NO LIMIT HOLDEM RAISES :

In Brighton this week I had the pleasure of sitting on the same table as the young Richard Gryko. In my opinion, he is the best young player on the live British circuit. I don't think he is even 22 years old, but already has an intimidating table presence. Very few players put the same amount of thought into No Limit Hold'em, and it most certainly is not a pleasure playing against him. The sunglasses, his cool persona and ability to make players sweat, are not the subject of this week's article though.

During the first level of the main event the blinds were 25/50 and the starting stacks were a deep 7,500. Every pot Richard entered, he made it 125 to play. A much more experienced player asked 'what's all this 125 about?' I found this comment interesting because I believe that most players make a raise without actually knowing why they are raising, or more precisely, what they hope to achieve with their raise. In this situation Richard was 'pot building' and announcing he had a better than average hand (even if it was only suited connectors). He knows the 125 is not going to scare anyone off. Players who were going to call the 50 will probably call 125. What he was hoping though, was that when he eventually flopped a monster (possibly a made straight or flush) he would be able to find an opponent with two pair or another hand they can't put down. Hopefully because the pot is bigger, the opponent may be drawn into losing his whole stack, which is obviously better than playing for a much smaller size pot.

I am also sure he also has confidence in his ability to outplay his opponents post flop. So, if his opponent indicates weakness, Richard will go ahead and steal the pot. If the opponent has an average hand, he will not be prepared to risk a bad call in a bigger pot this early in a competition. Typical examples of this, may be raising with 8 9 of hearts and the flop showing A 7 2 off suit. An opponent may well have called with a pair of 8s, but they are unlikely to call any bet by Richard.

In this case of raising to 125, Richard is making a raise where he is 'looking for action'. Later in competitions it is very important to know whether you want action with your hand, or whether you are happy to pick up the blinds/pot as it stands. Let's say the blinds are now 1000/2000 in the later stages. You have 10,000 chips and have just been dealt J J. How much do you raise? If you make it 5,000 or 6,000 the Big Blind may call with an Ace rag type hand. The flop could easily show an Ace, King or Queen, and you could find yourself having to pass for your last 4,000 when you might be winning. So, in this case, the best move is raise to 10,000 all-in pre-flop. You may be unlucky enough to walk into Aces, Kings or Queens, but this is more than counter balanced by the fact, you may get called by smaller pairs that you dominate. However, the importance of moving all-in is that you are removing the very difficult post flop decisions that this hand poses.

Let's say we are dealt AA in this position of the tournament. We are a slightly below average stack and beginning to struggle. I don't get dealt Aces very often. When I get them, I want to double up. I'll take my chances with the best hand here. I would probably make a minimum raise here, hoping to trap one of the blinds, or even entice a re-raise. I may get unlucky and lose to two pair, but the size of my raise will be looking for trouble. Often, experienced players will move their whole stack in, scare off hands such as AQ, and then complain that they couldn't get any action.

Think about why you are raising, what you want to achieve, and use the appropriate amount of your stack.

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