Another one of the biggest mistakes you will see at low-stakes games is players varying their preflop raise sizing based on what kind of hand they hold.
In a $1/$2 game, a player will open to $7 when he holds hands like Jack-Ten suited, pocket Fours, Seven-Five suited, Ace-Four suited. But then when that same player opens to $12, he has hands like Queens, Ace-King, or Ace-Queen.
Player may do this because they want a heads-up pot when they have bigger hands (like Queens, Kings, or Aces), but don’t mind a multi-way pot when they have more “speculative” hands (like 6-7 suited or pocket Fives)
They are irrationally and overly afraid of being outdrawn when they hold the bigger hands, so they don’t mind as much if they just take down the pot preflop. Conversely, they feel more comfortable playing the speculative hands postflop, where they are basically just looking to make a huge hand, or get out
Some players take this strategy to an even greater extreme, raising huge with their big hands (especially if there is a limp or two), to something like 8-10x the BB.
You will also see a strange “move” where they will make small “pot-sweetener” raises after several people have limped in. For example, 5 people limp in, the small blind completes, and then the big blind will raise to 7, or even 5 dollars. They do this knowing full well that nobody is going to fold.
They make these small preflop raises because they want the pot to have some meat in it, in the event they do flop big with their marginal hand.
So now that we understand what this overall mistake is, let’s dive into the many reasons why.
The biggest problem with taking this approach to preflop raise sizing is that it is blatantly transparent. Once you recognize that a player has drastically different opening sizings, you can usually obtain a lot of information about their likely ranges.
This may seem obvious to some, but the content of your hole cards at any given moment is clearly the most important piece of incomplete information in poker. So why on earth would you give away that information?!
If your opponents know that your larger raise sizes are heavily weighted towards big hands, then they can easily make tight and correct folds against those raises with their slightly worse “big” hands ( like AJ or KQ). You need action from these hands to generate EV.
Likewise, if they know that your smaller raises are heavily weighted towards more speculative hands, then they can easily attack those raises with aggressive 3-betting. They know that you are likely not making this small raise and inviting a multi-way pot when you have premium hands.
If you have played any significant amount of live low-stakes cash games, then you have surely seen this: a small raise after a bunch of limps. Think back. Do these players making this move usually have Queens, Kings, or Aces at the end of the hand?
The information you are giving away with these raises does not only pertain to preflop play; it extends throughout the entirety of your hand. If your opponents can deduce that your raise sizing tips the scale, one way or the other, then it’s going to be incredibly difficult for you to profitably navigate through postflop decisions.
Your opponents can apply maximum pressure to you in spots where the board fails to match your likely range of holdings, and they can safely exit the hand when the board does match your likely range.
Here’s what it boils down: As we learned in Course 1, you make money in poker by forcing your opponents into mistakes. If you play poker in a manner that gives away valuable information about your holdings, then you are making it drastically easier on your opponents to avoid making these mistakes.