A raise is a betting action a player can take in a betting round. To raise a bet or raise is to place an amount of chips in the pot which is greater than the amount of chips needed to match the previous bettor or raiser's amount. A player doing this is called a raiser.
If no previous player has placed any chips in the pot prior to a player's opportunity to take an action, then a player cannot raise; by definition, since they are the first player in the round to place chips in the pot, they are making the initial bet. A raise can only be made if a previous player in this betting round has bet or raised. (Novice players sometimes confuse the terms and say "raise" when they make the initial bet in a round -- often, other players or the dealer will correct them).
The amount by which a player may raise is determined by the betting structure of the game of poker being played. Raises are often restricted to a certain range of numbers, and there is always a minimum raise amount. In all betting structures, the amount of a raise may be no smaller than the amount of the immediately previous bet or raise. For example, once a player has made an initial bet of $10 on a hand, a subsequent player in the round who wants to raise may not raise by only $5 (to make it $15); they must raise it to at least $20 (a raise of $10, which is the amount of the initial bet). In some betting structures, the amount of the raise is fixed at a single number; in others, the player may have a range, possibly including an upper limit.
If a player does not have enough chips to raise by at least the minimum raise amount, they may place all their remaining chips in the pot and raise all-in. This counts as a valid raise and must be at least matched by any other players who wish to remain in the pot. Later players in this round who wish to raise again, may either raise again or may have to complete the all-in raise instead, depending on the size of the all-in raise and the casino's house rules.
A raise which happens after an earlier player in the betting round has already raised an initial bet is often called a re-raise. This is not a required term; this type of raise is also just called a raise.
How to raise
A player may raise a bet by stating that they are raising, verbally, or by placing the total amount of chips they wish to bet including their raise into the pot, in one motion. Stating that you raise is a binding declaration and cannot be revoked.
If a player does not declare their raise verbally but instead merely places chips into the pot in the required amount, it is vitally important that the player place the total amount of chips they wish to raise into the pot in one single motion. They may not move some chips into the pot and then take their hands away from the moved-in chips to return to their chip stack to get more chips to raise; doing so constitues a string bet and is against the rules in nearly all casinos. Once the player's hand has left the stack of chips being placed into the pot, the amount in the pot is the amount of the raise and it cannot be changed.
If a player declares verbally that they raise, they may then take a reasonable amount of time to determine the size of their raise (if the betting struicture being used gives them a choice). They may also put out an initial amount of chips which matches the amount it would take for them to call the previous bet into the pot prior to deciding on the raise amount. If the player then verbally declares the amount of their raise, or if the amount of the raise is fixed because they are playing a fixed-limit game, they may take as many "trips" to their chipstack as necessary to get the correct, stated amount into the pot. However, if the player does not verbally declare the amount of the raise, then any chips placed into the pot above the amount needed to call are subject to the same string bet rules as an unannounced raise described in the previous paragraph; once an amount has been placed into the pot which would constitute a raise, then if the player removes their hand from the in-the-pot chips, the amount left in the pot will be the amount of the raise. If that amount is less than the minimum allowed raise, the player must then increase their raise to the minimum, but no more.
There are no hand signals that mean "raise". The action can only be taken verbally, or by pushing chips into the pot.
Commonly-heard phrases using "raise"
Raise the pot
- In a pot-limit game, raising the maximum amount allowed under the betting structure is called raising the pot. In a non-pot-limit game, this is sometimes used as a more fancy way of just saying "raise" ("I'm raising the pot now!")
Check to the raiser
- A raise is an aggressive betting action and as such generally indicates a strong hand. Other players, especially passive players, will often respond to this by merely calling the raise, and if they are in earlier position than the raiser, checking at the start of the next betting round. This is called checking to the raiser, and players often suit words to their action.
Check or raise
- In the preflop betting round of a poker game that uses blinds, like Omaha or Hold 'em, the action starts with the player to the left of the big blind and circles around the table until the big blind has their turn to act. If the pot remained unraised, the player in the big blind is already in for a full bet and may choose to check to close the action and see the flop, or may choose to raise (since this is their first opportunity to do so). Accordingly, dealers will often ask the question verbally to the big blind in this situation: "Check or raise?"