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(506) 223-1327         Published Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 238               E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Puriscal will kick off its annual chicharrón festival today
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lovers of the chicharrón, that little piece of mostly fried pork that is offered all over the region as a bocadillo, will show their full appreciation for the greasy snack in a festival dedicated to the food.

Chicharrones have been a part of local cuisine for over a hundred years, and the eighth Festival Nacional del Chicharrón will honor this with 10 days of music, dancing, sports and exhibitions, starting today in Puriscal.

Plenty of typical food will be consumed by visitors between carrousel rides, exhibitions of artesanias and orchids, horse events — involving both real horses and hobby horses — and a 
folkloric festival.

Events will take place in the Campo Ferial Redondel, just outside Puriscal, which  is situated near to the big tourist draw of Parque Nacional La Cangreja and west of San José.

A horse parade will ensue after the inauguration of the festival at 4 p.m. today, and Saturday the Christmas tree will be lit at 6 p.m.

Dances and sports will take place every day until Dec. 9.

Other events of interest over the 10-day period include: a rodeo on Dec. 2 at 4 p.m, the folklore festival at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6, a fireworks display at 10 p.m. on Dec. 7 and a final dance show at 5 p.m. on Dec. 9.

Youngsters are blasting their way again to a Merry Christmas
kid with fireworks
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
A teen in San Pedro offers to light a firecracker for the benefit of a news photographer.
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The non-stop explosions from Yuletime fireworks continue despite official efforts to eliminate the dangerous practice.

There is no shortage of youngsters with fireworks in the city and surrounding areas.

The official line is that if it explodes, it is illegal. But explosion is all the fun — unless  perhaps you are one of the two boys who suffered disfiguring injuries this week from firecrackers.

Thursday school children were blowing up firecrackers at Plaza Roosevelt, the soccer field a block off the main street in San Pedro. One even offered to pose lighting one and also offered to sell some. Fireworks sales to minors are illegal. There does not appear to be a law covering minors selling the product.

There was not a policeman in sight, although there must have been a dozen within the sound of the explosions.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 238

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Our readers' opinions
God is an energy source
and not bearded old man

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am looking forward to taking my kids to see “The Golden Compass” as soon as it makes it to theaters in Costa Rica. What a great idea! A balance to the mainstream medias blind faith in religious dogma.

Intelligent people who study history can only conclude that the Bible is a fraud, that organized religion is a fraud, that the God of western man, a white male bearded Old Fart (who looks a lot like Santa Claus) living in the clouds and throwing both love and hate down upon his children is absurd.

God is the totality of consciousness. God is in you and me and the sun. I choose not to use the term God, as most people confuse reality with fantasy, they actually believe there is a person in the role of God, not realizing that God is the energy source or all consciousness and that we, too, are part of this and affect creation with our thoughts and actions. The God of organized religion is no more than a fantasy created to brainwash and control the masses.

Better that our children are raised as thinkers, then as robots, as the religious dogma would have it.
Bob Jones

Give kids some slack
and let them think

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Hold on a second, Christy from Texas (Nov. 28), don't religious fanatics of all stripes start brainwashing their children as soon as they start to talk? Despite some parents best efforts, kids will naturally begin to question the more dubious aspects of blind faith, right around the same time Santa Claus doesn't seem like such a sure bet anymore.

Give your children at bit of slack to think independently and draw their own conclusions, which they will need to do as successful adults. Unless you have really screwed your child up, this will happen whether or not you like the results or not.

Let them see the movie if they want to. If such a tiny exposure to an alternative viewpoint will affect your child, I would start to seriously question your own faith agenda that you so desperately want to pass on.
R. Martin

Current employees will get
more options with competition

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Concerning Larry Green's letter from yesterday's news, the following excerpt needs to be looked at:
"They are afraid another company will come to Costa Rica and actually provide a service that we will want to support and buy into and they will be out of a job. So, they are threatening to hold the country hostage?"
There are a couple of ICE employees in the area I live, and several months ago I posed the question to one of them, "If ICE has competition, where will the employees come from?"
It was this employee's concern that all the workers would come into the country with the company that would offer competition. I explained to him that it is very difficult to get a job here if you aren't a resident and proposed the alternative that any company wishing to compete with ICE would be looking to entice ICE's best workers to work for them. I still see no reason to believe otherwise.
Rather than having less work, there will be additional opportunity with the creation of many jobs that are currently not available. Any company wishing to compete with ICE will undoubtedly be required to offer equal or better benefits and equal or better pay should they attempt to procure employees now with the government monopoly.
So why are they against this?
Martin Franks

Letter-writing campaign
to ask Arias to dump school

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The recent suggestion by President Arias that he might resume the training of Costa Rican police officers at the controversial Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas, has prompted School of the Americas Watch ( to initiate a letter-writing campaign to the president urging him to reconsider.

Last May, President Arias vowed to stop sending Costa Ricans to the institute because of its long, well-documented history of human rights abuses, joining several other Latin American national leaders who also have cut ties to the school.  Now, School of the Americas Watch fears that pressure by the Pentagon to reverse those decisions may be succeeding in Costa Rica.  They cite news reports that the U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica very recently flew with Costa Rica's Public Security Minister Fernando Berrocal to the United States where they met at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.  When Mr. Berrocal returned to Costa Rica, he recommended to the President that up to 150 Costa Rican police officers should attend the institute.  Apparently President Arias was in agreement with his security minister's proposal.

For those unfamiliar with the issue, is an excellent source of information.  More importantly, those who do know about the School of the Americas can submit a form letter to President Arias asking him, in the name of human rights, not to commit Costa Rican police officers to Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation training.  Those interested can:

1.  E-mail/fax the letter to President Arias through an already created action campaign HERE!

2.  E-mail the letter to him directly at

3.  Fax it to him at 506-253-9078.

The letter for faxing or direct e-mailing can be downloaded as a Microsoft Word document HERE!

