Raising in Holdem

It is important to raise in hold'em because of following relevant reasons:
1. To get more money in the pot.
2. To knock out the players.
3. To bluff (or semi-bluff).
4. To get a free card.
5. To gain more information.

If you believe you have the bettor beat, it is generally correct to raise, even if you risk driving out players behind you. In most of the cases, it is very essential to drive out the players on the flop. This is because in present structure, the size of the pot is so large as compared to the bet on the flop that it seldom becomes correct to draw to long-shot hands if there is no raise (on the flop). As a result, your raise in these places will save the full pot for you.

If you are raising on the flop to knock the players out, it will work only against those players who have not yet had a chance to call the initial bet. The player will rarely fold his hand on the flop for more one bet after he already has put money in the pot. (Sometimes, the initial bettor will also help to knock out the players by re-raising.)

Even if you are not confident that you have the best hand, a raise would often be correct. Remember that if you actually have the best hand, or if your hand becomes the best hand, your raise may have stopped other players from drawing out on you.

Let's take an example of a raise with the second-best hand. Suppose you raise before the flop with

And the flop comes

Notice that you have a pair and an over card, plus back-boor straight and back-door flush possibility. If someone on your right bets, a raise is correct, especially if you think that a raise will buy you a free card.

In many tough games, raising as a pure bluff can be done sometimes because players are capable of folding in big pots without calling one last bet. The second example of this kind of play is when one player bets and another calls on the river. If the perfect cards are out - especially if a scare card that is unlikely to help either of your rival hits on the river - you can certainly raise. This raise succeeds against the right players as there is a caller, who is not bluffing. Therefore it seems as though you have something to make this play.

Such plays are not suggested only because they succeed rarely and are costly enough when they fail. However, if all the conditions are correct and you know your rivals well, you may find sometimes find a chance to make this play successful.

Another time you can bluff-raise in a weaker game is when you think your rival is bluffing but also think that your hand is even worse. A simple example is when your flush draw did not get there, but the hand was in such a way that you are almost sure your rival was also on a flush draw.
For example, you start with

And the flop comes

A rival bets and you call. This rival is not very known to try for a check-raise. A blank hits on fourth street and both you and your rival checks. Notice that there is a good chance that he is also on a flush-draw and was betting on the flop in order to pick up the pot. If another blank hits on the river and he bets, you may want to raise. If he was on a flush draw, you will possibly win the pot.
You can also raise as a semi-bluff. For example you have

and the flop comes

and everyone in the game checks. If the turn comes

giving you the nut flush draw and a gut-shot straight draw, you should generally raise if someone bets.

A similar example to raise sometimes occurs in a short-handed pot when everyone checks on the flop and fourth street does not bring an over card or three to a straight or flush. However, it gives you either a flush draw or an open-end straight draw. Now suppose an early position player, who you think would try to steal in this place, bets. But if he does not fold, you still have outs.
For example you start with

And the flop comes

No one bets at this point. And the turn comes

giving you an open-ended straight draw. If an early position player bets and he is a player who would try to pick up the pot with no hand, you should go ahead and raise. If he calls with the good hand you still have at least eight outs to win.

Another time for a semi-bluff raise occurs almost any time that pick up a back-door flush draw after calling on the flop with a pair. But make such kind of plays only against someone who you think is capable of folding. And how likely is it that someone will fold for a raise? The answer to it is based on the answers to the following three questions:

1. How capable is this person of folding a big hand?

2. How frequently will he be semi-bluffing? (This is of course a matter of observing and learning exactly how he plays.)

3. How are you perceived by this particular individual? Particularly, if other players think you never bluff, you are more likely to get away with this play than if they think you are aggressive and irresponsible player.

To get a free card by a raise is done best when you are in late position and the bet is smaller than the bets on succeeding rounds. But any hand which is worth a call is possibly worth a raise.
Eventually, to gain information by raising should be done very rarely, normally in heads-up situations. Even in the suitable places, this raise is not worth it, as you generally have to "pay" a lot for gaining information. However, if your hand may be worth a raise but the fact you will gain information (based on how your rival reacts to your raise) might make raising the best play.

The other time when you can raise in for gaining information is against a rival whose reaction to your raise will well justify your hand. That is, depending on his play you will know for sure whether your hand is the best hand or not.
For example, you have

And an ace flops. You may want to raise someone who will only re-raise if your hand is no good. But if you fold when you are re-raised you have to be correct most of the time.

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