How Much Should You Raise Preflop? (Use These Amounts)

How Much Should You Raise Preflop?

Something that people often ask me is how much should you raise preflop in poker. And this is something that has been debated a lot over the years.

But I believe that there are a set of more or less "proven" preflop bet sizes that will work best for you in small stakes poker cash games and tournaments these days.

In this article I am going to break down all the numbers for you. Here is your complete guide to how much you should raise preflop in poker.


How Much Should You Raise Preflop in Cash Games?


Alright, let's start with the how much you should raise preflop in poker cash games. Now I must say, this does depend a little bit on what stakes you are playing.

For example, if you are playing 1c/2c online or $1/$2 live, I tend to increase my preflop raise sizes a bit because there are so many loose calling stations in these games.

A "calling station" in poker by the way is basically just somebody who does not like to fold.

So I like to raise it a bit more preflop in these games just to make them pay for calling me with so many crappy hands.

My standard preflop raise size in 1c/2c cash games online and $1/$2 live poker cash games is therefore 4x the big blind. So at 1c/2c this would mean 8c and in a $1/$2 game this would mean $8.

By the way, just to be clear. I see almost no reason to ever limp in poker. It just leads to what I call the "snowball effect" of bad poker results as I explain in this video:


Now, when I am playing higher stakes though, I see no need to risk this much because players tend to be more disciplined and fold more often in these games.

So at all stakes above these two (2c/5c+ and $2/$5+), my standard preflop raise size is 3x the big blind.

Now what about if you are stealing the blinds though? Should you make it the same amount?

The answer is no. If it is folded to you on the cutoff or the button for example then you should give them a bit of a discount. In other words, you should raise it less.

And the reason why is because you are going to be raising so many hands in this situation that you don't want to risk very much.

Also, since we will get to play the entire hand in position after the flop (getting to act last), which is a huge, huge advantage, we actually don't even mind a call.

So in 1c/2c cash games online I will make it 3x the big blind when attempting to steal the blinds and the same thing in $1/$2 live cash games.

At all higher stakes I will use a 2.5x the big blind preflop raise size when attempting to steal the blinds.

So to recap:

1c/2c (online) and $1/$2 (live) cash games - Raise preflop 4x the big blind, 3x the big blind when attempting to steal the blinds.

2c/5c+ (online) and $2/$5+ (live) cash games - Raise preflop 3x the big blind, 2.5x the big blind when attempting to steal the blinds.


How Much Should You Raise Preflop in Zoom?


Now what about if you play Zoom poker? Or some variation of it such as Snap poker, Fast Forward, Blaze, Zone and so on?

How much should you raise preflop in Zoom poker style games like this?

Well, the answer is basically the same as what I just listed above. People tend to think that fast fold poker games like Zoom require some entirely different strategy to beat them.

The truth is that they do not.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are several key adjustments that you need to make if you want to maximize your winnings while playing Zoom poker.

But these are more cosmetic changes to your overall strategy rather than fundamental changes such as altering your preflop bet sizing strategy.

I have already written the #1 Zoom poker strategy guide available on the internet today if you want to learn more.

You can find it right here.



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How Much Should You Raise Preflop in Tournaments and Sit and Gos?


Let's talk about poker tournaments and sit and gos next. How much should you raise preflop if you play in these games?

Well, once again, this is going to depend on a few different factors such as the stage of the tournament and the stack sizes.

Typically in the early going of a low stakes poker tournament or sit and go when the stack sizes are relatively deep (50 big blinds to 100 big blinds), I will raise my standard 3x and then 2.5x when stealing the blinds.

How Much Should You Raise Preflop in Tournaments?

But as the stacks become more shallow later on in the tournament or sit and go (< 30 big blinds), then it is really important that you start risking less with each raise.

I would suggest making it 2.2x the big blind and 2x when stealing the blinds. Honestly, you could even just 2x it from every position at the poker table.

In other words, the minimum raise.

This is extremely common in poker tournaments these days because the stacks are so shallow in the mid to late stages and most people are playing very risk adverse anyways.

Or to put it in plain English, they are only going to fight back if they have a very strong hand.

So you may as well just make your preflop raise size as close as possible to the bare minimum in order to risk the least.

