Real Men Make Real Raises

While a number of women have had tremendous success in poker, some people are still under the impression that it is somehow a man’s game. This attitude is reflected in many areas of their strategy, including bet sizing. It often gets as ridiculous as driving a Hummer in the city. (Seriously, who needs to drive to the movies in a truck that was designed to have anti-tank missiles mounted on it? Traffic can be rough, but come on.)

This point is best illustrated with an example:

You call preflop and float the flop specifically because you know this player will fire the second barrel here most of the time. On this dry board, he won’t have a hand very often at all. The turn is a good card to apply the pressure, since it’s so unlikely to have improved your opponent’s hand. The fact that it’s a total brick also means that your opponent cannot put you on a draw that’s semi-bluff raising the turn, and he can’t hold a draw himself to launch a semi-bluff re-raise of his own.

Many players are inclined to make a big raise to $420 and blow him out of the pot. That’s just silly. What does $420 accomplish that $280 would not? Put yourself in the cutoff’s shoes. Have you ever once bet $120 on the turn, gotten raised to $280, and thought to yourself, “Thank god he didn’t bet $420! That would have changed everything.” Maybe if you had a draw. But there are no draws on this board. It’s much more likely that the cutoff is thinking, “What the hell do I do with my king-jack now?” The only hand that the cutoff can hold that cares whether you raise to $280 instead of $420 is a set. And those hands will be disappointed that you didn’t raise more.

The larger raise size risks $420 to win $295, so it has to work 59% of the time: 420 / (295 + 420), or roughly .59

Raising to $280 risks less to win the same amount, so it only has to work 49% of the time: 280 / (295 + 280), or roughly .49

Playing your opponent off of his hand is not a macho thing. It’s a math problem.

How much must you invest to get him to fold how often, and will it be profitable? Raising to $420 may be profitable.8 In fact, if your flop float was a good idea, it probably is rofitable. But it’s still a mistake if raising to $280 would be more profitable.9

The goal is not just to find a profitable option. It’s to find the most profitable option. And raising to $420 is not it. The only conditions where the larger raise size would make sense are:

• A lot more hands will fold to the bigger raise
• Your opponent will often call the raise but fold to a river shove

On this board, the first condition is almost certainly not met. This is the sort of board where your opponent either has a hand he’s willing to go with, or he has air. He’ll fold his air and go with his strong hands. Furthermore, you still have the threat of a river shove when you raise to $280. So he should be committing his stack to the hand if he decides not to fold.

The second condition is false for the same reason. Any halfway intelligent opponent will know that he can’t call only the turn and hope you give up on the river. (If you believe your opponent would often call the turn and fold the river, then you should constantly raise the turn and bet the river against him. This is a big leak in your opponent’s game and you should exploit it.)

Don’t spend more than you have to. Making big plays is not some test of testosterone. It’s a logical decision. Use logic to determine your bet size. Don’t drive a Hummer to the movies.

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