Min-raises are a relatively common occurrence in poker. It’s useful to understand when min-raises might make sense and how to respond against them.

Let’s start with a quick definition.

Min-raise – A raise made with the minimum legal amount of chips

In other words, there is a limit to how small we can raise in poker, and the smallest possible raise increment is known as the min-raise.

The min-raise is often twice the size of the previous bet, but not always, so it’s essential to know how to calculate min-raises correctly.

Calculating the Min-Raise

As a start, the first bet in the sequence may never be less than the amount of one big blind (or one small bet in the case of limit games).

Any subsequent raises must be at least the size of the previous raise.

Let’s see some examples.

Example 1 – Flop situation in No-Limit Hold’em.

Pot size 6.5bb.
Player A bets 4bb.
Player B?

Player A’s bet is equivalent to raising by 4bb because 0 chips had been wagered at the start of the flop betting round. Therefore, Player A has increased the size of the wager by 4bb.

If player B wishes to raise, he must raise by at least another 4 big blinds for a total size of 8bb. Any raise smaller than this would not be valid.

Example 2 – Flop 3bet

Pot size 6.5bb.
Player A bets 4bb.
Player B raises to 12bb.
Player A?

Take a moment and think. What is Player A’s minimum allowed re-raise sizing on the flop? Player B raised Player A’s sizing for considerably more than a min-raise, i.e. by an additional 8bb.

If Player A wishes to re-raise, he must re-raise by at least another 8 big blinds.

In this instance, if Player A had doubled Player B’s sizing by raising to 24bb, he would be raising by more than a min-raise. Player A only needs to raise to 20bb to satiate the minimum raise requirements.

Example 3 – Preflop 3bet

SB posts 0.5bb.
BB posts 1bb.
Player A open-raises on the button for 3bb.
SB folds.
Player B?

Preflop scenarios tend to cause the most confusion concerning min-raises. Take a moment and calculate player B’s min-raise (3bet) sizing in this example. Well, how much was player A’s previous raise? 3bb? Unfortunately, no.

Poker player scratching head with a thought bubble

Remember that the previous wager was the 1bb mandatory BB post. So, although player A is raising to 3bb, he is only raising by 2bb. Therefore, Player B only needs to raise by another 2bb to satisfy the min-raise requirements.

Player B is legally allowed to raise to 5bb. Many players mistakenly assume that 6bb is a min-raise here.

Min-Raise Strategy

The main advantage of min-raising is that it allows us to save chips when used in the correct context.

Min-raise Bluffing

An excellent application of the min-raise is min-raise bluffing when our opponent is showing inelastic folding tendencies. The term ‘inelastic’ means that Villain will fold the same frequency regardless of the size of our raise. Raising smaller in such instances means our bluffs instantly become more profitable.

Two of the most common examples of this -

1) Min open-raises when attempting to steal the blinds.

2) Raising against our opponent’s turn bet.

Although we can technically min-raise bluff on any postflop street, the most common min-raise bluffs are on the turn. Flop raises usually end up being larger, and river raises are scarce in themselves.

However, we could employ min-raises on any street if our opponent is not adjusting his folding frequency, based on our sizing.

Min Raising for Thin Value

Another example where we might elect for the min-raise size is when we are going for thinner value. Naturally, the larger we raise, the harder it is to get called by enough worse hands for our value raise to be profitable. This fact is especially true on the turn and river, where many opponents will be inclined to give our raises an above-average amount of respect.

However, this does not mean that we should select min-raises by default. Stronger hands should typically be looking to raise larger where possible.

So, although the min-raise is a useful tool in our arsenal, using it in the wrong spots can result in missed value.

Dealing with Min-Raises

What if we are, instead, on the receiving end of a min-raise.

How should we respond?

There are two essential principles to keep in mind here -

1. It depends on the street

Facing a preflop min-raise is hugely different from facing a river min-raise.

Keep in mind the following as a general guide:

The later the street, the stronger the min-raise.

A preflop min-raise could be any two cards in Hold’em, while a river raise is often a very strong made hand, perhaps even the stone-cold nuts.

We should generally look to peel flop min-raises very wide and start giving a bit more respect when we are min-raised on the turn. The size of the pot is crucial too. A turn min-raise in a spot where the flop is bet is stronger than a turn min-raise in a scenario where the flop gets checked through.

2. We should continue wider vs min-raises than larger raises.

Although some Villains may be min-raising an overly strong range (especially on the later streets), we still have to defend wider than we would against a larger raise. Failure to do so would result in some exploitative opportunities for our opponent (their min-raise bluffs start to become overly profitable since we fold at an inelastic frequency).

Of course, defending wider does not necessarily mean defending wide. For example, although we defend wider against river min-raises than we do against river shoves, we’d still be defending a very tight range, in both instances.

Summary of Playing Min-Raise Spots in Hold’em

Here is a quick overview of the types of difference min-raises we see on poker’s most popular variant, No-Limit Hold’em. 

Spot

Interpretation

Preflop min-raise open

Could be anything. Defend very wide.

Preflop min 3bet

Usually, a weaker player with a wide range. Defend wide.

Preflop min 4bet

Usually a weaker player with a slightly stronger range. Proceed with caution, be prepared to make some folds preflop.

Flop min-raise (2bet) (single raised pot - SRP)

Usually a weaker player with a wide range. Usually we can continue with any pair. 

Flop min-raise (3bet) (SRP)

Flop 3bets are nearly always strong, even if a min-raise. Treat with considerable respect. Usually makes sense to continue with 2pair plus here.

Turn min-raise (2bet) (SRP)

Turn min-raises are typically strong even though our price is good. We would usually continue with the best top pairs plus against most opponents.

Turn min-raise (3bet) (SRP)

Turn 3bets are typically the nuts. We should only continue here if we think we have the better nuts or our opponent has been known to run crazy bluffs.

River min-raise (2bet) (SRP)

River raises are notoriously strong, even from weaker players. We should generally only continue with the best holdings here.

River min-raise (3bet) (SRP)

We need to be very careful facing a river 3bet (especially if the stacks are deep). We may even be able to get away from some 2nd and 3rd nut type holdings, depending on the exact scenario.

Flop min-raise (2bet) (3bet pot)

While flop min-raises are often wider than they should be, we still need to give this line more credit than we would in a single raised pot.

Flop min-raise (2bet) (multiway pot)

It’s vital to treat flop raises in multiway pots with caution, and this becomes even truer the greater the number of players involved. Only the best pairs should continue against a flop min-raise multiway.

Flop min-raise (2bet) (limped pot)

Seeing as the pot is so small at this stage, we should generally avoid folding to flop min-raises. The majority of holdings will be an easy continue.

As we can see, not all min-raises are created equal. It’s imperative to account for the exact scenario and type of opponent. This outlook also holds true when we are the raiser.

About the Author
By
Timothy "Ch0r0r0" Allin is a professional player, coach, and author. Since the beginning in 2006 he has built his roll from the lowest limits online without depositing a single dollar. After competing in some of world's toughest lineups (and winning) he now shares his insights and strategies with the 888poker magazine.
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