Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2008.
This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.
Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at email@example.com.
Lessons from MCU
— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —
Lesson 122: Middle position
Acting from middle position in poker can prove quite challenging, as well as occasional rewards. Middle position holds its share of dangers. Sometimes you’ll find yourself at odds about whether to raise or to call. Mike has some powerful concepts that can assist you in making these decisions from middle position and hopefully build your bankroll in the process.
In a limit game, he strongly advises against raising with a medium-strong hand from middle position during the last round of betting. Unfortunately, many skilled players are prone to make this error in judgment. Do they think they’re invincible or do they just overestimate the strength of their hands in regard to their position? He says that you need a significantly strong hand to raise from middle position on the last betting round.
When you are one of three players still in a pot and you have a pretty strong hand from middle position and it’s come to the last betting round, you should probably only call. I know that you may be tempted to raise, like some professionals are apt to do, but to do so could prove too costly for you — as it does for those professionals. Raising is a questionable choice, because you’re chasing away a potential overcall and you don’t have a commanding advantage against the original bettor, who was first to act.
If the third opponent thinks his hand is stronger, he’ll often raise. Now the original bettor will hopefully call, bringing it back to you to fold or make an overcall that may win in the showdown. This ideal outcome nets you four bets, with you merely making two bets. Not bad, right?
Now what happens if you had raised, instead of called? The third opponent will fold moderately strong hands he may have called with. And if he’s strong, he’ll probably reraise you. If that happens, you’re probably beat. And the original bettor may opt to fold, because he may be holding a questionable hand, possibly even a bluffing hand. Well, you’ve just made a dent in your potential profits. If the original bettor is bluffing, your raise reduces the chances of making money from the player waiting to act without gaining anything extra, since the bettor will fold. So, calling is usually the safer and more profitable decision. Raise only with hands that will almost never lose. Even then, a deceptive call is sometimes the right choice.
If you’re in middle position and you have a magnificent hand, then you could go ahead and raise. Sometimes you might win two bets from the bettor, whereas just calling may only have netted you one bet. Still, it’s sometimes in your best interest to just call even when you’re holding that fantastic hand. But, if it isn’t a stupendous hand, then reconsider raising, because more often than not, that isn’t the right move.
To put it simply: Rarely will calling be a wrong decision from middle position, whereas raising could affect your bankroll negatively if you chase away a weaker hand that would have called after you or if your hand isn’t strong enough to stand up to a showdown.
So to recap, when you’re playing from middle position, holding a semi-strong hand and you feel the urge to raise, you’ll probably find it to be more profitable if you only call. You need a superior hand to be able to raise from the middle on the last betting round. Should you not be holding a hand of that caliber, it’s wisest to simply call. And, again, even if you are holding a major hand, Mike says that you’ll occasionally find it more lucrative to your bankroll to merely call.
If you’re in doubt about your hand’s strength, don’t risk a raise. A call is usually wisest. — DM