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# How much should a pre-flop raise be in a no-limit game?

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Posts: 13
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(@mike-caro)
Active Member
Joined: 13 years ago

Many players raise too large before the flop in no-limit games. If the big blind is twice the small blind, or thereabout, and there are no antes, then the most profitable routine opening raise is 2.75 times the big blind.

Usually, you should choose an amount from 2.5 to 3 times the big blind, while rarely varying it with something larger or even with a minimum raise of just twice the big blind.

Strange

This might sound strange to you, because you're used to seeing opening raises of 5 times the big blind and more quite often. But 2.75, with mild variation, is appropriate and enough to do the job.

Over a long period of time, opening raises averaging larger than 3 times the big blind become less profitable. And don't forget, calling, rather than raising, is often a good choice, despite what you've heard.

70 percent

What if there are already other players who voluntarily entered the pot? Then you should add approximately 70 percent of that additional money to your raise.

I'm sharing this information because I want you to know what I've discovered by research. You're invited to agree or disagree below. It's your forum.

-- Mike Caro

(Grammar note: I've deliberately chosen to use numbers above that would normally be spelled as words -- like "3", instead of "three" -- because numbers with decimal fractions are included. I'm aware that nine or less is usually spelled thusly. So, no grammatical nitpicking on that one, please. I'm sure I'll make plenty of other mistakes you can correct.)

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3 Replies
(@roccom)
Joined: 3 years ago

Active Member
Posts: 5

@mike-Caro not too argue, but over the past year or two, people seem to have changed that to 2x-2.25x. I’ve fallen into the trap as I happen to hate min raises and have had to learn people are playing min raises with a fairly balanced ranged. I always get sucked into a 3 bet with an inferior hand. (Not always, but seems that way when they min raise w AA)

(@mike-caro)
Joined: 13 years ago

Active Member
Posts: 13

@roccom. You might be right, Rocco. The trend might be returning to more reasonably sized raises. But many of my students have regularly reported hands they played in which large opening raises were a factor. In any case, you should try to average about 2.75 times the big blind, assuming no one else has voluntarily entered the pot.

As for aces -- well, if you're first or second to act in an unraised pot pre-flop, nine-handed, then a small raise isn't bad. In fact, just calling earns more money than raising by any amount. So, when your opponents do this, they're not necessary making mistakes.

(@st00ee)
Joined: 3 years ago

New Member
Posts: 3

@mike-caro

I agree. I have read this in Super System and lot of other books. I also used to be the one at the table that always bet high preflop with my best hands and was easily exploitable. Sometimes it got a call, but that was usually from another strong hand. If I only bet 2.5 - 3 big blind with a strong hand I can still effectively get logical players to fold, and those that might want to gamble and see a flop with a drawing hand can call or not, but hopefully, they call and sweeten the pot a little bit.

I guess that is one example of looking at.

Posts: 2
(@jdean)
New Member
Joined: 3 years ago

Mr Caro,

Upon what rationale do you base the statement that "a raise of 2.75x is most profitable, first to act"?

I tend to sit in most games with a 100bb start stack, and when that is a common stack size, I agree that a 2.5x - 3x open raise sizing is often better than more typical "big" raises.

That smaller sizing does not act as a major deterrent to getting max value from looser and more aggressive opponents, but it also is not nearly as costly to fold if substantial play back occurs behind when you open the lower end of your raise range. Also, considering that the most common opponent mistake tends to be calling too much, the smaller sizing often encourages bad calls.

I am curious though sir, about your reasons for this statement.

Thank you.

(@mike-caro)
Joined: 13 years ago

Active Member
Posts: 13

@jdean. Thanks for you thoughtful reply.

My findings are based both on proprietary database analysis (gathered during consultation with online poker sites) and my personal programming of simulated play.

While 2.75 is only an estimate, it's a close one. The most profitable size is almost definitely between 2.5 and 3 (meaning a raise equal to the big blind and 1.5 to 2 times extra).

There are exceptions. For instance, if you raise from the big blind after just being called, your discount is 100 percent, meaning you can choose not to raise and be on a freeroll. In that case, you should raise only about 70 percent of the money in the pot, including your blind. This constitutes a illogical provision common to hold 'em, Omaha, etc. where you can raise yourself in the big-blind position. If only the small blind called, your most profitable correct raise would be only 1.4 times your big blind, in addition to the blind you've already been forced to wager. So, in a game with \$25 and \$50 blinds, if the small blind is the only caller, the big-blind player should add about \$70 more to raise -- a total of \$120.

But, you're right (and I've often addressed this), you should fashion your bets to the situation and your opponents. Loose opponents are more likely to call larger bets, as you suggest. However, pre-flop advantages, unless you hold aces, aren't usually as great or as certain as they are after the flop or on the turn. That's because, with three cards arriving at once to define a hand, the flop will usually disappoint. As a consequence, you don't tend to adjust pre-flop raises as much as later ones. -- Mike Caro

Posts: 1
(@megalithic)
New Member
Joined: 2 years ago

The late great Paul Magriel advised me to open \$12 at Venetian 1/2, but sadly I never got a chance to ask him why. I suspect it was just assumed that 1/2 players are horrible with their preflop calling ranges, 3-betting ranges, and post flop play.

But that's not why I am responding. I do believe that your 2.75x is sound advice, and I was wondering about 3-bet sizes, both in and out of position against the opener. The current standard seems to be about 3 times the opener raise, plus 1x for each caller in between. I think that betting a little more might be good from OOP (happens from the blinds) because it might be more desirable to take down the pot instead of taking a flop out of position. Plus if you do get called I think having a smaller stack to pot ratio helps when out of position.

Posts: 2
(@whowhat)
New Member
Joined: 2 years ago

I vary my pre-flop raise sizing based on the following:

• The average position of each player to the line of misery
• To discourage set miners
• The table's definition of raise sizing

If everyone is overly comfortable with the stakes on the table that increases the raise. Inversely, if everyone is playing significantly above what they should be playing raise size is baseline. With upper premium hands I'll raise higher to discourage set mining and have a easier time detecting possible sets. If the table's definition of normal x3 bb preflop raise is x4 or x5 I'll test to see if I can go below that to achieve the same filtering and lower possible cost.

I think the hardest hands to detect are flopped sets and rivered two pairs. Sometimes I'll over three bet to discourage set miners due to my low ability to detect flopped sets.

Criticism and advice on my above play style is welcome and requested.

Posts: 2
(@fogelbaby)
New Member
Joined: 12 months ago

In my 1-2 game I raise to 12 to 15 pretty routinely.  Perhaps its crazy, but raising to 5 is treated as a call at the table.   100% of the people that were going to play will still call it.  At 12, still most of the people that were going to limp will call the 12.  That makes it a pretty weak table, but it also means that the effect of a raise on actually getting some people to fold doesn't work too well.

But I just figure that its like counting cards.  I know what I hold, and since most people will still call, I get to increase the stakes when I know I am ahead in the odds, and play for low stakes or fold when I am weaker.

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