Should you Always Raise Preflop?


As a newbie in poker, one of the first strategies you learn is always to be aggressive and raise preflop. As with all newbies, most of your strategies depend on what you’ve seen from the players you understudy, but just because an approach is popular doesn’t mean it will make sense to you. So, if you’re wondering why many players raise preflop and if you should do it, you’ll find answers below.

Should you always raise preflop? According to many professional poker players, you should always raise pre-flop when you decide to play a hand. Raising preflop is an aggressive move that helps players dictate the gameplay early in the hand. While it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win the pot, it certainly gives you the upper hand.

While most players raise preflop to set the pace, there are instances where players will be better off limping. Like a space shuttle launch, an excellent preflop strategy will depend on several elements that include time and position.

Why Do players Raise Preflop?

Raising preflop is a popular strategy amongst poker players because of its effectiveness. Many players adopt this strategy because it allows them to call the shots early in the game. One good way to look at preflop is the foundation of a building. We all know the strength of the building lies in the solidity of its foundation and the same applies to a preflop. It is, therefore, essential to adopt a solid preflop strategy to get a foothold on a hand.

If you have a premium hand, then most certainly you should raise preflop.

Players raise preflop for different reasons. It could be either one of the following.

1. To Build the Pot

A good reason a player might raise preflop is to build the pot. This strategy is usually utilized by players who have a good hand. The plan is to keep raising your opponents in the hope that they call. As long as your opponents call your raise, the pot gets bigger, making for a more significant win. And you will win more often than not if you hold a better hand. This strategy might backfire if you raise by an overwhelming sum. For example, if the in the pot is only $7, and you raise preflop by $300, it is highly likely that everyone else will fold, leaving you with a small profit.

2. To steal the Blinds

Another reason players may raise preflop is to steal the blinds. Stealing blinds means winning the pot with the only money being the forced bet from the blinds. This strategy is common in cash poker when players are looking to make a small profit every hand they play. To steal a bet, a player will raise preflop in the hope that other players will fold. Players do this by raising preflop from late position. It could be done from earlier positions, but it’s far less likely to succeed. Fewer players to act after you, bigger the chance to be successful with the steals. When no other player can call or raise this new bet, the player wins the pot. That is why you can expect the biggest winrate on the button. Only the blinds are left to act, and you will always have the position postflop. If the fold to your raise, great, you just won yourself the blinds. If they call you get to play postflop in position, which is also a big advantage.

3. Isolating a Limper

A limper is a player who always calls the exact amount in the pot. Most often, this is the case when nobody has raised yet, and they call how much the big blind is. Limper is unlikely to raise preflop. These players are generally considered to be weak without much experience because their passive play does not promote profitable poker and can easily be exploited.

To isolate a limper, a player raises a bet in the hope that everyone but the limper will fold. When the limper calls the bet, he is isolated and frequently will play fit or fold. More specific in this situation, a limper will fold to your continuation bet each time they miss on the flop. This allows you to build the pot for a more significant win on the flop. These small wins add up and can help to increase your winrate significantly. It is pretty much considered free money, and you should be thrilled to exploit such scenarios.

4. Reducing the Number of Players:

One of the main goals of players who raise preflop is to reduce the number of players on the table who will see the flop. This strategy is used by players to increase their chances of making more profitable decisions. With fewer players on the pot, there is a lesser chance that other players will hit the board.

Raising preflop looks to target players with marginal hands. This means only players with correct or good hands will follow you to see the flops. With fewer players left to play postflop, it becomes more profitable and easier to win the pot.

In multiway pots, you are less likely to win, even with the premium preflop hand.

When Do Professional Players Raise Preflop?

So now that we know why players raise preflop, the next question is when is it best to raise preflop? It there a particular situation that sets you up for the perfect raise? If you wish to raise like a pro, then you must learn when pro players are likely to raise preflop. The following elements and scenarios will influence a player’s inclination to raise preflop.

  • Hand Strength: Players with strong hands are more inclined to raise preflop. The stronger your hand, the better the chances of your raise strategy. Hands like AQ, AK, and 1010+ are strong premium hands, and players with such hands are more likely to raise preflop. Also, players with marginal hands like suited connectors and mid-pairs will likely raise preflop depending on implied odds and their position. Players with A5o and other junk hands are less likely to raise preflop because their weak hands don’t offer any promise except they’re ”stealing”.
  • Table Position: When playing from the button or CO – late positions, players are more likely to call raises, 3bet other players with marginal bets, and open pots because it’s favorable. These positions allow players to accumulate more information about other players and to achieve positional advantage over opponents in later streets.
  • SPR – Stack to pot ratio: Players with bigger stacks hold the advantage of the freedom to enter more pots than their opponents with small stacks. If a player’s stack size is not more than 15xBB (SPR of 15), the player is likely to reduce his raises to value shoving. This strategy is often adopted during the mid-late stages of a tournament. Also, depending on a player’s SPR and the effective stack size on the table, the player is less likely to enter a pot without a good enough hand.

Playing Against a Player Who Raises

The best way to play against a raise is to show aggression. Many players make the mistake of playing passively against a raise when they should show more aggression. This is especially true when you hold a strong hand. If you hold a strong hand while playing against a raise, your best move is to 3-bet your opponent.

Some players choose not to 3-bet opponents while holding a premium hand either because they want to trap a particular opponent or they don’t want to play a large pot. Whatever the reason is, it isn’t a smart play because a premium hand loses its equity rapidly when many players are in the hand.

Showing aggression by 3-betting will help isolate the player who raised the bet and allow you to see the flop heads-up. This move will also help you preserve your strong hand’s equity while increasing your chances of having the best hand at showdown.

Best Advice to Raise Preflop?

The best advice to newbies learning to raise preflop is to engineer a strategy from careful analysis of your hand and the opponents around you. Good hands are obviously a huge advantage, but there’s still work to do if you wish to build a pot and claim it. Watching educational poker videos that focus on this scenario, will, together with enough studying, make you very comfortable in most situations. Another way to accelerate your knowledge is by hiring a mentor who can help you improve your game will go a long way in enhancing your preflop raise strategy.

Primoz

I have played poker professionally for more than 10 years. I was a winner at every poker format that I played - from tournaments to cash games, both in NL Holdem and PLO. Now my biggest satisfaction is to provide enthusiastic but new poker players with answers to all of their questions.

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