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A guide to raising preflop

If you are a newbie  to the game of Texas Holdem, you might be asking yourself why you should raise before the flop? It’s an important question to ask yourself, since there is significance to betting and raising in poker, which will inevitable have an impact on your win rate.

By knowing when to raise before seeing the flop, and knowing what you are trying to accomplish, it will be much easier to determine when you should be raising. So these are some of the main arguments in favor of raising pre flop.

Making a Raise for value

First and foremost, you should want to raise before the flop to get more value with your premium hands. This is a fundamental poker concept that should explain itself. If you think you have the best hand before the flop you want to try and build a bigger pot before you even see the flop, turn, and river.

Let’s say you hold a hand like TT+, AQ+. These are premium hands that you can be dealt pre flop and it’s extremely likely you have the best hand before the community cards have been dealt. So your goal is to raise before the flop to build a bigger pot so that you don’t give speculative hands a chance to just call and suck out on you.

Even when you are dealt AA and the best hand pre flop, you are the 80% favorite versus any other hands in holdem. Statistically, however, the value of the hand goes down drastically when there is more then one other caller seeing the flop. By raising with your big hands, it shows you have a strong hand, so fewer players are willing to call, giving yourself the best possible chance to win the hand against a weaker holding.

Raising to isolate weaker players

This is known as the isolation raise in no limit texas holdem. Generally hands that you would be raising from that position at the table are good enough to try and isolate with. If you have spotted a weaker player(s) at the table, then it will be profitable to isolate with a wider range against them, especially if they have a tendency to check/fold the flop a lot.

Usually the best time to raise to isolate an opponent is when a weaker player enters the pot by limping in. By raising a player who has already limped into the pot, you give yourself the opportunity to play against them in a heads-up pot. Raising for isolation can be hugely profitable, because weaker players tend to limp/call with too many hands, so when you have a made hand, you can just value bet them and win their stack.

Weaker players also tend to play in a very straightforward manner on the flop and on later streets. If they miss the flop, they will fold, or call when they catch a piece of the board. Because they are limp calling with such a wide range, they will be check folding the flop a good percentage of the time, so even when you miss the flop, a continuation bet will take down the pot most of the time. You have the advantage of continuation betting as a bluff because of your aggressive pre flop strategy.

Raising with the goal of stealing the blinds

Although the general pre flop strategy is to raise for value and isolate weaker players with your premium hands, another tactic worth exploring is the concept of stealing the blinds. Even though the opportunity doesn’t always present itself in loose/passive full ring poker games, sometimes the action will fold around to you in late position.

If you were in the cutoff or in the button and this happens, you never want to just call to see the flop, you should be looking to steal the blinds. Even if you do happen to get called, you get to act last post flop, giving you an inherent advantage over the other players. However, when playing against tighter players in the blinds, the raise in late position will take down the pot a lot of the time. Although it’s preferable to steal the blinds on the button, if the player on the button is passive, then it becomes more appealing to blind steal in the cutoff.

Raising with the goal of deception

This play is another strategy that can be incorporated into your poker game when playing against tougher opponents, although it’s not really required when playing against weaker players who will pay you off regardless. In tougher games, raising weaker hands such as T9s in early position to create an element of deception becomes more appealing because thinking players will be assigning you hand ranges of what hands they expect you to realistically raise from that position.

If you are playing hands they wouldn’t expect you to be playing, then they can’t play the hand optimally against you, so when the other player calls and makes a big hand on the flop, you will likely win all your opposition's chips when they have a decent hand, since they will not be putting you on that hand.

 In summary, it becomes easier to know when to raise before the flop, when you have a purpose of what you’re hoping to achieve.