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When not to raise with the best hand

In limit hold'em, the betting structure means that your opponent is very likely to have the correct odds to draw with the worst hand, but it is normally still correct to bet anyway so that you are at least charging him to draw to a better hand, rather than giving him infinite odds via a free card. It's normally also correct to bet when your opponent clearly has a worse hand and a free card may not help him anyway. However, sometimes it's better to take your foot off the pedal briefly in order to make extra profit.

Here's a hand that I played recently in a low stakes LHE game. The game was loose and fairly aggressive (but not overly so), with many pots being in the 8-12 big bet range. Six people have limped before we have acted on the button with 99, and we limp as well (a raise is better, but the preflop play isn't too important here). The small blind completes and the big blind checks, giving us a pot of eight small bets.

Flop comes down 9h 6s 8s (one of our nines is a spade, although that isn't overly relevant here). Both blinds check and the first preflop limper bets. The next three limpers call along, one folds, the cutoff calls, and we raise. We have top set but the board has a lot of draws out there, so we bet to charge anyone with a seven, spades, as well as our bet being for value with almost certainly the best hand (we only trail to 75 and T7 at this stage). The blinds both fold, but the original raiser and all callers call as well.

Turn comes 6d with ten big bets in the pot, and we have the top boat, and we only lose to quads. Oddly it's checked through to the cutoff who bets. Now at this stage raising is OK, but calling (as played) is likely more profitable. The reason being is that this would show far too much strength – we raised on the flop on a scary board, and doing so again when the board pairs may scare off people who checked. Also, by this point, we are not concerned with people drawing to straights or flushes, indeed we want them to draw and we want them to hit, and pay us off with a good second best hand. The opponents may also be putting the cutoff on a six (given that he's just woken up and started betting), and may call one bet back to try to hit a longshot, won't call two bets. There is also the possibility that the flop raiser is slowplaying something and will raise for us.

What actually happened here after I called is that the four remaining players just call, and the river comes 3s. It is again checked to the cutoff who bets. It's a good question whether to just call again to incite overcalls on a second street, but the whole concept of the previous street was to incite overcalls from the sorts of hands that may have just hit (i.e. flush draws), and we definitely want to at least get another bet out of the cutoff, so we raise.

Unfortunately, all the limpers fold, but the cutoff calls and mucks when we show our full house, domo arigato. Not an ideal result, but scooping a 20BB pot is never a bad result.

Eeyore


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