When playing no limit poker, the typical raises played are usually 3 bets and 4 bets, which is equal to 3 or 4 times the value of the current big blind. These bets increase the total value of the pot whilst also giving you an indication of how strong the hand that your opponents are representing.
Minimum raises, 2 times the value of the big blind, are something that you will usually not see much of when playing no limit poker, particularly with small stakes as most players want to achieve full value from each pot that they are involved in. However there are certain situations when playing a minimum raise can work to your advantage.
Imagine you 3 or 4 bet raise preflop with K(c) J(c), other players fold all the way round the table to the big blind, who insta-calls. You already know your opponent is a pretty loose player who likes to bet on draws. The flop is dealt, Q(c), J(h), 6(h). Your opponent bets half the pot, you call with middle pair and backdoor flush and straight draws. The turn is dealt and is 4(c). Your opponent again bets half the pot. So what is your best option at this point?
Folding isn’t an option, you are holding a pair and a flush draw. Considering your opponents cards, you know that he likes to on bet draws, so he could be semi-bluffing. He could be holding an overpair, or even two pair at this point. It’s unlikely that he has a set, if he was holding pocket Q’s or J’s he would have reraised preflop. He could be holding 6,6, or 4,4 or Q, J which all beat your current hand. Either way, at this point, you do not want to get reraised off your draw.
Flat calling him eliminates the risks of going bust, but if you miss your draw, you won’t know where you stand and you will not want to flat call a bigger bet on the river with second pair and second kicker.
If you’re an aggressive player, you might think about pushing him all in. However, if your opponent is a loose player with a short-stack, they will probably call for value with top pair, or even on a draw.
This is the type of situation that a minimum raise can help you extract maximum value from the pot. By playing a minimum raise, you are signalling that you have decent hand. It may be reopening the betting for that round, but if you consider your opponent and the cards he might shove with, you’ll have an idea of where you stand. In contrast, if he thinks that you are strong, this minimum raise will more than likely be enough to prevent him raising further and bluffing on the river. What you are aiming to do, is to intimidate your opponent into slowing down his betting.
So in the situation I’m proposing, you make a minimum raise and your opponent calls. The river is drawn and it is an A(d). Your opponent checks to you and you check behind him. He shows A(h), 10(h) and wins with top pair on the river. You both missed your draw.
In this instance, although you lost the pot, you could easily have gone broke if you’d allowed your opponent to push you all-in. A minimum raise is certainly a much cheaper way of discovering your opponent’s range whilst allowing you to see a river card without gambling your stack away.
Think logically through each possible scenario when situations like this present themselves to you at the poker table. What do you think your opponent will fold, call or raise with? How might that affect the future of the hands you are playing? If you are unsure, use minimum raises to get a better idea.
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