Reraising in Poker – When to Do It and When to Fold

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A Round of Poker Featuring Brock Samson and Claptrap

On the face of things, a “reraise” in poker seems like nothing really special. You’ve raised, someone else raised and you raise again. It happens a fair amount in poker.

Under the surface, though, a reraise is a tool in your poker arsenal like just about everything else and conveys information to the rest of the table like just about everything else. Therefore, like everything else, you need to know when to use it, when to back off, and what message you’re telling the table when you use it.

Fortunately, I’ve put together a deep dive into this poker move. We’ll talk about what it is, why you want to use it, and when you don’t want to use it. This guide will also let you know what your opponent is thinking (or bluffing) when they decide to reraise.

It may not seem like the most exciting topic in the world, but trust me. After this, you will understand the action at the table better and, I believe, your play will improve accordingly.

What is a Reraise?

As far as poker terms go, which can often be very confusing, a reraise is exactly what it sounds like. A reraise is when you raise after someone else has already raised (either you or one of your opponents.) In other words, first, there has to have been a raise at some point prior to you getting the opportunity to bet. Then, when you get the chance to bet, you choose to raise again.

See. That’s not so hard at all.

Of course, there’s a little more to it than that, especially because reraising is not something that you will be able to do with every hand of poker. Also, there are two types of reraises we want to consider. One is when you raise, someone else raises, and then you raise again. It is the most aggressive bet that you can make in a reraise situation.

The other type of raise is when you raise someone else’s raise. It’s also aggressive, but not quite as aggressive as when you reraise yourself.

In general, the messages both types of reraise convey and the strategy around them are the same except by degree. Just keep in mind, when you reraise yourself you are doubling down on how excited you are about your own cards. That may matter.

What Message(s) Might It Convey to the Table?

Essentially, any time you raise, you are sending out a message that you think you have the goods. You tell the table that either your hand is good enough to win or that you believe there’s a good chance you’re going to draw into a winner.

A reraise is like that on steroids.

Consider the sequence of a reraise:

  • Someone makes a bet at the table signaling “You have to pay X chips to stay in this hand.”
  • Someone raises saying “Oh yeah, pal, it’s actually going to cost you Y more.”
  • Then you enter the betting, telling everyone “You’re both wrong. It’s going to cost you Z, now pay up.”

That’s why reraising is an aggressive move. You are ratcheting up the risk and reward of playing that particular hand, forcing each player to evaluate the strength of their hand versus the probably that you are bluffing.

Because of this, a reraise is a good way to force players out of the hand at the risk that someone else really has better cards than you and you lose even more chips.

On the other hand, you can trigger someone at the table. When you reraise, you send out a signal to the rest of the table that you are confident about your cards and you are willing to be a bully about it. This can cause them to match your aggression for aggression and call your reraise.

At that point, you are literally pot committed. Hopefully, it was worth it.

When Should You Reraise?

You should reraise when you don’t care (or would prefer) if your opponents fold and one of two other conditions is true: you have the goods or you don’t, but you know your bluff is going to pay off.

The first case is the easiest. If you genuinely have a strong hand (say pocket aces preflop) or a set or better post-flop, it’s not a bad thing to be aggressive. You are there to take your opponents chips and call them your own. That is the name of the game.

In the other scenario, you can reraise as part of a bluff if you get the feeling your opponents aren’t playing aggressive, don’t feel bullied by previous reraises, or are betting in such a way that they don’t seem confident in their hands.

For instance, if you’re at a table where the players before you went small bet-call-call-raise bet (perhaps ten percent of the pot or less) that’s a good sign that not everyone is feeling good about what they have. You can make a reraise that’s a significant percentage of the pot (or more in no limit) and feel confident of knocking out a few of those players even if you don’t necessarily have the cards to support it.

When to Avoid Reraising?

If you don’t have the goods, then reraising can be a great way to donate chips to your opponents’ cause. Therefore, if you don’t have a good hand and you can’t read your opponents, a reraise is a bad idea.

If you want to stay in the hand, that’s fine. Just call the bet.

Also, if you don’t have great cards and your opponents are betting heavily, don’t rereaise. For instance, if the players before you opened betting and then the betting went call-raise-raise, perhaps you don’t bluff because there’s a good chance you won’t win. It’s too much to hope that everyone else is bluffing.

In fact, if you don’t love your cards, it’s a good time to consider just folding altogether.

Save the aggression for later.

When Should You Avoid a Reraise Even When You Have the Cards?

If you haven’t gotten the picture by now, reraising is an aggressive move. You have heard that, right?

That’s good because reraising is an aggressive move.

When you reraise, you are putting your opponents’ back to the wall.

Because you have increased the price of continuing the play, unless it’s the last round of betting or the other players are betting aggressively themselves, when you reraise someone is more than likely going to fold.

Maybe that’s what you want. It’s possible that you’re trying to knock out a player.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s better to keep other players in the game so that they keep feeding beautiful chips into that pot. Players cannot do that if you forced them to quit the hand.
As a victim of my own aggression, I can tell you there are several times I have reraised because I loved my cards (and I may have been tilting against an opponent) and forced everyone else to quit. When I did that, I won a small pot when I could have strung my opponents along and gotten even more money from them.

Of course, sometimes I’ve benefited from the aggressive and knocked other players out before they could have gotten the cards to beat me.

So, you have to decide which you would prefer: a better chance of winning the small pot or letting things go for a ride, not reraising, and seeing if you can grow that pot just a little bit more.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, it may be surprising that so much can go into reraising, but hopefully, this is a good reminder that everything you do at the poker table has consequences and sends information out to the rest of the table.

A Royal Flush

In the case of the reraise, the message and information is definitely unambiguous. When you reraise, you tell the table that you have cards you love because you are making it even more expensive to keep playing than the person who raised before you and the person who bet before you.

When you are making this clearly aggressive move, you will often trigger a “fight or flight” response amongst the other players at the table. You will either get them to call your raise (or even reraise your reraise…) which means you better have the cards to back up your play or you will get them to fold, likely leaving you with a win.

Normally, a win is a good thing, but be careful with a reraise. Sometimes they can backfire and cause people to drop out of a hand without giving you any chips. In these cases, it would have been better for you to be more cautious so you could end up with more chips.

Ultimately, how you use the reraise is up to you. Good luck.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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