Tuesday Sessions 40: Secrets to reraising in poker

Index to Tuesday Sessions

The following lecture was the 40th Tuesday Session, held July 13, 1999, and later appeared in Card Player magazine.

Classroom Lectures: Raise ’em Back One More Time! Is It Profitable Or Expensive?

I really enjoy raising – but I enjoy reraising even more. But the reason for every poker decision should be profit, not enjoyment. If you want to enjoy something, enjoy thinking about the money that you won while you drive home. Reraising can be very profitable if you do it at the right times for the right reasons. But if you do it just by whim, it can be very expensive. So, let’s talk about reraising.

The following is taken from the 40th in my series of Tuesday Session classroom lectures at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. The lecture was held on July 13, 1999. The title of the lecture was …

The Secrets to Reraising in Poker

Note: This entry was created before no-limit was popular in public cardrooms. Many of the concepts (and mentions of a four-bet “cap” on the number of raises) are aimed primarily at limit play, but others are important to both limit and no-limit.

1. The reraise is one of the most misunderstood strategies in poker. Hardly anyone reraises correctly, and this includes some top professional players. There are many average players who would make more money if they never reraised. That’s because when they choose to reraise, they often are doing it at whim and simply are costing themselves money.

There is an old poker adage that your hand needs to have a 2-to-1 favorable likelihood of being better than your opponent’s hand to justify a bet, a raise, or a reraise. The thinking is that the extra amount that you bet above the minimum will cost you double if your opponent has you beat. But this logic is flawed for many reasons, including the fact that your opponent might not reraise if he has the better hand (for the same reasons that you wouldn’t unless you had a big enough edge), that he might raise with a losing hand that he thinks is the better hand, and that he might be bluffing.

In general, I believe that a 3-to-2 edge is a good all-around target advantage that could justify a reraise – sometimes greater, sometimes less. But just because you could justify that reraise doesn’t mean that you should always do it. It is a complicated decision, whether or not to reraise. Today we’ll look at a few of the elements that help us decide.

2. Who’s behind you. When you want players waiting to act behind you to fold, you don’t even need a 3-to-2 advantage over the raiser to justify a reraise. Sometimes, you can raise as the underdog! But if you don’t want players behind you to fold (usually because you have a very strong hand that will make more money if they call), you often should just call, even with more than that 2-to-1 likelihood of having a hand better than the raiser.

3. The big secret about reraising. (A) If you have a hand that is big enough to justify a reraise, usually just call if players waiting to act behind you are loose. There usually is no advantage to chasing them out when you have a big hand. (B) But you usually should reraise with big hands if the waiting players are tight, because you aren’t as likely to lure them in, and if they do come in, it may be with hands big enough to cut into your profit expectation. So, in most cases, you should reraise when players acting behind you are tight.

That’s so important that I’m going to explain it one more time. If you are considering raising or reraising and there are other players involved, consider the nature of the players who will have to call an extra bet if you raise. When you have a very strong hand and your decision otherwise would be borderline, usually just call with loose players waiting to act; and usually reraise (or raise) with tight players waiting to act. Following that simple advice will add a lot to your bankroll over the years.

4. How your position affects reraising. (A) Seldom just call in an early seat hoping to reraise. That strategy often fails because you’ll have poor position on future betting rounds. It also is almost an "act of war," like a sandbag, which should be used sparingly against weak opponents, because you want them to have fun giving you their money, not feel hostile toward you. (B) Almost all of your reraising should come from last (or late) position, or in an effort to gain last position. (C) Before the final betting round, you often should cap the betting in last position, even with hands that are slight underdogs. This helps your image and often manipulates players into checking to you on the next round.

Let’s talk a little more about (C). The cap is your friend. It’s much easier to raise when you’re capping, because nobody can reraise. You don’t have to think about what we talked about earlier – whether your edge should be 2-to-1 or 3-to-2. You just need to swing out there and reraise with any kind of advantage, or for speculation, or to establish an image, or just on raw courage. Your opponents don’t know that your hand wasn’t strong enough to keep raising beyond that. They don’t know that you wouldn’t have reraised if it weren’t for the cap. This works especially well if you’re in the last position with betting rounds to come. You often can get everyone to check to you on the next round and decide what to do then.

5. When not to reraise. (A) Against bluffers (you often can make more if you let them bluff). (B) From early positions (because positional advantage often is what makes reraising worthwhile). (C) With very strong hands and loose players waiting (you want them in).

6. When to reraise. (A) When establishing an image. This helps you make yourself a force to be reckoned with, and opponents will be more timid and less apt to maximize their advantages in the future. (B) From late positions. Position then is working in your favor. (C) With strong hands and tight players waiting to act (because you have little to gain by inviting them in).

7. Caution. Good players can win in most poker games without ever reraising before the final round. But they might not be able to win if they reraise too often. – MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.

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  1. You know, i have never really put much thought into the tactics of the re-raise. I’ve done a lot of thinking and experimenting with bets with different hand strengths and such but this article has taught me a lot about when and when not to re-raise. Most importantly is not to re-raise with a strong hand when loose players are behind you and to definitely re-raise with tight players behind you to get that positional advantage. I can’t wait to put these new concepts into play and see how well i can apply them.

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