I heard it again just last week, from the tightest guy at my tournament table.
“It figures,” he said. “I finally pick up a hand, and everybody folds.” He flashed his aces before returning them to the dealer.
If you’ve never said or thought words along these lines, if you don’t have a problem getting action on your big starting hands, then there’s no need for you to read this article. Go on to the next one. But if those words have ever come out of your mouth, or at least passed through your mind, keep reading.
It’s easy to diagnose the root of the problem of never or rarely getting action on the preflop raises you make when holding premium hole cards: You’re either raising too much, too infrequently, or both.
Problem #1: Raising Too Much
Let’s start with the first possible cause — raising too much.
For a given set of blinds, and a given set of opponents, there is a range of preflop raises that will, on average, get called by a desirable number of players — say, between two and four. Set the price lower than that, and you’ve got a family pot. Set the price higher than that, and the last player to fold will toss you the blinds while mockingly saying, “Don’t spend it all in one place.”
Some players raise more with their premium hands than with others. For some of these people, it’s because they think they should charge the other players as much as possible to get a chance at cracking aces or kings. For others, it’s because they recognize that postflop play gets more difficult when more people are involved, and they’re not comfortable carrying their one big pair through four rounds of betting against more than one opponent.
It’s a mistake, however, to vary the size of your opening raise according to the strength of your cards. It’s called a bet-sizing tell, and it’s a huge leak of information to anybody paying attention.
Your general strategy should be either to make the same opening raise every time, or to use some sort of rough formula to determine the size of the raise — that is, one that does not take any account of your hand strength. Many players, for example, calculate a raise amount by adding X for each opponent who has folded, and Y for each one that has limped in. Read More