What To Raise Preflop

Let’s say it gets folded around to you on the button. The big blind and small blind both have 35 big blinds. They are competent players, if not exactly exciting. You have Q-8d. There is an ante in play.

What do you do?

Now, let’s say this is the beginning of the tournament. You have 150 big blinds, and so do these players. However, everything else is the same: It’s the same two players, it’s the same starting hand, and it’s been folded to you.

What do you do?

I want you to reread those first four paragraphs.

Tell me, how different are those two situations?

Wildly different, right?

Yet, most professionals would contend they each have the same answer. You raise to 2.5X

In what other facet of poker do two incredibly different situations have the same sizing answer? Does that happen on the flop, turn, and river when you change the stack sizes?

This is why you have to go home and think about your game. This is why you need to watch your hands one at a time, and ask yourself, “what am I really trying to accomplish here? How can I do that?”

Many people read that sentence and say, “yeah, that sounds like a good idea” but then they never do it. They prefer to just play poker. That makes sense. Playing poker is fun. But it’s not going to help your game. I’m not going to become a better golfer just by playing nine holes with my buddies every weekend. I’m going to become better if I deliberately practice on one part of my game at a time.

Worse, many people will tell me, “but I do review my hand histories and question my play.”

If that’s true, why does your game look suspiciously like everyone else’s?

Think about it. Your opening ranges. Your threebetting ranges. Your c-bet sizings. Your preflop raise sizings. Are any of them vastly different than your opponents?

In every raked poker game on Earth, approximately 95% of the players are losing money. That means on any poker site you play on, in any poker room you play in, 19 out of 20 players are losers.

If you play in a way they approve of, that means you have gained the respect of losers.

You will know you are on the way to being a winning player if everybody at the table hates you. If no one does, then you’re not working hard enough.

And it all starts with asking yourself tough questions. You should be analyzing the plays you do most frequently. You should ask yourself, “what size should I raise to preflop?”

Again, your first questions should always be “what am I trying to accomplish?” and “what will do that?”

Those are the same questions people use to mess with billion-dollar industries.

The Oakland Athletics this year had the smallest payroll in Major League Baseball. Yet, they somehow found a way to make the playoffs.

How did they do it? They asked themselves a question. “What do we need pitchers to do?”

The answer: “We need pitchers to get outs.”

How do you do that without money? Well, you can get a guy to throw a 100 MPH, but he’s going to cost a lot of money.

The Oakland Athletics found a workaround. They found pitchers who threw the ball slowly, but in locations no hitter could hit. They got all their outs from junk baller pitchers and good infielding.

Anyone can run good in poker. It takes real introspection and daring play to succeed.

You will be ridiculed for your beliefs.

It also takes a fierce independent streak to make it in poker. You need a harsh questioning nature with yourself, but the courage to also believe in your convictions. It’s hard to find both of those qualities in one person.

One part of being independent in poker is listening to everyone’s opinion, but silently discarding what you don’t believe in or what you can’t prove. The other part is taking any good idea and making it your own.

So, I’m going to give you my opinions on both situations I presented at the beginning of this article. But it’s up to you whether you take the plays or not. If you do take the plays, it’s up to you to decide when they no longer work.

Remember, however, “without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” – W. Edwards Deming

What are you trying to accomplish in the first situation, when both players had 35 big blinds? In a poker tournament, you need to cash more than other people and win more tournaments than others in order to make a living from the game. So, you’re trying to grow your chips slowly without variance so you can cash more often.

When there is 2.5 big blinds in the middle of the pot with blinds and antes you should try to get folds.

A 35X stack can easily threebet a 2.5X open, but will struggle mightily with a 3.5X open. For this reason, you should open to 3.5X.

Q-8s doesn’t make two-tenths of a big blind normally. If you secure 2.5 big blinds with zero variance a high percentage of the time with a large raise size, you must go for it.

If your opponent is going to do anything against you, they’re likely going to call. Most people do not like to threebet from that stack versus that raqise without a premium, and they’re uncomfortable moving so many chips all-in. For these reasons, they flat out of position.

This is great for you. You will be in position in a large pot versus an opponent who doesn’t know what to make of your play.

In the scenario where there are 150 big blinds in your opponents stacks but nothing in the middle, then you’re not going to safely increase your stack by raising big to get the blinds.

If you think they’ll call wide, open to 3.5X, but generally people call out of position this deep when you open to 3X.

Then, you can take them to the river and drown them. Excessively value bet, because at this stage of the tournament, everyone feels like they’re playing with Monopoly money.

Good luck to all of you.

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