Monday, November 27, 2006

The Power of the Min-Raise

Most of you who know me well already know how much I do not like the min-raise (raising just the minimum amount allowed for any raise in a poker game) for use in the situation it is most often used in -- where someone has a decent hand, but not a great hand, maybe wants to pay as little as possible to get some information, or try to chase out others with potentially better hands for as little as possible. To me, using a minraise in this way is a terrible idea, because it basically telegraphs to everyone else at the table the exact nature of your hand. And any time that I am basically screaming out to everyone else at the table that my hand is so-so, only somewhat strong, fairly weak, etc., then I am creating an opportunity for a strong opponent to make a play at me, one to which I am likely to be forced to lay down a potentially winning hand. So you will basically almost never see me put in a minraise in this kind of a situation, as I think, against solid opponents, it actually tends more often to backfire and cause me to lose more money in a pot, than it helps me to win a pot or to win more money from a pot I was going to win already anyways.

There is a situation, however, where I do try to make use of the minraise as a way to increase my expectation from a given hand, and that relates to deception. Because I know that most online poker players use the minraise in the ill-advised situation above, I also know that those same players will tend to view a minraise from someone else as meaning the same thing that it does for them. Thus, sometimes I will put in a minraise, typically on the flop, when I know I actually have a monster hand, in the hopes that someone relies on that minraise to get confident that my hand is not too strong, and that I can be pushed off of the hand. Often when I minraise in this situation, another player at the table will see my minraise, and go ahead and reraise me strongly right then and there, which of course I then call and go for the double-up with my monster.

At least as profitable as the flop-reraise scenario, however, are the times when my opponent does not reraise me then and there on the flop, but rather files away for use later in the hand the fact that they believe my hand was not actually that strong on the flop. Here I'm going to show one such example of when this exact scenario went down, in a way that ended up being very profitable for me. Again, I don't even tend to use the minraise in this way very frequently, but the few times that I do minraise, this has been the situation, and it has generally proven to be a very profitable move for me overall.

OK so this is back in FTOPS Event #6 (pot-limit holdem), near the end of the first hour. Blinds are at 30-60, and I'm in the big blind with AKs. UTG limps for 60, as does one player in middle position, and when action returns to me, I elect to just check my option, rather than raise here and give away the strength of my hand this early. We see a flop of AT3 rainbow. So I'm liking my chances here, and unless I'm up against TT, 33 or AT -- all highly unlikely given everything I know right now -- I should be well ahead here with just two cards left to come.

Continuing with my theme of weakness from the beginning of the hand, I elect to quickly check here. UTG checks as well, and then the player in MP bets out the size of the pot (210 chips):

I'm fairly sure I'm ahead here. In fact, given the preflop limp and then this pot-sized bet on the flop, I'm pretty sure this guy has some kind of Ace. And that means that I'm not just ahead, but I have him dominated most likely, with me having probably a 4-to-1 chance to win the hand with just two cards to come. So, I want to get more chips into this pot that I am highly likely to win. I also want to make sure this guy is making a bad decision to call if he is trying to draw at some kind of inside straight or something. So, there is every reason to be aggressive here, but at the same time, I think this guy is on a weakish Ace, and I certainly don't want to lose him on the flop if I might be able to win some more bets from him on future betting rounds in this hand. So this is where the minraise comes in:

So, by minraising here, I've done a couple of good things. As I mentioned, I've gotten more chips into the pot where I am almost surely ahead. I've made it unprofitable for him to draw to an inside straight, and yet at the same time, by just raising the absolute minimum, I am all but assured that my opponent will call my raise. This is right where I want to be, since I likely have him dominated with just two cards to come. And, the hopeful best part of this move is, now this guy just might think that I don't even have an Ace, or that I have a weaker Ace than he does, since I only minraised instead of raising more like 3 or 4 times his original bet on the flop. At least that's what I'm hoping here.

So my opponent calls my minraise, and the turn card brings the Queen♠. With my minraise on the flop, here is where I definitely want to take whatever action is going to remain consistent with my opponent's belief (that I have planted in his head by my minimum raise) that I am actually weak. So I check the turn to him:

and he checks it right back, because he's afraid of another check-minraise or something from me, and doesn't know exactly what I'm holding here.

