Megaraise Part II: The Reversal
This strategy article is a follow-up to my first installment concerning what I call the “megaraise”. While there are likely too many syllables for this term for a modified version to ever take hold, it certainly serves a much needed purpose with regards to avoiding a negative scenario without ever making a mistake. Going forward, I’ll just call it the “RMR” for short.
The first issue to address is: where does the “reverse” part come into play? The standard megaraise derives much of its effectiveness from the benefit of acting first after the flop, and therefore can be done with a surprisingly wide range of hands. The RMR is done in position, yet also done with a much narrower range of hands. The reason is because if the raise is called preflop, you will be going to more showdowns, since any caller(s) will often have the option of stealing your play and betting into you.
Just like with the megaraise, you are committed no matter what. How you choose to put the money in after the flop is up to your discretion, but like it or not, you aren’t folding after putting in the first raise.
Here are the criteria:
You Have Approximately 30BB
This is what I would consider to be a sort of sweet spot for the RMR. It is also not coincidentally the standard minimum buy-in at many sites, including Ignition and Party Poker, where I created the concept in response to a fairly common problem. While this was designed as a cash game play, there is no reason whatsoever that it can’t be used in a tournament setting, where in all likelihood it would be even more effective.
If your stack is much higher than that, you can safely revert back to normal play, as you can still make a more standard sized iso-raise while maintaining postflop maneuverability. Likewise, if your stack is much lower, a standard push/fold play is almost always more appropriate, as it provides a significantly improved risk to reward ratio.
Your Hand Requires More Showdown Value Than a Standard Megaraise
As stated earlier, since more hands will naturally be going to showdown, it should be fairly obvious that you need to have a better hand than if you had the option of acting first after the flop. Your showdown value should be enough that it reasonably has the potential to beat more than one opponent without pairing up. This means that you shouldn’t consider doing this with any non-pair lower than AQ without having a very good reason.
Other good candidates for this play are pairs TT-QQ, and occasionally even KK. It may seem like overplaying your hand, but these hands can quickly find themselves in a bind after making a standard iso-raise and getting called by many limpers, especially if players decided to trail in behind you. Using a standard iso-raise would leave you with a SPR hovering around 1, putting you in a very awkward spot when the flop is poor for your hand and you need to pull the trigger with little information.
You Raise for Approximately Half the Effective Stack
A standard megaraise has you putting in a mere third of the effective stack with the goal of getting called and pushing guys off the flop. THIS larger raise is meant for getting some preflop folds against multiple opponents acting before you, while also putting maximum pressure on players behind you if you are not on the button. It will also take away any thoughts you may have of chickening out on bad flops, so consider it to be a commitment device for your pot commitment decision.
Now for some hand examples. The environment is not specific to a cash game or tourney, and for simplicity’s sake, all stack sizes have been set to 3,000 with blinds of 50/100.
Hand #1: AK on the Button Facing Multiple Limpers
AK on the button facing unknown and presumably somewhat fishy limpers is always going to be a profitable situation. A 4X raise probably doesn’t accomplish any tangible goal, because if you are unsuccessful in getting a fold from the first limper, the other two are likely coming along. Even still, there is no guarantee that one of the blinds won’t call, making it even more likely to be played five ways. Increasing it to 5X or more has you at the commitment threshold with a third of your stack in the middle. Putting in that much money and then being forced to fold later on is never a good thing.
The former situation isn’t terrible, but the latter is tragic. If we are going to commit now, why not just shove? Let’s go ahead and do that and see what happens. This time around, though, let’s do it with the cards face up.
Fantastic, we just won the hand and can officially claim to be no less than average! While I don’t approve of the revealed fish’s call, had we seen his hand ahead of time, we wouldn’t have shoved, as we can’t just assume that a mediocre player will correctly fold against a likely hand range. If we knew what he had and were absolutely certain he was going to call a shove, even with the dead money added, our play would still have had slight negative expectation. Surviving your typical coin flip is nothing to be proud of, particularly when you were on the wrong end of it.
In fairness, however, i would consider this to be an overall profitable shove in a vacuum, but making it all or nothing makes for a much easier decision for your opponents. The profitability of shoving AK is directly correlated with the size of the stacks in play. With 30BB and no obvious danger of blinding out, it will take a Cate Hall-type error for someone to stack off with a dominated hand and you are still in danger of busting out.
Let’s try this different way using the RMR. Again, we will do it with villain’s pocket sixes face up so that we can view things from his perspective this time around.
Staring at a flop of j-t-7 with 66 does not make for a pleasant call, even though he is getting better than 3:1 odds. You may be wondering if it is realistic to think that this flop will deter a call from someone who plays poorly enough to call off half his stack preflop. That is a legitimate question, because oftentimes they do call. I don’t actually have an answer for that, as I would never keep company with anyone who would do this, let alone talk poker with them. All I can say is that this does happen, and it happens a lot more than you would expect.
Hand #2: JJ on the Cutoff with Two Limpers
Two confirmed fish limp in EP and there is an aggro whale sitting behind you on the button who has been calling every raise, no matter how large. Just as importantly, he has been betting and raising nearly every flop. We all know just how sticky jacks can get, and making any kind of standard iso-raise against the two fish means that this flop is definitely going at least four ways while you are caught helplessly in the middle. This is the ideal spot for using a premium hand to make a RMR.
In this specific situation, the RMR will help thin out the field while preventing you from getting outplayed, while getting maximum value from the whale’s trashy hands. Getting half of your stack in the middle and committing yourself now creates the maximum potential for opponent errors while minimizing your own. Let’s let it rip and find out what happens.
Doesn’t get better than that! Just picture how this flop would have played out with a smaller raise and multiple callers. If checked to you, you would be forced to check back, as betting would be suicide. You theoretically have the option of hero calling down the whale, but an often overlooked aspect of playing with extremely bad players is that they will alter the dynamic and can cause other players to act irrationally and give unreliable info in response to their crazy aggression.
If a player is so bad that even the fish at the table consider him to be a mark, they might start trying to run him down or play back with hands that aren’t appropriate to the board texture. For instance, under ordinary circumstances, if you checked to the aggro whale on this flop and he bets like he always does, one guy might float with a gutshot and a second guy might checkraise with something ridiculous like 77. If you find yourself trailing along with jacks out of frustration just because you saw something like this happen before and can’t seem to catch a hand and a flop to go with it, then I can assure you that you haven’t been losing because online poker is rigged.
While I can’t remember the precise details of how the hand played out, being in this exact situation was what first inspired me to add pairs to my RMR portfolio. I was on the cutoff and there just such a player sitting behind me who was interfering in literally every pot that I was playing, calling bets of all sizes. That’s fine when you have aces or kings, but not so great when you are trying to enter a pot with QTo or 65s. however, even when you have a seemingly solid hand like jacks, it’s still far from ideal with other players in the pot and you are guaranteed to never act last.
Final note: there is no rule saying that you can’t just open raise for half your stack without the presence of limpers from any position at the table. Next time you are under the gun with QQ and faced with an army of calling stations behind you, give it a shot. The worst thing that can happen is that you get felted, but at least no one can rightly accuse you of not having raised enough to get their 95o out of the pot!