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Raise or Fold Revisited — Part II

Some flop examples

by Barry Tanenbaum |  Published: Apr 29, 2011


In my last column, we began to look at some examples of raise-or-fold situations. The column started with a definition that I wrote for the Jan. 28, 2005, issue of Card Player:

• The pot must be multiway. There are no raise-or-fold situations in heads-up hands.

• There must be a bet before you. (Obviously, you cannot raise or fold unless there
is a bet, but I like to be comprehensive.)

• There must be no intervening callers. You are the next to act after the bet or raise. If there is an intervening caller and you think all of the other criteria are met, you still might decide that it’s a raise-or-fold situation, but it’s not mandatory.

• You must have reason to believe that you have the best hand or are choosing to represent having the best hand. If you have a draw, raising will reduce your pot odds, as you will put more money in the pot and will eliminate some players who could increase your odds.

• There must be players behind you who could make hands that beat yours. If you hold an unbeatable hand, there is no requirement to raise (and folding would be a really bad idea).

In my last column, we looked at raise-or-fold examples before the flop. We’ll now look at examples on the flop.

The criteria do not change on the flop, but the situations can be more problematic. It is no fun raising and finding out that you are way behind and drawing thin. Nevertheless, we play a long-term game, and over time, you will be better off protecting your hand when it is good, and losing a bet when you are behind or an opponent draws out.

Example 1: Recently, I had to travel to San Jose, where I played several sessions of $40-$80 limit hold’em at Bay 101. This hand is from that game.
Early in the session, there were three limpers to me in the small blind. I was happy to see pocket aces, and raised. Everyone called.

The flop was 9-9-6. I bet, a young lady (YL) who had open-limped from early position called, and the other two players folded. The turn was a surprising third 9.

I did not know YL. For her play, she should have a hand like 10-7 suited (a draw) or 10-9 suited (which she should slow-play to keep the other players in). Either way, I should check the turn and give her a chance to bluff if she has a draw, and save a bet if she has a 9.

I checked, she bet, and I called. A river deuce changed nothing. I checked, and she bet. I honestly suspected that I had the best hand, since she needed quads to beat me, but I called, for several reasons:

• If she had a 9, I certainly wanted to call rather than raise.

• Early in the session, I wanted to assess her play. She was clearly a regular, by the way that she was being treated in the game, and I wanted to see her hand.

• If I raised, I thought that she was very unlikely to call.

After my call, YL flipped up pocket fives, so I won. But I was surprised by her play on the flop. I had bet, and she was the next to act with two players behind her. Certainly, if her fives were good, she needed to raise to drive the others out (the fact that they folded anyway has nothing to do with the theoretical value of her play). If her fives were behind, she should fold. Calling is not a good compromise here, even though it saved her a small bet on this hand.

If one of the other players had, say, J-10, and got to make a cheap call to beat her (with me having A-K, perhaps), you can see the consequences of her weak play.

Example 2: This slightly more complicated example was taken from the same book that I used for my last column, which contains a hand-by-hand rundown by a traveling professional player who spent a week playing in Bellagio’s $30-$60 limit hold’em game.
He is dealt K-K in the small blind. After two early-position players limp, the button raises, and he correctly reraises. However, all of his opponents call.

On the favorable flop of 9♥ 4♦ 3♥, he bets, one of the limpers calls, and the button raises. He suspects that the limper has a flush draw, and he calls to see the turn. When it is the safe-looking 3♦, he bets out, and both players call. On the river, the 8♥ hits. Fearing the flush, he checks, as do the others. The limper wins with the 10♥ 7♥ (and the button shows K-9).

My concern is his call on the flop. He bet, and there was a call and a raise, so it is one bet to him, a player to act behind him, and he believes that he has the best hand. This is a classic raise-or-fold situation.

I see many players call here to see if a scary card hits the turn, but that play is wrong. It is correct to charge the drawing player as much as possible at all times. He should three-bet here, and if called and a blank hits, bet again, thus charging an extra small bet. Of course, his raise loses a small bet when a heart that makes a flush comes on the turn, but he is a 4-1 favorite that it won’t, and he needs to collect that bet. Limit hold’em is won by exploiting small edges, and this is a classic case of that.

As in the first example, his play ended up saving him a small bet, which it will every time that a heart hits the turn or river (and an opponent has a flush draw, which is not always the case). You need to accept those losses in return for the more frequent gains that you will realize when things go your way. This is the essence of the raise-or-fold situation.
In my next column, we will look at examples that occur on the turn. ♠

Barry Tanenbaum is the author of Advanced Limit Hold’em Strategy, and collaborator on Limit Hold’em: Winning Short-Handed Strategies. Barry offers private lessons tailored to the individual student. Please see his website,, or write to him at