Dilemma: Should I Raise at the Start With a Hand Such as the Eight and Nine of Clubs?

Deciding when to raise is a difficult problem for many Texas Holdem players

We have already read here about how the first two cards dealt to a player are critical and will often determine whether or not a hand should be folded to wait for better times to come, or has the potential to become a winning one, and that certain cards may be playable in some positions but not in others. But what about when the cards have the potential to become a superb and strong hand, but also have just as much potential not to be? Should you raise from the outset in the first round of betting to try and get as much money into the pot as possible, or should you wait and see if the flop fits your hand first?

A Difficult Decision

A common dilemma is when a player receives cards like the eight and nine of clubs for example. If the flop is the five, six and seven of clubs then obviously it has an excellent chance of winning, but if the flop is a mixed bag of three high cards of different suits then your eight and nine of clubs suddenly looks decidedly average and not a likely winner.

Again, frustratingly, there is no definitive answer. For some players this type of hand will never be a suitable starting hand, with them prefering to wait until they are dealt two starting cards of a higher value such as a high pair for example. These players will only risk real money on Texas Hold Em poker hands which have a high chance of success from the outset, which a high starting pair does in the main, even though this means that they will fold a large percentage of their starting hands and have to sit out most of the play.

Others will base their decision upon their position in the betting round. As the article "Why Is It Better to Act Last in Texas Hold Em Poker?" explained, being one of the last to act in a particular round of betting is a distinct advantage for a player. In this situation, as most Texas Hold Em players call or raise at the outset with high value starting cards, fewer players left in the hand by the time it is your turn to act means that few should be holding high cards which would result in a strong pair for them (one which would beat your hand) should the flop reveal high cards. So it may be worth calling and staying in the hand, although those that remain may have smaller starting cards which would likely benefit them just as much as they would you should the flop be small value cards.

Playing Late in the Betting Round Can Influence the Decision

Perhaps more importantly, playing from a late position, preferably last, allows a player to know how much it will cost for them to play this rather speculative and hopeful hand. If everyone has called, it may be worth a punt, whereas if there has been a raise and a re-raise before you it would be expensive to call just to see if the flop does indeed fit nicely with the eight and nine of clubs. Whilst poker is a gamble just like playing other casino games, this speculative effort would really not be a risk worth taking. Whilst you may curse and kick yourself if the flop would have turned your eight and nine of clubs into a spectacular hand, most of the time it would not and would just have cost you whatever it was you threw into the pot just to see the cards. The best poker players will fold many hands in a session which would have turned into winners, but over the long term they will have more money in their pockets by not chasing speculative and unlikely flop results.