When the river brings an offsuit 9, making a final board of 3ATQ9 with no flushes possible, the action begins with me, and this is where I find out how well my minraise move worked. I bet out the size of the pot, because I have no reason to believe I am behind with my TPTK, the action on the hand thus far does not indicate that my opponent has better than top pair, and because I know that my minraise will have created a significant doubt in my opponent's mind as to exactly what I am holding, and how strong it is:

My opponent thinks and thinks, taking up almost the entire time allotted for his decision, and he finally calls my bet, mucks his hand and I win a huge 3150-chip pot. I have to wonder for a few seconds what exactly he had, and whether my minraise move had anything to do with getting him to call me at the end with a not-so-good hand, but then I remember that handy-dandy bullshit feature that full tilt and most of the other online poker sites have where I can see this guy's hand since he mucked at the river. If you want to guess what he had, now's your time. Scroll down when you've made your guesses:

Wait for it...

So there it is. I got this guy to call a huge bet on the end, making me a huge pot in the process, with just top pair with a 6 kicker. The role of my flop minraise in this hand cannot be minimized here, as there had to be something I did to make this guy believe I did not hold an Ace of any value, especially given my pot-sized bet at the river. And that is how I use the minraise to my advantage in my game.

One last thing:

Tonight is Mondays at the Hoy night again on pokerstars, 10pm ET as always. This as usual is your first chance to tune up for the week in blogger tournaments. Be there or be square!


Blogger Wes said...

Min raising and making a real raise wouldn't have mattered in this hand, other than you getting less chips in the end. Unless you minraise bluff with some frequency, I really hate your play.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

It's funny Wes, because to me the minraise is the only reason this guy ever called me at the end. A bigger raise on the flop, and this guy isn't even considering calling me at the end since I've shown strength when the Ace came on the flop to begin with.

What makes you think my opponent would have called off half his stack like this with just that crappy A6 hand for top pair shit kicker?

5:33 AM  
Blogger Wes said...

It worked out this time because villain is obviously dumb, but in general, this play sucks unless you minraise bluff (very doubtful) with some regularity. It gives up the strength of your hand too cheaply while getting not as many chips in the middle while you are ahead.

5:54 AM  
Blogger smokkee said...

Hoy, i think the real reason this play worked was by checking the turn. that's where you showed some real weakness. this is why he called your pot sized river bet. even if you raised more than the minraise (maybe 2.5 or 3x)and check the turn. he gets more committed and probably still calls your bet on the river.

i see a lot of players call what looks to them to be a c-bet just to see what you do on the turn. if you play the turn like you actually missed, you can get paid.

7:06 AM  
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3:25 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I just love these people requesting to advertise in the comments. Makes me feel so popular.

Anyways Smokkee I agree 100%, clearly that is why I checked the turn. I think this was the best way to get him to pay me off on a pot-sized bet at the end. On the flop I tell him I don't love my hand so am raising small to try to get rid of him, he calls the bet, and then on the turn I tell him how bummed I am that he called by checking it to him. I wouldn't bother expecting a call on the end if I bet it hard on the turn.

And Wes, I agree as well that this guy was dumb. The minraise move should not work like this, and I wouldn't dream of trying to pull this in a blogger tournament, but out on the felt there are more clowns than players by a longshot, and this stuff tends to work, at least for me. And of course, I minraise bluff on occasion, as with any move I try to work into my arsenal. But I don't have to bluff too much for this thing to work with some regularity.

Thanks for the comments as always.

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the sentiment that this play works on the unwashed masses, but I wouldn't be employing it too often in a highly skilled game, as real players will see right through it.

As long as we apply that asterisk, its a great piece of advice.

12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Next time, do your HOY move and push all but 1 chip in and TELL him what you have. Maybe he'll think twice before calling. (ya right)

You can't control how others respond to pressure situations. Once your chips are in you are resolved to whatever outcome happens next - despite whether or not their call is the right move or not.

You did the right thing and put maximum pressure on him. He must have known you had something decent. Go figure.

2:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate mini-raisers, I want to stab them in the eye with a pencil!!

3:32 PM  

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