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How to play against a pre flop raise

 In poker, a common question is whether to be calling or re-raising a pre-flop raise. A lot of this will depend on your cards and position at the table.

If you are out of position in the hand it can be difficult extracting value on later streets. Against a late position raise from the CO or BTN it can very likely just be an attempt to steal the blinds, so re-raising with hands you normally would consider just calling with such as 88 makes sense some of the time since you can expect to be ahead of the opener’s range. By re-raising it helps define their range somewhat and when they call you know they have a similar type of hand like a middle pocket pair or AK/AQ.

You don’t mind being up against an unpaired hand out of position in an inflated pot because hands like AK and AQ are only about a 30% chance of making a pair on the flop, so even when your opponent does call your re-raise with these hands it becomes immediately profitable to continue the aggression on safe flop board textures when you have a middle pair.

Even though for the most part you are looking to set mine with any middle pocket pairs, you should certainly be looking for spots where you expect to be ahead of your opponent’s range. Three betting these hands allows you to get in a heads-up pot with the initiative in the hand. If your flop bet is called, having shown aggression pre-flop, you can give your opponent credit for a decent hand.

On the other hand, if you were to have just called a pre-flop raise, if a high card comes on the flop, and you just call with 88/99 type hands, then you are playing guessing games as to whether or not you still have the best hand.

As a general rule, the re-raise (commonly referred to as the 3 bet) should be reserved for premium hands such as JJ+/AQ+. With big pocket pairs and hands such as AK/AQ you would to build a bigger pot before the flop to make it easier winning your opponent’s stack when your unpaired hands make a pair or when you likely still have the best hand after raising with your big pairs.

Although in today’s online No-Limit Hold’em games you can make use of the re-raise bluff in your poker arsenal, you want to keep that play in your back pocket when playing live cash game games because bluffs don’t work nearly as often with players much more likely to call to try and get lucky, instead of respecting your 3 bet as a sign of strength.

In live games where there tends of to lots of weaker players that get attached to their hands, just calling with speculative hands when there has been a few callers is a much more attractive prospect if you only have to call a smallish size raise. The reason for this is because hands like suited connectors and small pocket pairs can crack big hands like pocket rockets.

If you flop a big pair like two pair, straight, flush or better, when you’re involved in a pot with 4 or more players, you are extremely likely to get paid off when you flop a monster. Ideally you want to limp into pots with speculative hands to keep the pot small to try and hit a big hand, but even when there has been a pre-flop raise, if there has already been a call or two before the action gets to you, calling makes a lot of sense to flop a big hand.

Finally, when deciding if you should call a pre-flop raise, you should always consider the player who entered the pot with the initial raise. If they are a tight player who raised from early position, you can be confident they have a strong hand, so winning their stack is much more likely for win you do hit. You don’t want to overvalue your implied odds when you do make a big hand when you just call, always be thinking about if you will be able to extract maximum value on later streets.