Isolating in Poker

written by: John

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Isolating in poker is the act of raising or re-raising a player in attempt to play in a heads up pot with them. Isolating is an extremely useful tactic in poker and one that will prove to be quite profitable for you in the long run.

Isolating in Poker Example

Say, for example, that you are playing in a $1/$2 no limit hold'em cash game and have KQ suited on the button. A player that you have labeled to be weak-tight open limps from under the gun + 3. Everyone folds to you and you decide to iso this player so you can play him heads up post flop in position. You raise to $8, the blinds fold and the open limper flat calls your raise. The flop is J-9-3 rainbow. The limper checks, you c-bet and he folds. You win a $19 pot.

As you can see from my example above, isolating is a rather easy concept to understand and implement. You simply make a raise after a player has already entered the pot to try to fold out the players left to act after you so you can play a weaker player (or group of players) in a heads up pot.

Types of Players to Isolate in Poker

The best players to isolate are the ones who are extremely weak and passive. These players are the ones who like to open limp a lot preflop. They are easy to spot if you are using a heads up display (hud) because they will have a high vpip (30+) and low pfr (0-5).

Ideally, the weak and passive player that you isolate also has a high fold to flop c-bet percentage as well. This will be easy money for you since you can isolate this player, c-bet any flop and likely take it down since you're opponent will miss the flop 2/3s of the time. When your opponent decides to call or re-raise you, you can then slow down and re-evaluate the situation. If the player you isolated is more of the weaker calling station type, you might want to be sure that you either have a strong hand and/or knows that he folds to double barrels often enough to make a c-bet worthwhile. Otherwise, just stick to iso'ing and trying to hit the flop.

Also, keep in mind that you will want to sit to the left of these players whenever possible so that when you isolate them, you are likely to play them in position postflop.

Hands to Isolate Players With

The best hands to isolate players with are the types of hands that are more difficult to play in multi-way pots. These hands are (but are not limited to) your higher pocket pairs and broadways down to QJ or so. Depending on your table, you might even decide to isolate much wider including hands like suited connectors and small pocket pairs. However, most times these hands are much more valuable in multi-way pots then heads up.

Isolation Bet Sizing

My standard bet sizing when isolating players is to bet 3 to 4 big blinds plus 1 for every limper in the pot. For example, if 3 players limped in front of me in a $1/$2 no limit cash game, I would raise 3x ($6) plus 1 big blind for each limper ($6) for a total bet size of $12. You can definitely bet a little more if you like, especially if you are trying to get value for a stronger hand and the players you are iso'ing are likely to call you. I wouldn't go any lower however, since that will start to create decent odds for the players left to act after you.

Be Aware of Players to Your Left When Isolating

It's very important to be aware of the players to your left and their tendencies before you isolate a limper. The reason for this is simple. If you are isolating a player, you are essentially creating more dead money. The more dead money in the pot, the more motivated everyone will be to try to get it. So with that in mind, you will want to be aware of the players to your left that like to 3-bet or shove light. Against these players, you will definitely want to tighten up your range for isolating and might even consider flatting monsters in attempt to induce a light squeeze.

Summary of Isolating in Poker

Once you understand and start to implement them into your own game, you are sure to find that isolation raises in poker are, for the most part, easy money. And really, how can they not be? The fish are the players who make the most mistakes. So, if you can make it so they're making the majority of their mistakes verses you, it'll be no different then taking candy from a baby.