Poker Lesson 18

The four main reasons why you should bet out or raise
It is time to return to an important concept which I have briefly covered before: namely, the power of betting out and/or raising.

People who do not play poker generally suffer from the misconception that it is a card game. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Instead, the truth is this: poker is a game of money management.

Your #1 weapon against your opponents is your stack of chips, be it virtual or real – not your cards. Playing successful poker is a business: it constitutes smart investing in a highly volatile market. To be sure, the cards you hold at the moment play their part in the "negotiations" you will conduct with your opponents, but it is when you reach for your chips that the others will start listening to you seriously. It is by how you handle your chips – calling, betting out, raising, re-raising, going all-in – that you can manipulate reality and make the others believe that you are holding something entirely different from what you actually have... or at other times, for tactical and strategical reasons, represent exactly what you have. To quote the American actor Harry Anderson: "I told them the truth – and they fell for it."

Among all the moves you can make at the poker table, nothing is as powerful or as threatening as a raise. This is of course not to say that you should always bet out or raise – far from it!! But as soon as strategical, tactical, financial, mathematical or psychological considerations dictate it, then BET OUT OR RAISE! Efficient opening bets and raises are simply one of the cornerstones of winning poker.

If the current situation does not dictate a raise against another player's bet, you should chiefly consider folding. A call should be your third option, no higher on the list; though calling is of course correct in a number of situations, which will be covered in later lessons. If you do not often raise when entering a pot, you are unlikely to win money in the long run. No tournament winner has ever called his or her way to the final table.

By using opening bets and raises, you take the lead in the pot and force the others to react to you, instead of the other way around. But once again, this is NOT the same as saying that you should bet out or raise all the time, nor that you should do it "whenever you feel like it". Quite the opposite: when you bet out or raise, you should first have reasoned out a logic behind this particular move.

There are four main reasons for betting out or raising:

(1) To get information concerning how the others evaluate their own hands in comparison to their evaluation of yours.
(2) To protect your hand and driving out others from the pot.
(3) To get more money into the pot when you hold the best hand.
(4) To bluff.

Make sure that you have your reason or combination of reasons clear, when making your move at the table. I will get back to the power of opening bets and raises in future lessons here, but in the meantime keep in mind what I have just said: that whenever the combination of opponents, chip stacks and cards warrants it, then bet out or raise to take command of the table.