The first thing that we have to do when entering a cash game pot is track the action. Take note of the action in front of you:
if an opponent has raised, it usually means that they like their hand and they’re interested in building the pot;
if an opponent has called, they’re trying to see a cheap flop and hit.
Some players may try to deceive us of course. Sometimes players may limp in with pocket aces, trying to be a little tricky trap and plan to raise someone. The more common method of trickery of course is raising pre-flop with less than the premium holding, you must know the Most Popular Misconception in Poker.
When we’re considering contesting a pot the important questions to ask firstly: “are we the actually the first player to be entering the pot or not?”
If no one else has yet voluntarily put chips in the pot, excluding the blinds, no one’s voluntarily entered and we are going to do so as the first player in, then in general we should raise rather than limp in or just call the big blind. Raising actually accomplishes a lot of good things for us:
- it puts pressure on our opponents;
- builds the pot for our stronger hands;
- takes the initiative in the hand;
- gives us the betting lead;
- raising is actually the only way that we can win the pot right now.
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When we raise, there’s a chance that everyone else will fold and we’ll simply take the blinds and antes if those are involved. When we don’t raise and just limp, in that can never happened, at the very worst the big blind player would get a free look at the flop and not be out of the hand yet.
If we’re not the first one in, when there are other players who have already limped in or called the big blind in front of us, in this case:
we want to raise to put pressure on our opponents, with a strong hand;
if we had a speculative hand in position, we might actually limp behind them allowing us to see a cheap flop and maybe try and hit a strong hand (something like small pocket pairs, suited connectors, things like that).
Raising the right amount in a cash game
There is no one correct amount you should always raise before the flop in a cash game, but there are a few basic rules that you can use:
If you are first to enter the pot, raise 3-4x the big blind if you are getting called too often, you may want to raise more (this is common in low stakes and micro stakes online poker); If others have already called, just add the call to your regular raise size; If you want to re-raise an initial raiser (3-bet), raise to 3x the size of their total bet you can find more information in this post: Traits of Successful Poker Players; Raise the same amounts regardless of your hand Good players can pick up on your hand strength if you raise different amounts for different starting hands.
When you’re facing a raiser
If someone else has raised, that indicates strength and you need to adapt your starting hand selection, in this case:
Be careful with strong and speculative hands More information about Professional Poker Players; Don’t invest too much pre-flop; Be aware of strong second-best hands for instance, if you have AQ on a flop A72, be aware that you could be up against an opponent’s AK.