This also allows you to raise preflop more often, giving you a higher chance of taking down the blinds. This is essential to building up a big stack to dominate the final table with.

If you want to know my complete micro stakes poker tournament strategy, I have already written the #1 guide available on the internet today for that as well.

You can find it right here.


How Much Should You Re-Raise Preflop in Poker?


Alright, lastly let's talk about how much you should raise preflop if you are 3-betting. This is when there is a raise preflop and then you choose to re-raise them.

Now, this is another important part of your overall preflop bet sizing strategy.

As Phil Ivey discusses in his new poker training program, he likes to encourage calls when he is in position and discourage them when he it out of position.

I personally do the exact same thing.

What this means is that when I am on the button for example and the initial raiser is in middle position, then I will make it less, usually a 3x re-raise.

And this is because if he calls I already know that I will get to act last on the flop, turn and river, which is a huge, huge advantage.

However, if I am in the big blind for example and somebody raises from the button, then I will make my re-raise 4x instead in order to discourage calls a bit more.

And this is because I know that if they call then I will have to act first on the flop, turn, and river. This is a very large disadvantage and it will ultimately make it much harder for me to win the hand.

So to recap:
  • Preflop 3-bet sizing when in position = 3x the original raise
  • Preflop 3-bet sizing when out of position = 4x the original raise

Here is a poker hand that I recently reviewed which shows excellent preflop 3-bet sizing with pocket Aces.


By the way, if you want to know all of my 3-bet and 4-bet raise sizings, and the entire strategy I used to create some of the highest winnings in online poker history at the micros, make sure you grab a copy of my best selling poker book, Crushing the Microstakes.


Should You Ever Limp in Poker?


And since I touched on it earlier, let me speak a bit about limping preflop here to finish up. Despite what you may have heard, limping is pretty much proven to be a sub-optimal strategy at this point.

In fact in my book that I just mentioned, I even show my PokerTracker database results over millions and millions of hands played comparing limping versus raising preflop.

My winnings are more than twice as high when raising preflop compared to limping.

As the results prove, raising preflop is a much more profitable strategy because you immediately take control of the pot and therefore give yourself more ways to win the pot.

Now with all that said, it is wise to avoid speaking in terms of absolutes in poker. In other words there are very, very few situations in poker where you can apply the term "never" or "always" to it.

Is there a time and a place for limping in poker? Yes, but it is very rare.

I think it definitely has some applicability if you play heads up poker (2 person game). Occasionally mixing in a limp late in a poker tournament, especially from the small blind, also has some merit.

But in order to mix in these limps profitably in these situations, you need to know how to properly balance your limp vs raising range in order to not become exploitable.

This is something that most advanced poker players struggle with in my experience. And most of the people who read my articles are beginner or novice level poker players.

So this is why I would ultimately suggest that you just stay away from limping completely.

It is almost always a better option in poker to simply raise preflop and take control of the pot (or just fold your hand).


How Much Should You Raise Preflop in Extremely Loose Poker Games?


Alright, actually before I finish up let me touch on one last subject regarding raising preflop. And this is extremely loose live or online poker games.

I have long been an advocate of "over-raising" in games like this.

In fact, during my days of mass multi-tabling NL2 in particular when the games were absurdly loose, I became infamous/famous as that guy who would just make it 10x the big blind preflop with all my high end premium hands.

AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK

And I had absolutely amazing success with this. This is actually a big part of the reason why I still have some of the highest winnings in online poker history in that game.

At first, everybody just laughed at me when I over-raised like this. Then when they found out just how much I was winning with this strategy though, they all started copying me.

In fact, you can still see people using this strategy that I created to this day at NL2 on PokerStars!

The bottom line is that if you are playing in a poker game full of fish who don't fold anything, then you can basically just throw everything that I said above in this article right out the window.

How Much Should You Raise Preflop?

When you raise preflop your goal should always be to get one caller (maybe two at the very most), or just simply make them all fold.

If 6 people call you every time you make it 3x the big blind though, then 3x is simply not optimal for the games that you are playing.

I always use play money poker as an extremely example to explain this.

If you have ever played Zynga poker on Facebook or the fake money games on any online poker site, then you know that nobody folds anything!

