Raising out of the Blinds
I hate opponents who regularly raise out of the blinds in limit cash games. I specify the type of game because the following does not apply to tournaments or pot/no limit cash games. Raising out of the blinds in a limit cash game is a very dangerous move and should only be done in very short-handed situations. I wish to discuss reasons behind my stance on this particular strategy.
It encourages your opponents to draw out on you
The first major problem with raising out of the blinds is that it gives your opponents more reason to chase you. Let's say you held KK in the big blind and four people have called before it's your turn to act. If you don't raise, there will be five bets in the pot. Therefore, when you bet on the flop, your opponents will be getting pot odds of 6-1 to call. If one of your opponent held a hand like A-9 against your pocket kings and the flop comes J-10-5, your opponent is around 7-1 underdog. As such, he will be taking the worst of it if he calls when you bet on the flop.
If you raise out of the blinds in the above situation, it is unlikely that any of your opponents will fold for another bet before the flop. As a result, your raise will increase the pot to ten bets instead of five. Now when you bet on the flop, your opponent with A-9 is getting pot odds of 11-1 to call you on the flop. All of a sudden, you have made the proposition attractive to him by raising out of the blinds. Therefore, the first major problem with raising out of the blinds is that you encourage your opponents to call you on the flop because the pot offers good odds.
The second major problem with raising into a multi-way pot out of the blinds is more psychological. Most people who have limped before the flop are usually wanting to see the flop as cheaply as possible. They usually feel relief when the action reaches the blinds and no one has raised. Accordingly, when you raise the blinds, you shatter their hopes of seeing the flop cheaply. As a result, some of your opponents may become vindictive and try to 'run you down' with any sort of flop. Do you really want to encourage four or five opponents to call you all the way to the river when you hold QQ or KK or even AA?
Further, if you don't raise out of the blinds, your players are likely to show your more respect for your bet on the flop. If you hold QQ and the flop comes J-8-7, you will come out betting from an early position in an unraised flop. This looks dangerous to many opponents. Hopefully, some of the opponents who could draw out of you will fold on the flop or on the turn. However, if you raise out of the blinds before the flop, they may not show you as much respect and chase you down.
Let me put this in a percentage context. If you held QQ and your four opponents hold A9, K10, 66 and J9, you have a 35% chance of winning the pot on a flop of J-7-8. If you force the A9 and the 66 to fold on the flop, you will have a 51% chance of winning the pot. In raise before the flop, you may put these players in a bad mood and they will try to run you down, meaning that you will be facing 'true odds' on your hand.
The third and most obvious reason you don't want to raise out of the blind is because you are out of position on all subsequent betting rounds. Because of that, people can get tricky with by putting in fancy raises and drawing free cards on the turn.
Also consider this: you have KK and raise out of the big blind. The flop comes: Ac-7c-10d. You bet and one opponent calls you. Does your opponent have an ace or a flush draw? You have no idea! Irregardless of what he/she holds, it is very difficult for you to bet out of position on the turn. If the turn is a rag, you are likely to check. If your opponent has the flush draw or middle pair, you just gave him/her a free card. Further, you gave him/her an opportunity to semi-bluff you (bluff with an out). And if they semi-bluff on the turn, it is likely that they will continue bluffing and try to buy the pot. How comfortable will you feel if you have to call bets on the turn and river with KK when there is an ace on the board?
In the above situation, I will not raise out of the blinds. If that flop came, I would bet out. If someone calls me, I will check on the turn. If I play my hand this way, my opponent usually thinks I've got an ace with a weak kicker. Accordingly, he usually believes that I will call the turn and river if he bets, so this reduces the chance that he's bluffing if he bets on the turn. Therefore, it will cost me two small bets (on before the flop and one on the flop) to work out if my hand is a reasonable chance of winning. If you raise out of the blind before the flop, you have committed two small bets + one small bet on the flop = 3 small bets. And after spending three small bets, you still don't have any useful information about your opponents hand on forth street.
You give away your hand
In the light of the above, I believe that raising out of the blinds prematurely gives your hand away. As a result, you are out of position and everyone has a fair idea of the strength of your hand. Not a great position to be in at a poker table.
When you should raise out of the blinds
My advice is to raise out of the blinds when it is extremely short-handed. If you are heads up before the flop, raise out of the big blind with any sort of strong hand, including As-Js and A-Q. Once there are more than three players in the pot, I prefer to check/call out of the blinds and bet out on the flop.
The other time you should raise out of the blinds is when two players have called and a third player raises in late position. In this situation, I will reraise and try to push one or both of the two callers out of the pot. If they both call your reraise before the flop, checkraise the late-position raiser when they bet on the flop. Also, if there are more than two callers between you and the late position raiser, I prefer to call before the flop and then check-raise the late position raiser on the flop. This is a very effective way of thinning the field on the flop.
One of the greatest advantages of calling out of the blinds with a big hand is the deception value. No one knows what you have. They usually assume that you have blind rubbish. I recall one very large pot that I won with A-A. Five opponents called before flop and I did not raise the big blind. The flop came A-2-9. I bet the flop and two players called. The turn: 2. I bet, an opponent raised, I reraised, he reraises, I reraised and he called. When he called my bet on the river, he asked: "What do you have with your 2?" He was astounded when I rolled over my cards and asked: "why didn't you give it a kick (raise) before the flop?" He had a pair of twos on the flop and when he made trips on the turn, he was absolutely certain that I did not have aces full. Because of that, he gave me a lot of action. If I raised out of the blind before the flop and then reraise him on the turn, he would probably realize or suspect that I have A-A and put on the breaks.
There are two side advantages of not raising out of the blinds with a big hand. Your more observant opponents will get the impression that you don't always raise before the flop with two big cards. Therefore, if you limp into a pot further down the track with one of these more observant opponents, they may well suspect that you limped with a big hand and give you free cards on the flop and/or turn. This is particularly useful when you jump in with a hand like small suited connectors. The second side advantage is that you can force a player with the best hand to fold. For example, if I limp into the pot with 10-9 from a middle position and the flop comes J-10-6, I may raise anyone who bets on the flop. Some players may again suspect that you limped with a big hand before the flop and fold hands like A-10. While these are great side benefits, they will not work if your opponents are not very observant or do not act on their reads.