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Using the Min-Raise Poker Strategy in Deep Stacked Play to Succeed?

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I was having a discussion with someone the other day who was a fan of the min-raise. I gave counter arguments that did not really persuade him but I am not a fan of the min-raise and never will be. The only time I will be a convert is if someone comes up with a logical argument that convinces me.

Anyway I think the following logic applies well. At any particular point in time then you will either be ahead or behind in the hand. If you are ahead then the next obvious question is how far ahead are you?

Likewise when you are behind, how far behind are you? If you are well ahead and your opponent seems to like their hand then a min-raise fails to capitalise on your equity advantage. It can also serve to reduce the pot to a level that means that it then becomes very difficult to stack your opponent without grossly over betting the pot.

When you over bet the pot then you run the risk of scaring your opponent from the hand! This isn’t something that you want and so you need to raise more when you feel that your opponent does not have a hand.

If you feel that your opponent is bluffing then min-raising can still blow them from the hand! Let us look at an example here to show you what I mean. It is folded around to you on the cut-off and you open raise with pocket fives. The flop comes Q-8-5 rainbow giving you an absolute monster hand.

Your opponent now donk bets into you which is a line that you find suspicious had you not flopped a big hand. If your opponent did truly have a big hand then they would probably check and at least pick up the c-bet.

So with most opponents then bluffs take up a fair percentage of their range in this position and so raising is going to fold out all of the hands that you want to fire a second barrel on the turn. In some extreme cases a min-raise may make an opponent think that you may be bluffing on the cheap and make them shove all in.

However those instances are quite rare and if you feel that your opponent is bluffing then calling is a good line to take.

Simply calling the donk bet is a relatively weak looking line and it is leaving your opponent in a position where they may feel that a second barrel on the turn could take the pot down. If your opponent is aggressive enough then they even barrel off here in this example.

The bottom line is that when you want to extract value then you either call against a very wide range and allow your opponent to keep firing or raise their stronger ranges for value. If you suspect that they could be holding a bluff and you hold nothing or they may have something callable like a mediocre pair then min-raising once again does you no favours.

A min-raise offers your opponent exceptional odds to continue and that is something that you should not be doing if you are bluffing. At the end of the day then I am not totally eliminating the possibility of min-raise although it does have more uses in tournament poker than cash games in my opinion.

It is just that I feel that there are usually better lines available than a min-raise. If your opponent has some sort of hand then a min-raise will usually not get them from that hand. Too many of your opponents believe that a player could be bluffing with odds.

For example if there is $50 in the pot and your opponent bets $30 then a min-raise would be to $60. So you are risking $60 to win $80 and if your opponent folds 50% of the time then you are well in profit.

However your opponents know this or at least a strong opponent will. So some of your opponents may actually call with most of their range or bluff raise all in with their draws. In fact I have made this play many times myself in the past. This is one justification for perhaps min-raising but I think that it may be too thin of a reason to be of any use.

You may want to experiment with a min-raise play but I find that it either loses value in pots where you have the best hand or doesn’t force through bluffs anywhere near as often as what you need them to be. A lot of tournament players use the min-raise as do some cash game players. In fact if there are short stack players to your left in the blinds then a min-raise may prevent them from making an obvious over the top raise.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player who plays online at 888poker.

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