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Wsop Circuit, The Pre-flop Raise

by Roy Winston |  Published: Feb 05, '08


I am at Harrah's Rincon for the WSOP circuit event and had an interesting first table. Layne Flack on my right, Jeff Madsen and Eric Lindgren on my left. Layne and I were at several starting tables next to each other at the Bellagio 5 Diamond and now again. Layne was in rare form playing his A game and talking his A+ game. He played almost 40% of the hands, and any time he put a sizeable amount of chips in the pot he usually won the pot. He busted big pairs when players let him in cheap in one of the blinds, and outplayed those that took him on. Eric Lindgren made a nice re-raise of Jeff Madsen pre flop pushing all in, having Jeff covered. He went into the tank, trying to get Eric to talk and give away his hand. Eric said that he didn't have A K or A Q and Jeff was dying to call but finally folded. Eric then showed 8 6. Jeff had A 10 off, and seemed a little disheartened. Jeff was then prety short and went out a few hands later.

I struggled through the first 5 levels, and went down to 4k in chips (started with 20k) and back up to 25k, then I get AA cracked by J 10, and on the last hand before dinner, I bust. At dinner Layne is chip leader with about 130k. After a bite for dinner it's back to The Commerce.

I have received several emails about pre-flop betting, so I thought the concept I'd like to discuss is opening a pot pre-flop. Keep in mind that there are many right ways to go about this and you have to find what seems to work for you. It seems the inexperienced player has a hard time trying to figure this out and often over or under bets which can alter the play and not help achieve the desired effect. In the Borgata main event there was a player at my second table who would always open the betting with a 5BB raise. At a main event earlier in the year I remember a player who would min raise every time he opened a pot or decided to raise someone. It didn't take me long to realize I could re-raise him with any two cards and he would almost always fold. So how to pick the amount of your opening raise is an interesting question, and there is more than one right answer. I tend to raise somewhere between 2.5-3.5 BB's. I will on occasion limp, or call but let's come back to that.

Let's first ask the question why should you raise when entering a pot? The answer is more complicated than it might first seem. I am now discussing pre-flop play in an unopened pot. Raising accomplishes several things; first off it helps build a pot, so when you are raising with what you think is the best hand you want the pot bigger to increase the return on your big hand. Let's face it we don't get big hands all that often, so when we get them, we want to profit from them. Next, raising will thin the heard, at least usually, although sometimes it can go the other way. When we get big pairs or a big ace, we often times would prefer to play heads up or at most three ways. The other thing a raise can accomplish is to ask a question. The question I'm asking is "do I have the best hand?" The answer can only be a fold, call or raise. The call may mean a variety of things, yes, no, maybe or most of the time, we'll see after the flop. The re-raise asks the question back to you and you get a chance to answer. A raise can often times disguise a weaker suited connector or gap hand, and then let you represent a bigger hand if it misses and capitalize If it hits.

So you have decided to raise, because you have a big hand, or you are in late position and have decided to attack the blinds and antes, or you like your suited one gaper and if it misses you'll represent a bigger hand. So, how much do you raise? I don't look at my cards until it's my turn to act, and I like to act within the same amount of time so I don't give anything away with my time to act. Early on in a tournament I raise the usual and customary 3 BB. As the event progresses and with each new blind level I calculate what my standard raise will be. So let's say the blinds are 1,000/2,000 with a 300 ante, my standard raise will be 5,600-5,800. I usually pick an amount just under 3BB, and will raise the same amount each time. I think it's ok to vary one's raise, but this has a down side as well. It will allow a pattern to be picked up which, at times can then be used to decode your hand. So raising a consistent amount, and raising the same way each time will help to keep your opponents guessing. By raising the same way I mean how you pick up your chips, how you put them in the pot, and your actions during and after the raise should be consistent as well.

Roy Winston finished 16th in 2007 Card Player, Player of the Year race. He won the WPT Borgata Poker Open and finished the year with well over $2 million in tournament poker winnings. Roy plays online exclusively at Full Tilt. For more information on Roy Winston, you can visit his website: or send an email to: with your questions or comments. The contents presented herein on this blog are purely the opinions of Roy Winston, and are not intended to reflect or promote the opinions of any other person, group, or entity. If you like what I write than thanks for reading, and if not well, thanks anyway.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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