Explanation of Re-raise (Rules)

Here we will discuss the rules for raising and re-raising in poker. See if you can answer the following questions before reading the explanation.

1. How do we calculate the minimum legal raise size in a No Limit game?
2. How do we calculate a pot-sized raise for pot-limit games?
3. In which circumstances is re-raising illegal?
4. What is the “cap” in a limit game?
5. What is cap poker?

1. How do we calculate the minimum legal raise size in a No Limit game?
In No Limit games there is a minimum raise size. The minimum raise size is the size of the previous raise. This doesn’t necessarily imply twice the previous bet however.

For example, after a 3bb open-raise from the button in No-limit Hold’em, the minimum re-raise size is 5bb not 6bb. This is because the 3bb open-raise is actually a raise of 2bb over the previous bet-sizing (the 1bb BB post). The original opener can then legally re-raise to a total of 7bb after facing the 5bb raise.

On the flop, if the first bet is 8bb, then a raise would have to be at least 16bb, since the initial bet was a raise of 8bb (compared the starting bet of 0bb on the flop). A re-raise (3bet) on the flop would then have a minimum legal size of 24bb (another 8bb on top).

2. How do we calculate a pot-sized raise for pot-limit games?
Calculating a pot-sized raise is often performed incorrectly. Online players are notoriously weak at calculating pot-sized raises since they are calculated automatically by the software. Live players are typically more familiar with the maths behind calculating pot-sized raises since they do not want to be repeatedly asking the dealer.

Example – There is \$10 in the middle on the flop in a Hold’em game. Villain bets \$5 into the pot. How do we calculate a pot-sized raise?

At first glance we might assume that because there is \$15 in the middle, a pot sized raise would be \$20 total, but this is incorrect.

The trick is to imagine we first call and see the total pot size after calling.

If we called, there wold be \$20 in the middle, which is the amount we raise by to formulate a pot-sized raise. We’d hence raise by \$20 for a total bet sizing of \$25.

We can confirm this by looking at the pot odds our opponent is getting when facing such a raise. If we have sized our raise correctly our opponent should bet getting exactly 2:1 (33.333%) on a call.

He would need to call \$20 into a pot that would total \$60 after his call. In other words, exactly 33.3333% of the pot. We can hence confirm that a pot-sized raise would involve a total raise size of \$25 in the above example.

3. In which circumstances is re-raising illegal?
Re-raising is not always a legal option even when we are playing No Limit and there are additional stacks behind.

This would occur when one of our opponents has raised all-in but his shove is less than the legal raise size.

Example – There are 3 players on the flop in a No Limit game.

Player A (\$100)
Player B (\$100)
Player C (\$18)
Player D (\$100)

Player A bets \$10. Player B calls. Player C shoves all-in for \$18.

In this scenario, the minimum legal raise size is \$10 for a total bet size of \$20. Player C is given an exception to this rule since he only has \$18 left in his stack (otherwise he would have to raise to at least \$20).

However, since player C’s raise is less than the legal minimum raise size, player A and B only have the options to call or fold against player C’s re-raise.

This is partly because they have already acted during the hand and elected to just call. If there was a fourth player behind who had not yet acted, he would be allowed to re-raise (minimum total raise size of \$30).

Of course, there are other reason why re-raising might be illegal. If we are heads up and our opponent is all-in, we no longer have the option to re-raise due to the table stakes rule. It could also be that we are playing a game with a fixed-limit betting structure and the cap has been reached.

4. What is the “cap” in a limit game?

In most limit games there is a cap on the amount of bets and raises that can be made on a given street. In most limit games the cap is set at four (i.e one bet and three raises for each street).

Example on the flop -

Player A bets \$2.
Player B raises to \$4.
Player A re-raises to \$6.
Player B re-raises to \$8.

Player A now only has the options to call or fold since the cap has been reached. This is not to be confused with the term “cap poker” which applies primarily to no limit and pot limit games.

5. What is cap poker?

“Cap poker” is a cash game format where arbitrary effective stacks are set. As an example, in a 40bb cap game, players can invest a maximum of 40bb on any given hand. Players are free to sit as deep as they like, but the extra stacks make no different to the effective stacks which will remain at 40bb. Once the 40bb cap is reached, players are considered “all-in” meaning that any additional raises are illegal.

Example of Re-raise used in a sentence -> We were forced to give villain credit for a very strong holding after he hit us with the re-raise.

How to Use Re-raise (Rules) as Part of Your Poker Strategy

Good players are aware of all legal options at all times, even in scenarios where the rules are a little less obvious.

For example, when facing a jam from a shortstack on the flop, our decision to call will often depend on whether the players behind us have the legal option to raise or are just forced to call. (I.e we don’t want to call a raise and still get blown off our hand by players behind). This might be somewhat clear in an online game but being aware of legal raises in a live game will require us to run some basic mental arithmetic.

In pot-limit games such as PLO it’s recommended that players learn how to calculate a pot-sized raise for themselves. This is perhaps for two main reasons -

1. It’s unethical and annoying to be asking the dealer every hand.
2. Asking the dealer might give away tells.

Contrary to some of the strategies taught, it is not always the most profitable option to always bet/raise pot-size just because we are playing with a pot-limit betting structure. We should consider the entire range of raise sizings between min-raise and pot-size.

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