Countering the Minraise

I do not endorse the minraise anymore, mainly because everybody flats from the big blind, and then folds to a continuation bet if they miss. If they’re going to call 2x or 2.5x why wouldn’t I want them to put more money out there? They are going to miss 55–60% of the time given their range. I make more money on average if they’ve put additional chips into the pot. I’ve also proven that a very basic player can make a profit flatting a minraise.

Take a look at the CardRunners EV calculation in Figure 11.

You don’t need to understand this calculator yet but I will explain what it means this time. In this simulation our hero in the big blind has 10-7o and almost 7BB. He faces a minraise from an aggressive opponent who is opening 35% of the hands. Our hero, not being a great poker player, calls. He has betrayed all conventional wisdom.

First, ask yourself if you’ve ever called 2x raise from a stack just short of 7x in your life. Remember your answer as we continue. On the flop, since he has no idea what to do, the player moves all-in if he hits anything. If he hits four of a kind he just jams for more than the size of the pot. If he hits bottom pair on a one-suited board and doesn’t have a draw he moves all-in for over the pot. If he misses the board? He open folds. He throws his cards to the dealer, not realizing he could have checked and seen what the action would be toward him.

This kind of player seems comical… until we calculate the equity of his play in CardRunners EV. His play shows a profit! See that green number under the node marked “BB” for “big blind”? It shows if he’s made a profit over the entire hand. Figure 12 shows what we see if we hover our mouse over that green number.

Figure 12 shows that on average the player is earning 377 chips. Does this mean he’s showing a profit over the hand? Well, no. He is forced to commit to 800 chips at the beginning of the hand. His play has ensured that he will now lose only 423 of them.

This sounds like a moderate change, but consider this: if you fold every single hand from the big blind you will have a win rate of -100BB per 100. That means every 100 hands you bleed out the number of big blinds you often get as a cash game buy-in. You’ll lose your stack several times over in a typical late game tournament poker situation. If you save 377 chips here that’s 0.47BB so you will be saving 47BB per every 100 hands played! That’s a huge difference.

Remember, this was a player who most people would describe as a “donkey.” If a talented player is at the helm, who can trap and suss out when he’s behind with a pair, he’s likely to save 50BB or perhaps 60BB per 100 hands played!

Figure 13 shows what happens if we change the initial raiser’s raise to 2.5x in our equity model and apply the same strategy to the hero.

Now our hero is losing 200 chips on average – he has increased his losses out of the big blind to 120BBs per 100 hands played. Ouch! Of course, a better player could possibly turn a profit here. Actually, I’ve proven a better player can with different equity models, but all of the calculations confirm the same thing: it is much harder to make a profit when the raise size is 2.5x.

The strategy employed by the general tournament player is not far beyond what we just described here. When they hit they do something. When they don’t they fold. Actually, in some ways, the basic strategy defends the player here. He never gets bluffed out in this model. He doesn’t have enough chips to be exploited when he flops more inferior hands. A good player in position gets more big blinds on average out of their opponent’s mediocre holdings, while it is more difficult for a big blind player to get value out of their holdings given their positional disadvantage.

To defend their big blind from a 2.5x raise properly the player theoretically needs to fight more postflop to defend their larger investment. However, most players defend less, for various reasons. One is that it’s much more difficult to know the appropriate times to check-raise and lead out. It’s easy to learn to 2x raise or flat the big blind, but combining starting hands with various textures and understanding your opponent’s different bet sizes is a much harder task.

The second reason is that many players assume the 2.5x raise is the domain of the old-school regular. These old-school regulars tend to have better starting hands when they enter, because they don’t know about the minraise blind stealing or the various other aggressive plays that have come into the traditional game.

Many regular players know they’re supposed to call from the big blind, because that’s the new cool thing. They don’t know they’re supposed to do that because the raise sizes were 2x. Versus the 2.5x they think, “Let me try to crack this stronger hand range,” and when they don’t, 60% of the time they go, “Okay, I guess I’ll fold now.” Collecting their 2.5x call the 60% of the time they miss is massively profitable for us. Because of this read many players don’t like to 3-bet the 2.5x as much either. If their backer sees them doing it with air they’ll likely reason, “Of course he had a hand. This guy obviously hasn’t caught up with the times. He’s probably playing tighter than you are.”

The new school players, infatuated with their open raises and 3-bets, are made uncomfortable by the larger sizings. Yet, what you’re purchasing with the extra half blind is very cost-effective. The raise needs to work as a complete bluff an additional 4% of the time, but the number of calls and folds it buys you on the back end more than make up for this.

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