Raising in late position with speculative hands

Here is a re-post of an article I wrote in 2007.  I find it still pertinent today.  Let me know what you think.

I remember awhile back, me and my buddy Tim where playing in a cash game early in LPT Season 1. Tim folded his cards and took a peak at mine while I 3x raised from the cut off position. I got 2 callers, and someone pushed me off my hand on a coordinated board. Tim said something to the effect, “You like those?” I remember wanting to discuss the hand with him then, but we were in the middle of a game and I don’t like initiating poker strategy discussions for fear of looking like a know it all.  So I answered “Yeah I do” and we left it at that. Fast forward to a year later, I still like raising speculative hands like suited connectors and baby pairs, especially in cash games. In fact, if I were to write up a document describing how I play NL holdem cash games, Chapter 1 would certainly contain a section on why I like to play this way. So here are the three reasons I like to raise with these speculative hands.

Can You Spare Some Change?

There is something to be said about picking up a number of small pots that no one else wants to claim. When open raising in late position, two profitable things are fairly probable to happen.

You will pick up the blinds and dead limper money. In my opinion, raising in deep stack cash games with the main goal of winning the blinds is pointless, but picking up blinds due to aggressive play is a nice byproduct.

The stubborn limpers will call the raise but miss the flop. When this occurs, a continuation bet will often pick up the pot. To fade the board can be a profitable play against 2 or less opponents.

Your Image Will Prosper, Build It (The Pot) and They Will Come (Eventually)

Sooner or later people are going to notice that you are raising more often than random cards would usually dictate. Limpers get fed up and eventually will play back at you. This, in turn, will help you get paid off when you actually do raise with a very strong preflop hand. Deception is the key here. When people start playing back at you, hopefully they guess at the wrong hand and you get to play a big pot with a big hand in position.

Sudden Movements Make Your Prey Run Away

A very common poker wisdom you keep hearing everywhere you turn is “with small pairs and suited connectors, try and see a cheap flop”. Most assume this means to try limping in the pot with these hands. Trying to see a cheap flop means it’s dangerous to play these hands from early position, but it can never be an awful play to raise them from late position. In addition to the reasons stated above, another benefit to raising with these hands is TO MAKE IT EASIER TO BUILD A BIG POT WHEN YOU HIT A HUGE FLOP. When you hit a set or better on the flop, it will be much easier to entice your opponents to play a big pot with you. Generally, standard bet sizing is directly related to the current pot size. Your standard continuation bet will be bigger and when your opponent bets into you, he will bet more. This pot building effect will snowball on every street right up to the river.

In conclusion, to pick up dead money, encourage action with premium hands, and get paid when lightning strikes, are all good reasons to reach for the “raising pile” when in position. Winning small pots and building an aggressive table image are often more than enough to compensate for putting money in the pot when you are “surely behind”.

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