It's not real money after all right? So they will call you with absolutely anything.

In fact, most play money games online are so ridiculous that I would argue that simply going all-in preflop is the correct preflop raise size with your premium hands.

And this is because even if you go all in preflop with your AK you are still going to get a couple callers in most fake money games.

So if you are playing in some extremely loose poker games (whether online or live), don't be afraid to experiment with larger preflop raise sizes, 4x, 5x, 6x, 8x, 10x, 20x, all-in.

Because here is the simple truth of the matter. The only preflop raise size that is "correct" is the one that works the best in the poker games that YOU actually play in.


Final Thoughts


So how much should you raise preflop? Well it depends heavily on what games you are playing, cash games, tournaments or sit and gos.

It also depends on your position at the table in the case of cash games and the stage of the tournament in the case of tournaments and sit and gos.

Generally speaking though, in cash games I will be making it 3x the big blind and 2.5x when stealing the blinds. However, in 1c/2c cash games online and $1/$2 live I will make it a bit more due to all the calling stations.

In poker tournaments and sit and gos I will usually make my preflop raise size 3x and 2.5x when stealing the blinds in the early going.

However, once the stacks get shallow in the mid and late stages of a tournament, I will raise it the bare minimum amount in many cases which is 2x, also often called a "mini-raise."

Lastly, if you are playing in an extremely loose poker game, then you can simply ignore everything that I said in this article.

You should experiment with whatever preflop raise size actually gets the majority of them to fold, whether that is 4x, 6x, 10x or more.

Let me know in the comments below how much you raise preflop. Do you agree with the numbers in this article? Should they be higher or lower?

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Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy that I use to consistently make $1000+ in low stakes poker games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

How Much Should You Raise Preflop?

13 comments:

  1. I tend to limp in the early stages of mtt's when the stacks are deep with small pocket pairs and suited aces. Is this a bad play since you recommend to avoid limping?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,

      Ya, I would not recommend this play. I would either raise or fold instead.

      Delete
  2. I only play cash. We have lots of callers 9 handed. My regular raise in a "tight" game is 6 times the big blind. I hate 6 callers, but sometimes get them. In a loser game I go 7.5 times. I still get callers 90% of the time. For this reason I call whenever I can see a cheap flop, call more often when marginal, and raise tighter. The more players and the type of play makes my experience quite a bit different than you suggest for cash.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good points here which I should have mentioned in the article. In super loose live games (or online) it is totally fine to raise it up even more if they aren't folding anything.

      In fact, I will edit the article with this. Thanks for your comment!

      Delete
  3. Nice article! Good points about making your 3-bets more when out of position. I still see a lot of people making it too small from the blinds. It's an easy call with good odds to stack them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks TJ and yes I agree, I see that all the time at the lower stakes.

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading glad this one helped :)

      Delete
  5. So, I have JJ+ on the CO+. Everybody folded before me.

    How to get value from those scared-of-everything nits (who are actually unable to win with anything "weaker" than self-winning premium hands)?

    When I open no matter for how much, they fold.
    When I limp-3-bet, they fold.

    And the little rest of the time is 50/50: either there is a cooler, either a hand is dominated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If they literally fold everything on earth you can just mini-raise it and see if they will give you a "loose" call. If not, whatever, just steal their blinds. And you should be stealing their blinds with literally any two cards.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for both the article and the reply.
      That is what I actually do. Stealing with 32o is +EV if they fold so much.

      But my question was about how to get more value, than 1,5 BB with good hands.

      Would it be profitable if I get a maniac image to "warm nits up", investing a little of my stack to widen their ranges and get the desired value right after? Then repeat the cycle.

      Will they "bite" my bait or will they stay rocks?

      Delete
  6. I'd say that call on the river is the perfect example of what we used to call a "crying call". You pretty much know you are beat but because of the rockets can't quite make yourself muck it (I confess I have mucked AA in similar situations and been criticized for it, but I did so based on the old school axiom "never go broke to a pair"). Other than that, I absolutely agree about raising preflop. If they want to play, make them pay for the privilege.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha I like that idea of making them pay for the privilege of playing a hand with you! Exactly :)

      Delete