This question relates to pre-flop play and is aside from the obvious point of being more aggressive the later your position.

Let's say we're 6 handed and UTG raises to 2BB and I (sat next to villain) have something just outside the tight range - say TKs.

Now there is something to be said for raising and something for seeing the flop as cheaply as possible, but why the two different views? Are these just styles or should something else drive whether I choose one or the other? N.B. I tend to play the fast online variants so there are no player reads to be had. Such examples are Rush (Full Tilt), Fast Forward (Party Poker) and Zoom (PokerStars).


But even a call to a raise in early position is not a cheap flop. 2BB is 2BB and you have 4 players behind you that could re-raise.

K-10 suited is not just outside the tight range in early position. That is a very loose call. That is only a calling hand in late position. That hand only wins 25% against 5 random hands.

When do you raise?

  • Build a big pot
    Marginal hands do not want big pots and that is a marginal hand
  • Get the table to fold
    With 3BB in the pot fold equity is expensive - you would need to bet 6BB to get good hands to fold behind you. The hands you are afraid of AA-AK are still not going to fold. In case you do get looked up you want a good show down hand and that is bad show down hand as it is beat by any ace or pocket pair. It would take a bet of 12BB to get UTG off a good hand - still getting 3:2 pot odds. Even if UTG put you on AK suited - 67 suited is only a 3:2 dog.
  • Isolate
    So you bet 6BB and isolate on UTG. Unless UTG is on a stone cold bluff UTG has you beat. You can only hope for a coin flip. You put 6BB at risk for at best case a coin flip. And you could easily be up against AA-AK and dominated. You are 3:2 dog to any ace.

That is at best a marginal hand in that position. Let's say you are playing it to hope for flush or straight. In that case you want multiple players in the pot as if you hit your flush or straight then 99% of the time you have the winning hand. You don't need to raise to build the pot as you already have a raise in front of you. Just calling is building a decent size pot. In early position you also extract less from other players when you do hit.

Let's say you had A-J suited in that position in an un-raised pot. Then maybe a min raise to build pot equity. A big bet to get the table to fold is still risky with 4 players to act behind you that could have you dominated. On the button with no one in the pot your chance of being dominated goes in 1/2.

A simple chart like this is really good starting hands guide of when to play, raise, and re-raise. From there you can size you raise / re-raise but getting fancier than that is for very good players that have good reads.

Ironically a lot of guides will advise you to raise or fold at the low end of your range (and I agree). Fold equity has more relative value if your hand does not have as much show down value. It is also a very good way to mix up your game. If you show a raised marginal hand you are more likely to action when you raise a premium hand. You should definitely raise your low end more than you would just call a premium (AK+).

  • The guide suggests to fold pocket 99 from early position. Wondering who would actually do such a thing under any circumstances. – yazanpro Jan 17 '16 at 1:15
  • 6-handed you might be right about not folding, but at a tougher 9-handed table, folding 99 UTG isn't a big stretch. – Chris Farmer Jan 20 '16 at 18:09
  • @ChrisFarmer That chart is 10 handed. 6 handed UTG that would be the edge of my range. – paparazzo Jan 20 '16 at 18:31

There is a saying I've heard relating to poker and it is: "If you're not thinking you're gambling". Yes people will make these decisions because they claim to be a 'LAG','TAG', etc,etc player, but often they'll make these decisions without thinking. I would argue that it is the worst reasoning for playing a hand, unless you're just playing for fun and just want to play as much hands as possible.

So with the above said I just want to answer your question on are these about styles, they maybe justified as a style of playing but I'd always advise you to think and not just follow a style. The best poker isn't following a style of player 100%, it's reacting to your table and situation. Following on from this point to determine what your action, think what you're trying to achieve by calling or raising. Think what might happen should you call or raise. Factor in the players around you.

A reason to call would be decent implied odds, not with something like TK(I think things flop better than this and it'll get you into trouble) but say a small pair or 8,7, which is something you'll likely call with in these spots. Say you have a pair of 2s, you might want to call because you know player X loves playing weak holdings and getting to the river. You know that they'll call a few bets just to see the river. So you might like to call in this spot, in the hope to hit your set and get multiple bets out of a loose player. If you're going to do this you should be thinking about what you'll do on the flop if you hit or miss, and if you hit how to get maximum value.

You might want to raise in this spot to take control of the pot. For example if the table is a tight table who will may call to see a flop but ultimately shut down if they miss on the flop. In this case it would be good to bet pre to take control and continue on the flop because your table has shown to shut down the majority of the time on the flop.

In general whatever you decide to do, call or raise ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What are the players like on the table? Will they fold to a raise, do they like to play loose, will they be aggressive, will I be able to take control of the pot, etc,etc?
  2. What is your plan with your action? How will the players read your action, what are you saying with your action, can you fold it if you don't hit your ideal flop,etc,etc?
  3. How are you going to get value? Assuming you hit or get a good board for you, how are you going to profit from it, is it even possible to profit in the long run from the players even if you do hit?
  4. What will your table do in reaction to any future action? How will you act in reaction to their reaction?

Playing out of position in these spots with these types of hands is not advisable, even less so if you aren't thinking what you'll do.

  • Good answer. The only thing I'll add is clarifying one of the main points that the call vs. raise decision boils down to: do you want other players coming along, increasing your pot odds and implied odds or would you rather isolate and play heads-up against this opponent and clarify his strength (he could reraise)? With that said, I'd use all those factors you describe to come to that determination. – Dr.DrfbagIII Jan 14 '16 at 17:43
  • A lot of this relates to reads and player image which don't relate so much to the faster forms of the game. I've added the various speed poker variants to my question to clarify. – Robbie Dee Jan 15 '16 at 14:12

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