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Raise or Fold Revisited — Part III

Some turn examples

by Barry Tanenbaum |  Published: May 06, 2011

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Barry TanenbaumIn my last column, we continued our look at some examples of raise-or-fold situations. We 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 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 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 previous columns, we looked at raise-or-fold examples preflop and on the flop. We’ll now conclude with a look at some examples that occur on the turn.

Example 1: Let’s start with a common situation. One middle-position player limps in, a second raises, the small blind calls, and you call from the big blind with the A♣ 3♣. The limper calls, as well, so four of you see the flop of 8♦ 3♠ 2♥. The small blind checks, you check, and so does everyone else.

The turn is the 9♣. The small blind bets, and it’s your turn. I assume that you recognize the classic raise-or-fold position you are in. If the small blind has you beat, you are not getting anywhere near the right price to try to draw out. On the other hand, if you are ahead, you cannot let the other two players in to have a shot at beating you for a single big bet.

You also recognize that this is a classic bluff situation for the small blind (if he understands the game well and will attempt such a play). But, of course, he can also have an 8, 9, or pocket pair, any of which beats you.

There are other possible advantages to raising. One is that you might win the pot right now, which is a good thing, since even a bluff can draw out on your pair of threes. The next advantage is that if you do get it down to you and the small blind, you can check behind him on the river and see if you win. If you were even thinking of calling twice, this has to be better. Finally, if he bets the river after you raise the turn, you can safely fold almost every time. Extremely few opponents will bet here as a bluff.

So, yes, I prefer a raise to a fold if the opponent is capable of bluffing in this spot. But whichever one you choose, as usual, calling is the worst possible option.

Example 2: Now, here’s a tough one. You have pocket nines and raise preflop after one limper. The button and big blind call. You like the flop of 8♠ 6♣ 3♦. It is checked to you, you bet, and everyone calls. The turn is the J♣. The big blind checks, but now the player on your right bets. What should you do?

Well, the theme of this column is raise or fold, and you can see that this is another classic situation. If he has a jack, which would be consistent with his preflop limp, you have only two outs and need to fold. But he may have a hand like 7-7 and be putting you on A-K or A-Q and not want to surrender a free card. Or, he may have picked up a flush draw to a hand like the A♣ 3♣ or 7♣ 5♣, and be making a semibluff with lots of outs if you call.

Remember that you still have two players to act behind you, either of whom could catch a card to beat your pair if you simply call. If you believe that this opponent is a straightforward type who would never bet a draw, you have to fold. If he is aggressive, tricky, or tough, you will probably be ahead often enough to put in a raise. Even if he has a jack, he almost certainly will check to you on the river, since he cannot tell that you have nines and not, say, kings. As in the previous example, if a scare card like a club hits and he bets, you can fold.

As in all of the examples in this series, and, in fact, all of the others that you will encounter in real life, calling is the worst option.

Conclusion: I understand why many players love to call in raise-or-fold situations. First, the decisions are difficult, and calling feels like a compromise. You hate to fold if you are ahead and see your pot pushed to someone else, and you hate to raise when you are behind and lose more money.

However, please look at it this way: Sometimes when you raise, you will be wrong and will lose the pot. Similarly, sometimes when you fold, you will be wrong and will have folded a winner. But you also will be right much of the time, and more often as your judgment improves. When you call, you will be wrong 100 percent of the time, and that is not a good play. If you are behind, calling is wrong, and if you are ahead, calling is still wrong.

So, recognize raise-or-fold situations, make a choice, and live with it. In the long run, you’ll increase your profits. ♠

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, www.barrytanenbaum.com, or write to him at pokerbear@cox.net.