Many poker books make the claim that it’s never correct to raise the minimum amount in no limit Hold’em. I disagree. It’s a mistake to use the words never or always with regards to how to play a poker hand.
At PokerVT.com, I teach my students that sometimes making a min-raise really is the best play available.
Now, don’t get me wrong, min-raising isn’t the preferred approach. It’s usually more effective to make slightly larger raises than the minimum allowed. That being said, there are two specific situations where min-raising can be the best option.
Make a min-raise when playing heads-up.
In heads-up play, the player with the dealer button posts the small blind and the other player posts the big blind. Before the flop, the player with the button acts first, but then acts last on every street to follow. It’s a very powerful position.
Your objective is to play more hands when you’re in this power position and fewer hands when you’re not. The min-raise helps you do just that.
If your opponent makes a typical three times the big blind raise when he’s got the button, tighten up your starting hand requirements and play pots only when you have a decent hand. When you’re on the button, be liberal with your raising requirements and make a min-raise.
You see, reducing your raise to the minimum actually allows you to play more hands in position for slightly bigger pots when your opponent either calls the bet or makes it three times the blind.
It may seem backwards but it’s true. A min-raise can force an opponent to incorrectly fold a hand that he should have called with or make a pre-flop call with a marginal hand that he should have folded.
And there’s more. If your opponent does have a strong hand and reraises, you’ll save money when you eventually lay down your hand.
Say the blinds are $10-$20 and you make a pre-flop min-raise to $40. An opponent then reraises to $150. You can fold your hand right there and save the $20 you would have wasted had you opted to make the standard three times raise to $60.
You can also min-raise whenever a raise represents a significant portion of your chipstack or your opponent’s.
Often, especially in tournament poker, the size of any post-flop raise will be so substantial that it’s irrelevant whether you min-raise or toss in something more. That’s because your opponent will react the same way to either raise if the bet commits him or you to the pot.
Here’s an example.
With the board reading Kh-9d-6c-2s and 2,000 in the pot, your opponent bets out 1,500 leaving him with 6,000 chips. You might consider min-raising to 3,000 or moving all-in; his response, however, will be the same. He’ll only play if he believes he has the best hand.
Calling your min-raise would essentially commit his remaining stack to the pot. If he calls that bet, he’d call any larger bet too.
Here’s another example with the same board. This time you have pocket queens and don’t think your opponent has a king.
Well, you could move all-in. If you get called, though, you’re probably in big trouble. Or, you could just min-raise to 3,000 and save yourself the 4,500 chips your opponent has left – which he’ll probably shove in if he does indeed have the king.
A min-raise would have revealed that crucial information for a lot fewer chips.
So, the next time an opponent laughs at you for making a min-raise, smile back and let him think you’re a fool. Then take all of his chips, slowly but surely.
Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/book.html for information about Daniel Negreanu’s newest book, More Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.
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