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The Fallacy of Betting or Raising to See Where You’re At

September 4, 2020
by Dave Roemer

I just had a nice discussion in the #School_Handreviews section of the Pokerstars Discord, which you can join here: https://discord.gg/2tCvPBH

In the hand our hero posted, they sat in a 6M Zoom 2NL cash game, and opened the button to .04 with Q♥J♥. The big blind player 3-bet to .14c and our hero called. The flop came Q♣3♠8♥, and villain c-bet .09 into .28. Hero very reasonably called.  Turn was the 4s, and the villain barreled with a 2/3rds pot bet of .30 into .45. Hero called again (a play I think is optimal with our holding). But here’s where the discussion went off the rails. A couple responders said they wanted to raise the turn. Specifically, one of them wanted to raise the turn to “see where they’re at”.

I’ve talked about this before, but it seems like a good time to address it again now. Betting or raising to “see where you’re at” is a flawed concept in today’s game. It’s a mistake made mostly by newer/inexperienced players who don’t understand why it’s flawed, and older players who don’t study the game, and carry this idea over from a time in the past where it had more validity.

Why did this idea once have some validity to it, but no longer does?  Quite simply, it’s because the game has evolved well past that somewhat rudimentary level. Back in the day, say 15-20 years ago, raising to “see where you’re at” was an idea that yielded some results, because people tended to respond honestly to your raise. The continued with their strong hands, reraised their monsters, folded their weaker hands. It still was not a good reason to raise all by itself, but at least it tended to yield some fruitful information.

The modern game is not like that. In the discussion, those players wanted to min-raise to .60c on the turn. So, let’s pretend the hero had done just that. And let’s break down the villain responses to see why this concept is so flawed.

Villain folds:

Great, we got some legitimate info here… we had the best hand.  Because it’s unlikely anyone is folding a better hand than ours in this spot. The problem is the hands we fold out are for the most part low equity hands. 6 out bluffs with AK. 2 out hands like pocket tens. So while the villain folding to our raise has yielded tangible info, it’s not particularly useful to our bottom line as we’ve simply made them fold a lot of stuff that was drawing very thin to beat us anyway and denied the villain a chance to lose some more money on the river via bluffs, or bluff catching check/calls.

Villain calls:

Okay, this is the most likely way they will continue, by calling. So, have we accomplished our mission? Where are we? I have no idea. People will call with draws here (correctly priced in vs our min-raise I might add). They will call with some worse made hands because it’s cheap. They will call with sets to trap the river, with overpairs, with AQ/KQ. In short, their calling range contains a number of both better and worse combos than our actual holding.  So where exactly are we at?

Villain raises:

This one, while rarer, is probably the crux of the “see where I’m at” mentality. If they re-raise us we can know we’re beat and just fold, right? Maybe, but it’s not that simple. In the modern game aggressive players may reraise us with just a draw sometimes. Particularly light preflop 3-bets like A♠2♠, A♠5♠, or 6♠5♠  which have turned a lot of equity. What if they were raising it up with QT pre and now overplaying it post flop? Oh, and the overpairs AA/KK might play this way for sure, so at least we’ll be able to fold and “get away” from them, right? Not so fast. While that’s true, has this really helped our cause? We’ve now denied ourselves a river card on which we had 5 outs to beat the overpairs and win a big pot. But at least we’ve saved ourselves from paying off on the river when we don’t improve right?   Not really…. In the case of this specific hand we probably have an easy river fold to another bet unimproved. But even if we did call a river bet, remember that we’ve already paid a bet and raise on the turn, then folded with no chance to improve on the river. Had we just called turn and river, the expense vs. overpairs will be very similar anyway, plus we gain equity from realizing our 5 outs, and picking off bluffs when villain doesn’t have us beat. So even in the scenario where we “get away” from an overpair, we really haven’t improved our long term results, but likely made those worse.

Raising to see where you’re at is a concept whose time has come and gone. It was bore out of an era where people, for the most part, responded honestly to your raise with respect to the strength of their hand. Information might still be a reasonable side product of raising, if we have reason to believe we can trust what it’s telling us, but it should never be a primary reason to raise. Now that we’ve dispelled this myth, in the next article we’ll cover the 3 primary reasons for betting or raising.

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