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StrategyNo Limit Midstack

Short Stack Strategy: The Isolation Raise


In this article
  • Do you have enough equity against the limper?
  • Do you have enough equity against the players after you?

The isolation raise has become a widespread move. A player raises after another player limps, so that all others fold and he can play heads up after the flop against the limper (in position if possible).

This article discuss equity, Elephant statistics and the necessary conditions for isolation raises.

The isolation raise

The purpose of an isolation raise is to single out a weak player who open limps. You want all other players to fold to your raise.
Note: you can make isolation raises with weaker hands than you would normally raise when following the chart.

A raise with AK after a limp is theoretically an isolation raise. This article focuses on hands that are good enough for an isolation raise even though they are not found in the chart.

The conditions for an isolation raise

Before we can take a closer look at the conditions necessary for an isolation raise, we need to remind ourselves of one of the basic principles of pre-flop play: If you want to raise an opponent playing before you, you need a hand that is, on average, stronger than his. In other words, your equity should be at least 50% (preferably more).

But having enough equity against the opponent playing before you isn't enough. Let's assume your opponent always limps with T9s. You would have over 50% equity against him with a hand like K2. However, you can hardly raise with K2 UTG because you also need enough equity against the player(s) after you.

Always ask yourself these two key pre-flop questions:

  • Do you have enough equity against the player in playing before you?
  • Do you have enough equity against the player(s) playing after you?

You can make an isolation raise if you answered both questions with a "Yes." This is standard in Fixed Limit, however, there are a few additional factors in No Limit games:

  • Fold equity before the flop: Your opponents will fold to a raise (this hardly ever happens in FL).
  • Fold equity after the flop: You can make an isolation raise with a weaker hand against an opponent who gives you high fold equity after the flop.

We will go more into detail on that later.

In general, you can make an isolation raise if you can answer both questions with a "Yes." Whether or not you can make loose isolation raises depends on fold equity.

When do you have enough equity against players after you?

You definitely have enough equity against the players after you if your hand is in the chart. You also have an edge with AJ or 88 in MP3, or AQ and TT in UTG2 (all found in an advanced player's standard range).

But what if your hand isn't in the chart? You could still have an edge over hands after you. If, for example, you know your opponents are all very tight, you can raise more often as they won't be likely to re-raise after you.

Take advantage of this and get as much of an edge as you can. If you sense weakness, exploit it! Look at the opponents playing after you when you have a hand that is not in the chart. Play when they are tight and fold when they tend to make loose re-raises.

Which statistics are important?

There are a number of helpful stats in the Elephant software:

  • Limp/Call: This shows you how often your opponent plays limp/call. A low stat indicates that you have a high fold equity, which allows you to make looser isolation raises.

  • Fold to Contibet: This stat shows how often a player calls and folds to a contibet (your dream come true). If your opponent likes to call and doesn't like to fold on the flop, you can play hands like middle pair or ace high for value.

  • Call/Raise Contibet: This stat shows how often your opponent calls or raises a contibet.

When can you make an isolation raise?

As we said, you can almost always make an isolation raise when you can answer "yes" to the two key pre-flop questions above. Any time you answer "no" to one of them, and especially both of them, or when the situation isn't to your advantage, you should make an automatic fold.


The limper has a very high limp/call stat and folds on the flop nearly 70% of the time to a contibet. Now you are holding a hand which doesn't have a positive EV against the players, but it's not far from it. An isolation raise can still be +EV, due to the dead money the limper puts into the pot.

NL 1000
Hero: 200 $

Hero is MP1 with AJ
UTG 2 calls 10, Hero raises to 50, ....

AJ probably doesn't have enough equity against the players after you. An isolation raise should however still be profitable because you aren't far behind with AJ. The limper also gives you some EV. He makes too many calls before the flop and you're happy to take his money with a contibet on the flop.

Think about the players playing after you. How aggressive are they? If they are very tight, they will be too tight with their re-raises. The chances of a stronger hand getting involved after you therefore decreases.

An opponent with a range of AA-JJ and AK (the normal re-raise range) is too tight for re-raising a MP raise. Remember, the tighter your opponents, the better your chances are of making a successful isolation raise, which means that your isolation raises can be looser than normal raises. If you have very aggressive opponents, you'll have to play tighter and base your decision on the two pre-flop questions above.


That's not the entire article...

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Comments (2)

#1 WildBeans, 28 May 09 16:07

"AJ probably doesn't have enough equity against the players behind you. " - in MP1, really?
According to the SSS strategy basic charts you raise AJ in MP1. Since basic strategy is very tight, I would assume that you would have +EV if you played according to the most basic charts. Or should I be folding AJ in MP1?

#2 hongchang, 17 Jun 09 12:56

Hi WildBeans, you fold AJ in Mp1, under basic SSS.