How Raising in Poker Gives You a Better Chance of Winning

Many poker experts, including ourselves, have been talking for ages that the best poker winning strategy is to be selective and aggressive. 


When compared to just checking and calling passively, aggressive betting and raising is superior and the best poker strategy. That’s mainly because raising actually gives you two different ways of winning, instead of just one if you play passively.


Let’s take an example;


Say you have pocket 8’s and raise pre-flop. One opponent calls your raise and the others fold. The flop comes out J-7-5, missing you completely. If you opponent is first to act and  checks, you should definitely ‘C’ bet (do a follow on bet) of about 2/3 the pot (depending on blind levels and initial pot size).  Hopefully you have been watching his poker playing style, worked out his range (of cards), and can be fairly sure that because he checked the flop he also did not hit the Jack. Because if he hit the Jack, most players, first to act and having re-raised, would bet it. So consider his range. He either entered the pot with two big cards like AQ or AK or maybe A/10, or with a pair lower than a Jack because if he had pockets over the Jack he would bet those on the flop too. So if you bet here, he either thinks you have a Jack, if he has an underpair, or you have made a pair which is always going to beat unpaired high cards. That means your pair of 8s is probably in the lead now and because you were the intitial raiser, he has to respect that you probably have the winning hand. 


If he does have a Jack in his hand, or an overpair, he will probably come over the top and raise your pot bet, and you are likely not going to win the hand.  If, however, as we said above, he doesn’t have a Jack nor a pocket 9s or larger, you are still in the lead, and your bet presents an offer to fold to your opponent.


If your opponent bets instead of checking after the flop, you can still raise. Why? Because when you’re in a heads-up encounter, the flop is likely to miss both of you. And when your opponent bets, chances are he’s trying to drive you off. Especially if he has AK and love to play it and shove you around with it. It is the king of hands – but only if it hits. So depending on your read on him, if you re-raise him, you could get a fold. And if nothing else, you make him think about what to do next. In the best poker strategy, making your oppponent have to make the decisions is half the game.  If he comes out with a big bet though, time to rethink your strategy. He might have some action, and he mght not, What sort of a player is he? Tight, loose, aggressive? How he or she has been playing will aid in your understanding of his actions. If you dont yet understand the basic types of player styles in poker, have a look at this article.


If he checks, you’ll have a good chance of winning with a bet, regardless of how good your hand is. The main trick is betting. By making it difficult and expensive for your opponent to keep calling with the worst hand (which is what he should suspect). So by  betting you’re giving yourself two different ways to win. The first one is by convincing the opponent to fold, and the second one is by having the best hand, which would be the only way if you were playing passively.


When you bet and raise, you basically charge your opponent with a price to see another card. This is where pot sizing comes into play. You have to make it so that the pot odds are not in his favour to make the call. Dont understand pot odds? Check out our article about pot odds and pot sizing here. If he can’t afford it, or it is not mathematically worth the call, he’ll fold. And that’s exactly the position you want him in, especially if you don’t have a strong enough hand to lure a call from your opponent.


Winning with average hands requires getting your opponents to fold, and they won’t do that if you only play passively. You need to be aggressive and convince them that folding is their best choice. And that requires your willingness to commit your own money to it, which explains the aggressive part of this poker strategy.


A single bet provides you with a unique opportunity you wouldn’t otherwise have if you only check and call. You’re left with two possible ways of winning the pot, and if such a chance costs only a single bet, the value is incredible. But betting is an art of its own, and if you want to learn more about betting in poker, and how when you are good at it then it is a very accomplished poker strategy, check this article out on how to bet in poker.

Good luck on the tables!

Jack Diamond
Author: Jack Diamond