Preventing Show Downs: The Power of the Re-Raise

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Poker has gotten so aggressive lately that it seems insane. Between good aggressive players, many more terrible ones, and the ones who think they’re good but aren’t—it seems like poker tables are sometimes so bad that they become almost a complete crap shoot. One of the most important things to figure out is why the players are being aggressive. If they are being bullies or think they’re really good, but aren’t, then this type of knowledge can work to your advantage.

A lot of strategy articles suggest calling down a bully to prevent the constant raising and re-raising. This works sometimes, and it’s not a bad strategy at a table that has a single bully, or has a couple, but you can manage to show down with just one. The problem often becomes that many tables have several loose players. One strategy that I often support, given the right situation, is instead of calling is to re-raise. This can be amazingly effective, but you must be very careful how you use this strategy. Being able to read your opponents and understanding their reasons for betting is critical.

Here’s an example of a hand I played today. For a little bit of background, the player at my table raised a lot—often up to half his stack any time anyone raised him. If the other person called, he went all in next card and usually forced a fold. Some excellent players may do this to a weak table they know they can bully, but I noticed that one time this player lost with trip queens (he had Q-9 suited, and his opponent had pocket 7’s to make a 7’s over Q full house). The queens came up on the turn and river.

Paying attention to this was critical. A great hand doesn’t make a bad beat or a good player—he should have folded early. Because of this, I knew he was loose and trying to bully, but the player with the trip sevens had slow played him, knowing the loose player would eventually bluff into him. Another habit I noticed: this player tried to bet only 100 as opposed to 500 whenever he had something. These were all the tells I needed. So here’s the hand:

My hand: The flop:
:ac: :qc: :jd: :8h: :7s:

Since I had weak position, I made a respectable raise of sixty chips, which was three times the big blind to see what he would do. He raised 500 chips. Now, I’m a conservative player by nature, so my instinct is to throw it away and not risk it—because at this point I know my hand is junk according to the board . . . but I also knew the player loved to bully and he would slow play anything decent—plus he never showed down. So I went all in.

This is why this strategy is so dangerous! He called me a donkey and every equivalent name, but he folded and I was up another 500 chips. The key here was the read. He was a bully and bet a lot WHEN HE DID NOT WANT TO BE CALLED! So I didn’t give myself a chance to back out—I put in all my chips, and he folded. I played the player instead of the board, and came out way ahead.

Observation is important. Don’t get frustrated. Watch everything, and you’ll begin to pick up on the players you can push around. When you figure it out, don’t back down—just push them hard and you’ll be smiling in the inside as your poker face pisses them off on the outside.

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