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Opening Bets

Opening Bets
by Hank Cashman of

There is an old poker adage, ďIf you can call, raiseĒ. This is extremely true when you begin a hand. If you are the first to act you have one of two choices, fold or raise. If you are going to play the hand, take control.

When you raise first, you are helping your opponents make their decision. This will force them to realistically evaluate their hand. This way they donít just limp in for the fun of it. They have to look at their hand and decide if they want to play you. This will force out the weak and marginal hands.

If you are going to raise you have to consider how much to raise. If you are in an early position, a raise demonstrates to the table that you have a very strong hand. When you raise in early position you are leaving the door open for others to call or raise. You are also showing that you think your hand will beat the six or seven other player behind you.

If you are in late position you are of course in a better seat to make your raise. If a couple of players have already called, you have to make a larger raise from this position. You are showing that you think you can beat the players before you but you still have to make the pot odds undesirable. You want to force the blinds and other players to fold.

Adjust your raises by position and not by your hand strength. If you are in a hand donít let your bet give away your hand. If you have decided to play, keep the strength of your hand your little secret.

One of the biggest mistakes I see players make is over betting a hand. As your position moves around the table your raises should increase. In early position you should raise double the blinds. In late position you should increase to triple the blinds.

If you over bet 4-6 times the blind you are risking too much and sending a bad message. When you raise you will end up going up against bigger hands. If you raise too much and get called or re-raised, you may have just lost a bet or two that you didnít have to. Also, a large raise can be seen as an act of protection. This will get you called or raised because you are actually advertising a weakness.

There are two exceptions to this type of play. The first one is when you are in a loose game or with novices. In this case your opponents donít know enough to be scared. You need to adjust accordingly. Tighten your play just a little. Raise your opening hand requirements. Make your raises a little larger. This will help get their attention and make them more cautious. This will also help you build bigger pots and take more of their chips.

The other time to adjust is when you are the short stack. If you are going to raise and it will take over 25% of your stack, go all in. This does two things. It keeps you from playing from a crippled position and it removes your opponentsí ability to re-raise you. It makes them make a tougher decision.

Keep the cards and chips flying.

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