Raising is an integral part of playing any form of poker, but it is especially important in No Limit and Pot Limit games that you comprehend the psychology behind raising, and the message that you are sending to other players.
Winning poker players are generally well balanced players with an aggressive streak available when required. That aggressive streak is necessary to be successful with big betting poker strategies, and quite often it can be a mistake to enter a pot with anything other than a big bet.
The best reason for this is to disguise your hand. If you enter the pot with a raise, irrespective of the quality of cards that you hold, other players will be unable to work out your starting hand. Players who only bet with premium hands and limp in with everything else are easily identifiable and give their hand away.
By entering a hand with a large raise, you also increase your chances of winning the pot. Not only will fewer people call a raise if they were intending to get to the flop cheaply, but you may find that every other player decides to fold and you pick up the blinds straight away. Furthermore, when playing against fewer players it is easier to analyse their play and reduces the chances of being outdrawn in later rounds.
A large pre-flop raise also indicates that you have a hand which you consider to be capable of winning. Frequently, after seeing a sizeable pre-flop bet go down, players with strong hands will check round after the flop to see what action you are next going to take next.
Your initial raise has not only issued a warning, but prevented the possibility of being bet into and has influenced your opponents´ actions for this particular hand.
Try to be consistent with your bets and do not fall into the trap of raising more with stronger hands and less with weaker ones, as observant players will spot this “tell” and take advantage of it.
The ideal strategy (relative to chip stacks) is to raise 3x the big blind in early position, 4x – 5x in mid-position, and 6x when at the end of the betting. By doing this, you ensure that fewer chips are committed to the pot when out of position and you will be able to build a larger pot when you are in a position, from which you can control future rounds of betting. Smaller raises from early or mid-position also increase the chances of somebody taking you on when you have an unbeatable hand.
By choosing your moment carefully to apply this strategy, and being consistent with the size of your bets, you should be able to “raise your game” and rapidly increase your bankroll.