More On Raising For Value

In the last segment, we started talking about the two reasons where it is profitable to raise, which are raising for value and raising to get players to fold. We started looking into the reasons why we should raise for value, and this always comes down to doing this in situations where we are the favorite to win a hand.

poker hammer

Use your hammer wisely

This almost always occurs with made hands, although there are situations where we have such a strong draw that we are the favorite based upon our potential alone. This doesn’t happen a lot though and we can simply say that we’re the favorite when we have something that already is likely to win the pot, with our opponents looking to draw to beat us on average.

We of course don’t have certain information in poker and everything we know prior to the cards being shown is based upon our best guesses, but at the same time we need to use these evaluations or we’d never be able to be guided in our play. While poker is a game of incomplete information, we need to use this incomplete information to our best advantage.

So for instance if we have pocket aces pre flop, we know at that point that we are the favorite at this point, meaning that on average we will end up with a better hand in the end than anyone else at the table. If we have pocket kings, then we can also say we are the favorite along the same thinking, because although there may be pocket aces out there, it’s less likely than not.

If we have the same pocket kings are playing against players who like to play aces a lot pre-flop, an ace comes on the flop, and they are now betting into us, and they are pretty tight and wouldn’t lead out without the goods, then this is an entirely different situation of course.

So when we look to assess our chances of being the favorite or not, then there are several things that may come into play here, and the determination of whether we are the favorite in a hand or not will always involve our looking at the entire picture and not just what we may have versus random hands.

What Happens When We’re Behind

Keeping in mind that we’re only talking about raising for value here, the ideal situation when we’re behind is to put exactly no money in the pot. So if someone gives us a free card to draw out on them for instance, then we’re more than happy to take it.

The only reason we do not always just fold when we are behind is because of the pot odds. So given the fact that there is already money in the pot, we do not need to win more hands than not to make it profitable to stay in the hand.

So if there are 2 units in the pot and our opponent bets 1 unit, and we are probably behind, we’re calling with 1 unit to look to win the 3 units in the pot (simple pot odds), plus perhaps some additional units as well if we end up hitting our hand later (implied odds).

So if we are good 1/4 of the time then that‘s the break even point, and with implied odds taken into account, we may not even have to be good this often. However, if our opponent did not bet at all, costing us nothing to play on, that’s even better.

The reason is that the bet itself is not profitable in terms of value, as it is 1:1 with our having a less than 50% chance to win. So the same thing happens if we raise, where we at best get a 1:1 ratio on the raised amount with less than a 50% chance to win.

Avoiding Hurting Ourselves

So needless to say it would be just plain stupid to ever raise for value if we are behind, but people still do a lot of it. To make matters worse, when our value raise gets called, then we’re in even more trouble, since we are even less likely to be ahead in that case. As well, our opponent could re-raise us, where we are very likely going to need to fold, losing both the extra money that we put in with our raise and the opportunity to see further cards.

A good analogy here is to think of the hand as a boxing match, where when we are behind and our opponent bets, we take a punch to the head from our opponent but shake it off and decide to continue boxing. When we raise though, we are punching ourselves in the head, and also giving our opponent the opportunity to come in with a knockout punch with a re-raise.

So you do see some of this post flop, mostly owing to players wanting to be aggressive but failing to choose their spots very wisely. This is an epidemic though during the pre flop round though, and in fact not raising is even seen as a donkey move that no self respecting poker player would even consider.

What We Need Them To Be Thinking About

So there are two main things we want our students thinking about here, and if you can at least get them to think about what they are doing a little more, you will be doing them a real service. The first is to simply think about whether they should be raising in a certain spot or not. This is something that players do some of post flop, where they need to do more, and something that very rarely is ever done before the flop, but needs to be.

Now I don’t want you to think that I’m advocating that players always limp unless they have a high pocket pair, and there are indeed situations where you want to build the pot as much as you can even though you may not have that great of a hand, but this always has to do with who is the favorite overall to win the hand, which also takes into account fold equity, which I will talk about more in the next article.

For instance, if you are up against one or more weak players who you have a real advantage against post flop, then by all means raise it up, as you will make more money off these players on balance.

Of course there’s also raising purely to take hands down, as well as the so called semi bluff where you’re mostly relying on fold equity but also counting on some value you have as well.

To decide all of these things though requires us to be thinking about what we are doing, which is the thing we want to be teaching.