Thursday, November 05, 2009

Analyzing NLHE:TAP Concept 29

I'm working my way through the sixty concepts at the end of No Limit Hold 'em: Theory and Practice by David Sklansky and Ed Miller. Almost halfway done!

Concept No. 29: It's okay to make small raises (2-3x the big blind) to build the pot or to set up a future play.

My standard raises are already rather small, about 3-4x the big blind, so I have to agree that there's probably nothing wrong with raising only 2-3x the big blind instead. In fact, I will sometimes raise as little as 2x the blind, but this is almost always in order to deal with awkward stack-sizes. For example, if the effective stack sizes are around 8-12 times the big blind, I think 3-4x raises will commit me to the pot, but going all-in is too much to risk for just the blinds. In this scenario, I might make a tiny raise pre-flop. Another conceivable reason for a minimum-raise would be to manipulate your opponents to either reraise you or just call you (as S+M suggest in Concept 24), but unless you are extremely attuned to your opponents, it will be hard to convince them to react exactly how you intended. I don't think I personallyhave the talent to make this play work. In any case, Sklansky and Miller have an entirely different reason for making these small raises, and I am not impressed with it.

The authors say, "often you should make this sort of raise with 'brave' hands - pocket pairs, suited connectors, and suited aces - hands that play well after the flop." While I do like calling such hands "brave," I think it's because they are capable of going up against bigger hands and beating them for a big pot. You can be "brave" and call a raise with 98s because you have a chance of winning a big pot with a small investment. However, intentionally increasing the size of this initial investment defeats the whole purpose! By doubling the bet, you are essentially cutting your implied odds in half. If the effective stack size was 100 times the big blind, a 2x raise means you can now only win 50 times your investment if you get lucky and hit your straight. Usually all that will happen is you will fold on the flop and lose two blinds instead of one.

Note that I'm not suggesting that you should never raise with "brave" hands. In fact, I think raising with them is an important part of a balanced strategy. However, that doesn't work if you raise an abnormally small amount with them. You need to raise your normal 3-4x amount in order to disguise your hand.

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