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Learning No-Limit From Scratch ­- Intimidating with a Min-Raise

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Aug 03, 2016


Roy CookeThree off the button, $700 deep, I open-raised to $20 with KHeart Suit 10Heart Suit in a $2-$5 no-limit hold’em game. The field folded to the big blind, who insta-called. He was a tourist, about $400 deep, a mostly straightforward player who leaned toward the loose side, and also liked betting his draws. We took the flop heads-up, about $40 in the pot.

The flop came QHeart Suit 10Club Suit 7Club Suit, and Mr. Tourist fired $20. Holding second pair in position with a backdoor heart draw and knowing that my opponent liked to bet draws triggered an easy call.

The turn card came the 4Heart Suit, giving me a flush draw. Mr. Tourist tossed in $40, another half-pot bet. I pondered my best decision. Obviously, folding wasn’t an option. I contemplated my opponent’s range. I thought he might have some queens, possibly Q-10. He might have a set of sevens. I didn’t think he could have a set of queens or tens since I thought he would have reraised preflop. He may possibly have flatted 10-10 preflop, but since I had one and there was one on the board, there was only one combination of 10-10 available. And since I thought he’d likely reraise tens, I discounted that one combo. He could have a ton of draws, two flush draws, and numerous straight draws were available. I had all of them currently beat, unless he held a queen and a flush draw. My hand had lots of showdown equity. I didn’t want to get reraised off my draw, but I didn’t want to call a big river bet with second pair, second kicker either.

Calling guaranteed my seeing the river. I thought about a raise semibluff. Could I get him to fold some better hands with a big raise? Additionally, he might call with some of his draws which I currently beat and had advantageous equity against. If I put him all-in, he would be getting $320-$440 on his call. It would be a bad call with his draws unless he held a queen and a club draw. But if he had a made hand he would call a shove with, he would be significantly getting the best of me.

I deliberated whether calling or shoving had better expectation. Calling eliminated the risk of going broke unless I hit my hand and it was no good. But what was I going to do if faced with a river bet? He was capable of three-barreling his draws as well as his made hands. And I wasn’t enthusiastic about calling a large river bet if I missed my draw and had only two tens. Shoving had value when he folded hands better than mine and when he called with any draw. That said, if he called with a superior hand, I would lose expected value (EV). And, given his loose nature, I was unsure if he would fold a queen to a shove.

I thought about how a min-raise might play. Yeah, I’d reopen the betting, and it would be bad if he shoved. But if he read me for a very strong hand, which he was likely to do if I min-raised, what hand could he shove with? So, if he read me as strong, that would both stop him from reraising and would likely prevent him from bluffing the river. If I missed, since I had positon, I could check the river and beat his missed draw hands. And if I hit, I could bet, and with his loose calling propensity, possibly acquire additional value from my made hand.

I chose to min-raise and was called. The ASpade Suit hit on the river, and Mr. Tourist knuckled to me. I checked behind him and he showed me AClub Suit JClub Suit. I tossed my holding into the muck.

Did I make the right choice? In retrospect, it would appear so. If I shoved, I almost certainly would have gone broke. But if I had just called, I would have gotten away $40 cheaper if he checked the river. But retrospective thinking based on the card(s) that came is never indicative of a correct decision. You evaluate the quality of your decisions solely on the information you had available at the decision point.

In this case, if I knew he would fold all the queens in his range, I would have shoved. But since I was unsure and didn’t want to risk losing the EV when called with a queen, I chose a different play. All gambling equations should be quantified in terms of expectation. And since my hand was very unlikely to be in bad EV shape with my paired tens and a heart flush draw, the expectation loss cost of min-raising when I was beat was minimal, and should my hand have been good, the EV over his drawing range was strong, particularly if the min-raise influenced his river decision. I felt that min-raising reduced my negative EV from potentially folding the best hand and if he had a hand like JClub Suit 8Club Suit I would have been hard-pressed to call Mr. Tourist’s river bet with tens. Taking that scenario out of his range added value to my holding.

The hand speaks to the decisions you must make at the table concerning how you think your opponents will react when facing differing alternatives. How those alternatives play can hugely influence the equity of your holding. That said, it’s often difficult to make accurate determinations, particularly when you have played little with the given opponent. There is always some degree of guesswork and even the best players are constantly estimating.

But if you think logically through situations, what hands do you think he’ll fold, call, raise with and so forth? And how does that affect the future play of the hand? Then act on your best judgment. Your decisions should be improve and your thought process will grow. ♠

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke