What Are You Protecting?

You have pocket aces.

You also have 5,000 in tournament chips at the beginning of an MTT. Most people at the table have that as well. The blinds are 50/100. Three people limp in. It’s on you. You are on the button.

How much do you raise to?

There are no antes. There is 450 in the pot.

The vast majority of players here get cute. They make it 500. Some go for 550.

The right answer, in my mind, is 600 to 700.

I believe 600 to 700 is the correct answer because 600 to 700 will get you one caller generally. That calling player will often be the worst player at the table. Versus him, you can walk the dog, as it were, and try to get all of his chips in the middle by the end.

500 used to have merits. Now, people love to call (thank God). Poker has really opened up.

The problem with this is that now if you raise 500 you could possibly get two or three calls.

A big pot with aces is nice, but generally multiway pots do not become very large without someone possessing two pair or greater.

Postflop, if you bet into this large multiway pot, your opponents will have less of a reason to play one pair. Why? Well you just isolated preflop and then fired a C-bet into a large multiway pot. Second pair is an easier fold here. You likely have something much better than second pair when you take this line.

What are you getting value from in this scenario? You are getting value from precisely top pair. However, top pair will (possibly) know you have an overpair when you barrel the turn again, so value betting is difficult.

The potential upsides are limited in this multiway scenario, but the downsides are severe. Most poker players are not in the habit of bet/folding overpairs. This means you’re getting stacked every time you are out flopped, but you are not getting much when the flop misses your opponents.

The slightly larger preflop raise does not contain these eventualities. If you get heads-up with an opponent he is much more likely to convince himself his one pair is good. He might also believe a check raise bluff could get you off your hand.

Preflop, there are some advantages as well. A bigger raise induces this thought process. “Well, I can’t call, because the bet size is too big. However, I still don’t believe he has a good hand. What else can I do?”

This causes many so-so players to shove into you. I cannot word to you how great this is. These mediocre players were likely to lose all their chips eventually. In one fell swoop, you can take all of them, and not allow better players to add them to their arsenal.

You will often see young players at live tournaments bemoaning how “donkeys” are giving chips to the old-timers at their table. What the young guy doesn’t see is that while he’s being cute he’s losing value, and the senior citizen is making bet sizes that force jams from inexperienced and exuberant competition.

Finally, what are you protecting when you raise so small? Everyone tells me, “I don’t like raising this much because I want action with my aces.”

A player with a very loose reputation might make 10 big blinds per pair of pocket aces, on average. If you raise right now and everyone folds you will be making 45% of that. You also have a great chance of making much more than that.

“Locking up” 45% of your average earnings with a safe chance of severe growth should not be sneezed at.

I hope these tips have helped you think of poker in a different way. Good luck to all of you.

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