Poker Betting Strategies - When to Bet and Raise

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Reasons to Bet and Raise in Poker

Poker BettingThere are several reasons to bet and raise in poker which all expert players are aware of. We will discuss each of these reasons in detail below.

  • To get more chips in the pot
  • To drive out competition
  • To get information
  • To bluff (or semi-bluff)
  • To get a free card
  • Betting to get more chips in the pot

This is the simple and most basic reason for betting. You want to put more chips in the pot. For example, if you flop a flush and have several players in the hand you may not want to slow play by checking and simply bet your hand with the goal of getting multiple callers and perhaps a raise. If you slow play your hand you are not only giving your opponents a chance to draw out against you (perhaps they have 2 pair or a set) but you are also getting less chips into the pot. Remember the goal is more chips in your stack.

Raising to Narrow the Field

In addition to getting more chips in the pot, a bet or raise in poker can be used to narrow down the field. For example, if you are in a 4 way action hand and have 2 pair but there are flush and straight draw possibilities in the hand an effective way to lose those draws is a check and raise on the turn. If you can get the person behind you to bet on the turn and can raise you are thereby making it incorrect for a good player to call based on the Pot Odds.

Another good use of a raise to narrow down the field is when a player preflop has raised in the blind without looking at his/her hand. Now any hand that you want to play can go for 3 bets which should thereby narrow the hand down to hopefully only you and the player in the blind. In most games it takes a pretty strong hand to call 3 bets cold. Hands which you normally might pass on, such as Ace/Jack in early position may be brought out here if you feel you can effectively isolate the play between you and the player going blind.

Betting to Get Information

Often times you will want to bet to gain information about your opponents. For example, if you are playing in a heads up situation you might want to bet at any flop, thereby creating the need for your opponent to either flat out bluff back at you or to have a hand in order to call. By doing this you have a shot at taking the pot right there. If you're playing against an opponent who is playing "tight" you've also put yourself into the situation where he has to have a hand to play back at you. It should be noted that you should use this sparingly or else everyone will begin to suspect that you never have a hand and you will never be able to steal a pot.

Another example is if you have a set and the flush gets there on the turn. Now you may want to bet out even though the flush has hit to get information from your opponents. If you are raised your opponent likely has a flush. Additionally you still have outs even if your opponent does have a flush (if the board pairs you make a full house). By playing your hand in this manner you force your opponent to decide whether you have a flush and are getting valuable information about his hand.

Bluffing or Semi Bluffing

When you bet without a strong hand you are bluffing in Holdem. This can be an effective tool in No limit Holdem or against tough players. A bet or raise can often be used to steal a pot immediately without having to make your hand. For example, if you bet on a flush draw against tight opponents you might be able to take the pot right there. If you are called or raised you still have outs to complete your hand.

Raising to Get a Free Card

By raising in Holdem you are often able to get a free card. For example, if you are on a flush draw with position in the hand and an opponent bets into you a raise might make him call and check the turn. If he checks the turn you can also check thereby giving yourself 2 chances to make your flush. In reality this is not getting a free card but actually getting to see another card cheaply. Your raise makes it 2 small bets to see the turn and the river while if you had simply called the flop and turn you've called 1 small bet and 1 big bet, effectively 3 small bets. You should realize that if your opponent understands this play and reraises you and bets the turn you've had to pay many more times for that flush draw than you intended.


As you can see there are many ways a bet can be used as a useful tool. Expert players are aware of all of these and you should be too. Rather than simply memorizing the examples, we encourage you to understand the theories presented here and experiment in their implementation.

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