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Raising pre-flop short handed

Article By: RuffPoker.com

In a short handed game of poker the dynamics are such that to be successful you have to be able to play aggressively and know your opponents. With this aggression comes the art of raising pre flop. It is not simply a case of looking at your cards, seeing big slick (A/K) suited and going in 4x or 5x the blind. You must understand the dynamics of the table and what you are trying to achieve. That is not solely to take down the pot.

The major reasons why raising pre flop is such a good idea are many and equally important. First it allows you to build pots to a level that will make them worthwhile. With so few potential opponents in any one hand rarely do pots increase dramatically post flop unless your opponents see something on the flop that they like. This is the nature of poker, so you need to get them to put in when they don’t have the best opening hands. This tactic of building pots also has a second benefit in that by being the initiator of the betting/raising you take the initiative in the hand. This is most effective at a short handed game when hands rarely get to the river and are by and large won by lower hands than a standard 10 ring game.

This vying for initiative seriously increases you chances to maximise the value of your position. For example when you are in late position you know that after the flop you are going to be the one with the most information about opposing hands because you are acting last. As such aggressive pre flop betting puts your opponents on the back foot and being last to act, rarely will you see a raise come before you. Similarly it is a positive move to raise pre flop from middle position in order to gain the advantage over those around you. As position tells us everything in poker an aggressive opening bet will put others off their game.

Raising pre flop to gain leverage in position also opens up other advantages two of which have a negative impact on the play of your opponents. Primarily because they will be apprehensive and reactive to your moves which gives you control of the table. This can frustrate many an opponent which is precisely the state of mind you want them in, forcing the issue, making illogical calls and chasing cards to the river with marginal hands. Along with frustrating good players you will also detach the bad players who hang around in hope rather than confidence. This is where you make your money at poker tables, by feeding off the calling stations and loose players. You cannot afford to be a passive player against such opponents, especially in a short handed game where lesser hands take down pots. You need to create a table image of strength based on an aggressive pre flop raising strategy.

Such a style will make all of the players at the table play with a heightened sense of circumspection. By dictating terms you will see far more limpers than raisers, as everyone will be reacting to you. This makes opponents predictable and easier to read. This is crucial in short handed poker because as pots grow, opponents play with less patience or rational thought. Rather they act loose and irrationally, making wrong calls and over the top bets, which give you clear signs as to when to play and fold.

The ability to raise pre flop in a short handed game also delivers the objective of narrowing the field of opponents left in the hand. This is the blueprint for successful poker, to limit the field as much as possible thereby giving yourself greater opportunities to win. By raising pre flop you will rarely see more than one or two players enter a hand.

These are the benefits of raising pre flop and make for a key strategic element of short handed poker play. Don’t just make raises in the orthodox way - when you are sat holding the ‘standard raise hands’, i.e. A/A, K/K, Q/Q, A/K suited, etc. Think about all of the other reasons why a raise may help you in this hand and for the foreseeable future. Channel positive, aggressive raising and make them at the correct time and in the correct situation. Think all the time about position, image and the psychological hold people (you included) may have over the table. With a good pre flop raising strategy you maximize your opening position of strength and minimize the chances of hitting trouble later on.