In No Limit Hold'em, a standard raise is exactly three times the amount of the big blind. So, if the blinds are $10-$20, a player’s normal raise will make it $60. This is a solid pre-flop raising strategy, but you should also consider adjusting the amount based on several key factors.
The most important consideration is the type of opponents you’re up against — especially the player whose big blind you’re raising.
As a rule, if the player is skilled and usually defends his big blind with a wide variety of hands, you must raise enough to define his hand.
A minimum raise won't give you any information about your opponent’s hand strength. Also, it won't be enough to get him to fold. However, if you raise to four or five times the blind, your opponent will need a stronger hand to justify calling the raise.
On the flipside, if the big blind is a very conservative player, he won't defend his blind unless he holds premium cards; your raise can be smaller than normal. A raise of 2.5 times the big blind should be enough to win the hand unless someone else has strong pre-flop cards.
You should also factor in the type of game you’re in.
In a tournament, you’ll often find weaker players who are overly concerned with survival. This makes them play conservatively. Therefore, your raises can be somewhat smaller in tournaments than they would be in a cash game. Make it 2.5 times the big blind when playing in tourneys.
In a cash game, however, raise at least three times the blind.
Cash game players have much larger chip stacks in front of them and play is often looser. Your pre-flop raise should reflect that.
Of course, another major factor that can't be overlooked is the presence of antes.
All Hold'em games are dealt with a small and big blind, but in some cases, especially in tournaments, antes are also introduced. This slightly changes the math.
In a typical tournament with blinds at 400-800, every player will have to ante an additional 100. With nine players at your table, there’s already 2,100 in the pot. Because of this, the player in the big blind will be getting very good odds to call any small raise.
Your raise should be large enough to discourage that.
By the way, many players don't pay enough attention to the antes. They play the same way as if there were none. If that's the case, continue to make your raises 2.5 times the blind. Let’s say you make it 2,000 to go at the 400-800 plus 100 ante level. If everyone folds you'd be risking 2,000 to win 2,100. That's much better than risking 2,000 to win only 1,200 when no antes are present.
The last key factor is position.
Make larger pre-flop raises when you’re out of position. This gives you the opportunity to win the hand right there rather than playing it out of position after the flop. So, if you plan to raise from the small blind, make it a very large raise. This forces opponents to call a significant amount if they intend to try and outmaneuver you post-flop.
You don’t get pocket aces very often, but you will often find opportunities to take down the blinds with smart pre-flop raises. And that, my friends, is not a bad result.
Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/book.html for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.
© 2007 Card Shark Media. All rights reserved.