Isolation Raising

Imagine yourself seated at a poker table, holding a hand that looks promising. You sense a victory ahead. However, as the old saying goes, “hell is other people’, and no concept in poker signifies this better than that of Isolation Raising. Confused? Let me explain. Even in your imagination, you aren’t seated at the table alone. Poker is a group activity, and groups generally mean more than two people. Your game, as good as it is, can be affected by the players playing with you. Not only can they potentially have a hand that can beat yours, but they’re necessary to create one of the main rewards the winner receives at the end of a game. 

Winning poker games gives you bragging rights, sure, but you also want to win something tangible, that you can use to your advantage in the real world; money. Players at the poker table, following the rules of poker, have to place bets, either through the blinds system or via antes. This betting is what creates a pot, which ultimately lands in the winner’s lap. And while players with strong hands tend to bet well, and raise their opponents’ bet, some players tend to play in a more passive-aggressive manner. Imagine that one colleague in your office who brags about being considered for a promotion every week, when you know he’s not particularly good at his job and won’t get that promotion. You may not be able to confront your colleague, but in poker, you get an opportunity of defeating such players. 

What is Iso-Raising?

Iso-Raising is a poker tactic, which allows you to deal with passive-aggressive players on the poker table. 

In a game of poker, players generally tend to call or raise bets. However, sometimes a player will limp during the pre-flop stage. Sounds like poker jargon? Read on, and it will all be clear. A poker game consists of several stages. One of the initial stages is pre-flop. This stage is when the players place bets on the basis of their hole cards, and before any of the community cards are revealed. 

There is often a minimum amount that has to be bet to remain in the game. If the game relies on the blind system, then the small or big blind has to put up the minimum amounts prescribed to them, and if the ante system is applied, then all players have to place an amount as ante. 

Now, what is limping? Limping is a poker term, which basically means ‘to bet the minimum amount’. It’s the poker equivalent of doing the least amount of work in a group project just to walk away with the credit. 

Instead of raising a bet, which is to increase the bet placed than the minimum amount, if a player meets only the minimum amount in the pre-flop stage, then that person is considered to be a limper. Limping isn’t considered a respectful move amongst senior poker players and is used only by absolute beginners.  

Now, what iso-raising does is it creates a situation, wherein such a limping player is forced to compete with the raising player, one on one. It’s a poker-off, of sorts. 

A player who is using the tactic of iso-raising will raise and re-raise the bet to a point where the other players at the table are forced to fold. Folding is simply refusing to bet-or rather call- a certain amount because their hand is not strong enough to warrant it. Once the other players have folded, the contest is between the raising player and the limper. 

The whole purpose of iso-raising to get a limping player to acknowledge that they have a weaker hand. This relatively weaker hand is the reason why they refuse to bet beyond the minimum amount. Raising the bet, after their limping in the pre-flop round, is a way to call them out.

As an example, we can imagine a game where the minimum amount to be bet is $2. While all the players have placed bets of $3/4 a limping player simply bets $2. If Player A wants to iso-raise him, in the next round he raises the bet to $10. All the other players fold and refuse to call the bet. Now, the limping player must decide if his hand is worth calling or raising the bet placed. Normally, limping players have average hands, and the risk of meeting the bet would be too high. This would cause the limping player to fold, and Player A would win the game and the pot. 

Types of Players for Iso-Raising

Usually Iso-Raising is a tactic used against weak and passive-aggressive players. Such players are easy to spot, because they tend to limp pre-flop, a lot. This makes it easy to identify and call them out. 

These players are also weak because of their skill levels. They aren’t used to designing hands, and thus, their hands are quite average. This is the reason why they tend to limp since they don’t have the hands to back up a high bet and neither do they have the experience to fold in case of underwhelming cards. 

While iso-raising such players, most of them fold pre-flop after the isolation raise. However, sometimes players can continue to play in further rounds and may call or even raise the isolation raise. In such cases, the raising player must evaluate his or her cards and also ascertain that the limping player has weaker cards. 

Iso-raising is also used to deal with aggressive players who tend to play and remain in the game even if their cards are weak. They tend to bet aggressively and can only be called out by an isolation raise. 

One can think of Iso-raising in terms of the movies. Often in movies, the hero of the story refuses the assistance of his minions and decides to battle the antagonist on his own. Iso-raising is kind of like that. 

Iso-Raising Range 

Ranges in poker, are essentially the combination of hands that are opponents could possibly have. It is an important aspect of poker because it allows a player to understand his or her own hand and also attach value to the potential hands his or her opponents could possess. Ranges also allow players to determine what kind of bet has to be placed; check, call or raise.

While iso-raising, a player should also consider the ranges of his or opponents, as well as assess his or her own cards. This will determine whether or not iso-raising will work. 

One of the main factors to keep in mind while trying to identify the iso-raising range is the position. Especially in the pre-flop stage, a player should consider and take into account, not only his or her own position, but also the position of the opponents. Positions matter, while deciding the iso-raising range, because players around the poker table place their bets in a clockwise manner. This will allow a player to identify another player who is limping. 

In the Pre-Flop stage, a player that is positioned to place a bet early on will tend to be a stronger player. Whereas, a player that positions himself to place a bet later on in the round, will likely be a weaker player. Such tells help a player construct their iso-raising ranges.

However, the only exception to this rule is an open limper. Open limpers tend to limp regardless of their position, and this is because they are weaker players, who aren’t aware of the importance of positioning, when it comes to iso-raising ranges. In such cases, a player needs to only take his own position into account while constructing iso-raising ranges. 

The two variables to consider when creating iso-raising ranges are:

  • If the player is in an earlier position and how many players will follow after them, and
  • If the player will be in-position or out-position when they will be called. 

Basically, these two variables point out, that in a poke game it is better for iso-raising range construction, if a player plays after his or her opponents. 

Now we can take a look at the different positions from which you can design your iso-raising range and whether such position is beneficial. They are as follows:

1) Button: it is a good position to iso-raise from as there are only two opponents that play after you. You will also be in-position if called upon.

2) Cut Off: this position is a bit tighter than the button as there are three opponents behind you, but you will be in position when called upon. 

3) Middle Positions: there will be four opponents who will play after you, so this is not the best position to iso-raise.

4) Small Blind: while it seems like a good position, you will be in an out-position after the pre-flop, which will be a disadvantage

5) Big Blind: whether this position will be efficient depends on the position of the limper, so the results will vary. 

Somewhere between these positions held by you and the limper, lies an efficient way of creating an iso-raising range. 

We’ve reached the end of the article and gone over all the elements of iso-raising. We’ve understood its use to eliminate weak and annoying players, we’ve gone over the procedure to execute a good iso-raising, and we’ve also listed the available positions. If you’ve been with us through the entire process, you’re equipped to play a game of poker and try to identify a limping player and win some cash. Come join us at Spartan Poker, play real money poker games and get ready to play!