This is a quick lesson, but one of significance. The first thing to distinguish is between the double-bet and two individual bets. In the following scenario:
Player #1: Opens
You: See and call
Player #3: Sees and calls
Player #4: Sees and raises
Player #1: Sees and calls
You: See and call Now, it shouldn't be very difficult to see the difference between the previous scenario and the next one:
Player #1: Checks
Player #3: Opens
Player #4: Sees and raises
Player #1: Folds
You: See and call Assuming the betting rounds consist of single unit bets, then you've invested the same amount of money in both scenarios, but you did it in two bets in the first scenario and in a single bet in the second scenario. That's the only difference between two individual bets and the double-bet. You are subjected to a double-bet when not one, but two players have bet since the last time you did. This sends you a bet double in size, and if game theory holds up, you will fold more often to this double-bet than you will to two individual bets. Whether psychological or mathematical, this important distinction is worth retaining. I'll repeat it: a player is more likely to fold to a double-bet that he is to two individual bets. This is important from both sides of the fence: 1) when you have a strong hand and are trying to keep more players in the pot, and 2) when you have a mediocre hand and want to improve your chances by folding more players. Let's take a look at some of the ways that the double-bet can be used to your advantage.
The Check-Raise: If you are holding a strong hand in any position at the table and nobody has bet into you, you may decide to sandbag. This would occur most often if you have a raiser to your left. A single player who has suggested strength in a previous round when nobody else did is a player that people will typically not bet into. The reason to check in this spot as opposed to betting your strong hand is because you know he will raise anyway. When he does and it comes back to you, now you can see it and raise. You can be sure there will be more players left in the pot when the smoke clears because they have been exposed not to one double-bet, but to two individual bets.
Obviously, you want a very strong hand in this spot. Otherwise, if you don't get your raise, then everybody gets a free card when the logical move would have been for you to raise.
But, by checking with the intention of raising later, you keep more players in the pot and you accumulate more money in the pot by not suggesting any strength until the raiser does. By the time you're suggesting strength, most players will have already seen the raiser's bet, and now, more of them are likely to stay in and see your bet.
The Call-Raise: This is another strong hand play, but different from the check-raise . With the check-raise , nobody has bet so you look as though you're trying to stay in for free for as long as you can. With the call-raise, somebody to your right has made a bet, and you're limping in by calling. To call a bet is to suggest that you're holding something; maybe it's not great, but you must still have something.
To make this play, you are typically in early position. This means that the bet has come from very close to your right. If you were to raise, you would be sending the double-bet around to most players. Doing so may risk folding more of them than you had in mind. But, to call is to risk not accumulating as much money in the pot as you would have liked. It's in this tough spot that you limp into the pot (suggesting some potential) and hope that somebody to your left raises. If they do, then fewer players will be exposed to the double-bet, hopefully keeping more of them in. Once the raise reaches you, you're in the driver's seat. If barely anybody has folded from these two bets, you're free to raise again. Sure, it may fold a lot of players, but you know you have at least two other players in the pot who will be throwing you some money before they fold or reach showdown.
And, if the raise reaches you and you're worried about too many players sitting on the fence, you may elect not to raise at all. First, there's money in the pot anyway. Second, you're still pulling off an effective slowplay by check-calling. In other words, you've got a pot, and not once yet have you had to initiate any of the betting.
The Loose Table: At a table of players more liberal with their money -as is notorious of home games- you may have no concerns about sending a double-bet around the table. In fact, it can be an effective way of accumulating money in the pot. Whereas the sandbagging moves described above allow you to be cautious about not scaring off too many players, here you would be utilizing the double-bet quite simply as a way to accumulate more money in the pot.
The only folding you'd have to worry about is from tighter players more apt to fold from a double-bet than two individual bets.
Improving Odds: Every pot has deadwood players in the early going. These players range from no-chance hands to mediocre hands. The mediocre hands are worth calling because they may improve with more cards to come, and in the meantime, it's always smart to stay in the pot when it's free. As long as these mediocre hands are in the pot with potential to improve, they pose a threat. The likelihood of you winning the pot is reduced by any potential that isn't in the cards you are holding. Here, you can use the double-bet to your advantage.
If the initial bettor is close to your right and you have a mediocre-to-just-barely-strong hand, you can see and raise, sending a double-bet to most players at the table. The double-bet, as opposed to two individual bets, is more likely to fold those players with mediocre hands that are trying to stay in the game cheaply. By folding them from the pot, you increase the potential of your mediocre hand to improve from cards to come.
The Bluff Raise: Just as you purposely send a double-bet around the table to fold players and improve your odds, so too would you use the same move as a bluff. If you were against few players and were representing a strong enough hand, you do yourself a favour by raising a bet coming from your close right. When the purpose of a bluff is to fold as many players -actually, all players by showdown- as you can, the double-bet helps you in that regard.
The role of the double-bet is important enough that it may effect your decision to call or raise, depending on the position of the initial bettor relative to your position. The moves above are all ways in which you can use the double-bet to your advantage or in which you may need to avoid using it. As it pertains to your game, you may also find yourself more willing to fold the double-bet than the two individual bets. It's tough to counter this when staying in the pot puts you at the mercy of other players' betting. The double-bet is effective because it is two bets at once with certainty. With the individual bets, you don't know with certainty that you're going to get a second one until there's an actual raise.
When you are subjected to the double-bet, it may be too much to invest based on the cards you're holding. In effect, you may be folded from another player's decision to eliminate your potential-hand from the pot. Further, if you find yourself seeing two individual bets in one round (and one of them from a check-raise), then you may have just been set up by a strong hand keeping you in the pot to throw away money. Defenses against this are few. The best you can do is never fold a hand that beats the bettor's hand, and never call one bet, two bets, or a double-bet if you can't win the pot. Sounds easy, eh?