Poker Articles

Isolation betting

Isolation bets are raises to thin out the player field. You'll have to understand isolation strategy to use them in your own poker game but also to recognize it when an opponent is making an isolation bet. A standard isolation play example, Under The Gun limps in and we have two more limpers in middle position. The Small Blind and Big Blind will probably limp in beacuse of the pot odds, regardless of their cards. you're on the button, and have JJ, a decent Pocket Pair but with a lot of risks. Against 5 other players you are probably holding the dog hand on the flop and will be left in a tricky situation. So you on the button button make a big raise, 5 times the BB, to force people out of the hand and thin the playerfield to just 1 or 2 opponents.

The goal of an isolation bet is to reduce the number of players in the hand so it's a typical pre-flop play. Certain hands, like pairs, are the mathematical favorite against non-pairs heads up. But pairs, become a big dog against 3 or more players in the hand. Mathematically it makes sense to always try to get heads up with pairs cause it increases your EV.

Besides improving your mathematical EV on the flop, an isolation bet will also give you information. Isolation bets are usually large, they should be much bigger than the standard 3x BB raise pre-flop. When some player calls your isolation raise, it gives information about the type of hand that the player could be holding. Combine this with the player's tendencies and the action on the flop, and you should be able to put him on the right cards by the turn.

Another strategic consideration for an isolation bet is when you're against a LAGG player. LAGG players tend to raise pre-flop and are always involved a lot of hands which necessarily reduces the quality of their playing range. So when you're holding a quality hand there is again the mathematical advantage to get Heads Up with this player. Pocket Pairs, AJ or AQ kind of hands are likely to dominate a player that raises pre-flop with ace-rag suited type hands. When you get him heads up this protects your advantage over him. So isolation plays can also be re-raising. These are in fact the best isolation plays because it's hard for the remaining players to call when there have been two raises before them.

Isolation bets are getting common in poker tournaments, especially in the middle and late stages of a tournament. This because short stacks will start to shove all in on any pairs or marginal aces. When you're holding a big ace or big pair you probably have the short stack dominated. If you do, with a 3 to 1 advantage, you need to protect your advantage. Instead of just calling and perhaps letting other players into the hand, it's better to re-raise to scare the other players out of the hand. Because even if you have a 3 to 1 advantage against the short stack, the other players in the pot , especially players who have position on you reduce your odds of winning the hand.

Very important in the strategic use of isolation plays is to pick up on the weak players. You want to use isolation bets against the weak players to get Heads Up with them. You will be able to get him to fold a lot, so that's a very profitable way to build your stack. This kind of action is common on cash tables, cause the sharks tend to stay out of each others way and use isolation bets to signal to each other that they intend to claim this pot.

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