand.
There is one slight advantage to calling with bottom pair, if you do call.  That is, in texas hold’em tips, it is generally assumed that players don’t play low cards, and if they do, they don’t call even if they flop bottom pair.  So, it is usually considered to be a safe bet when the lowest card on the flop pairs on the turn or river.  You will have a very well disguised set of trips and you’ll usually win against a bigger two pair.  You are definitely taking the worst of it when you play bottom pairs unless you have something else going for you like a straight draw or a semi-bluff.
Calling with a bottom pair with an Ace kicker is a good semi-bluff.  You know you don’t have the best hand, but you know if you make an Ace or trip your pair, you’ll probably have a winner.