Steve Roman
San Antonio de Belén

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 238

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U.S. Coast Guard cutter snags two more Pacific drug boats
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Steadfast busted up a drug transfer on the high seas and captured two boats, one of them a Costa Rican fishing vessel, according to a report from the security ministry in San José.

Captured Wednesday night was the “Yorleny II” with a home port of Puntarenas and a Mexican fishing boat, the “Jurel IV," said officials. The crews of both vessels were in the process of transferring packages from the Costa Rican boat to the Mexican one, officials said.

The Steadfast and its crew, like other U.S. boats on patrol in the Pacific and the Caribbean, keep a low profile. In fact, they cannot even put into Costa Rican ports without a special measure approved by the Asamblea Legislativa. The Steadfast, a 210-foot cutter with a home port in Warrenton, Ore., was the major player in the apprehension of a home-built submarine just a year ago. The crew of the cutter boarded and seized what they called a semi-submersible craft carrying an estimated 3.5 tons of cocaine approximately 90 miles southwest of Costa Rica.

The seizure of the sub captured international headlines.

So far four Costa Rican boats have been caught in the Pacific this year for suspected involvement in the drug trade. The Yorleny II and the Mexican craft were believed transporting some 800 kilos (about 1,760 pounds) of cocaine.

The encounter took place about 250 nautical miles west of the coast of Costa Rica along the line of where the country meets Nicaragua. 

The office of the port captain in Puntarenas said that the Yorleny II departed Oct. 10 with four persons aboard. The ship was due to return around Nov. 17, officials said.

There were seven persons, six Costa Ricans and a Nicaraguan, on the boat when it was captured, said officials.
U.S. Coast guard photo
The cutter Steadfast in calmer waters
mini sub
U.S. Coast guard photo
Boarding party inspects the semi-submersible craft loaded with 140 bales of cocaine about 90 miles southwest of Costa Rica last year.

Under terms of a drug-fighting agreement between the United States and Costa Rica, the Costa Ricans will be returned to face justice in their own country.

In addition to the four fishing boats confiscated this year, law officers have detained at least 10 fastboats, open vessels with three or four high-powered outboard motors, sometimes called cigarette boats for their historic use in smuggling tobacco products.

Costa Rica officials have not had a lot of luck with the crews of the fastboats. In one case the crew was allowed to leave the country by plane before investigators found kilos of cocaine hidden in the hull of one boat.  A judge in southwestern Costa Rica is under fire because he allowed four Colombians to go free without bond after they were picked up in a boat with a load of cocaine. They failed to show for a scheduled court hearing.

Immigration department goes digital with Internet availability of status report
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The immigration department has set up a special procedure via the Internet so that foreigners can obtain official certification of their status here.

Such certifications sometimes are important in court cases and for other legal situations.

The Web site is

By using the Internet the foreigner has avoided a special trip
to the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería in La Uruca and an almost certain long wait in a line. But it appears that the applicant will have to show up to collect the document. The Web site specifies the day the document will be available for collection.

An immigration spokesperson said that the agency gets about 50 requests for such documents every work day. The principal reason is that the foreigner is seeking to obtain Costa Rican citizenship, which requires that the applicant has been a resident in Costa Rica for a certain number of years, depending on the individual's nations of origin.

Advent of the high season is just one reason to give thanks
What does one write about while lying in bed full of antibiotics?  I guess, about being thankful that antibiotics exist.  I am, but there are even more things to be thankful for.  I had the good fortune to be invited to two Thanksgiving dinners.  One was a feast with some new friends and the other a feast with my old buddies from Perros Calientes, our local gourmet hot dog group.  I can never have too many Thanksgiving dinners. I love everything that they include, and fortunately, today we can get just about everything needed for a Thanksgiving dinner in Costa Rica. 

Mary Alice, the hostess of the first dinner, taught me, by her example, how to be a gracious unflappable hostess.  Dinner was scheduled for 1 p.m.  The last two guests didn’t arrive until almost 3 p.m.  I was almost beside myself worrying about what she was going to do about the food while Mary Alice was as calm as could be.  Dinner, when we finally sat down, was hot and delicious and the turkey was moist (she had kept it hot in a Bain-marie – and no, the really late guests were not Ticos.)

Speaking of what one can get in Costa Rica, I received a letter from Jacquie, who currently lives in the Dominican Republic.  She said that good fruit and vegetables, as well as decent meat, are difficult to impossible to find there.  She was asking about the fruit and vegetables here.  My goodness, good produce is practically Costa Rica’s middle name.  And they are available at a reasonable price.

She also asked if one could drink the water.  My first response was, yes, certainly in San Jose and the towns of the Central Valley.  But just to make sure, I checked Chris Howard’s “The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica,” It is the complete book on Costa Rica.  He agrees and says that most towns have acceptable drinking water, but one should be careful about drinking the water in the countryside.  And if you still uncertain, there are plenty of brands of bottled water.

Speaking of water, it looks like winter is over – that is, the
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

rainy season has come to an end.  We have had more than  three days without rain, although it has been a bit overcast.  This is a welcome change for most of us, although I know that after a couple of months of dry sunshiny weather we will longingly be looking forward to a bit of water from the sky.  It seems as if the weather gods keep forgetting the principle the early Greeks and their neighbors so wisely figured out: all things in moderation.

There are some things (besides the consumption of chocolate) that I don’t believe should be done in moderation.  One is the letters I get from readers – I do appreciate them and have quite a few long-lasting correspondences with some of you, which I very much enjoy.  I especially am happy to get follow-up letters, like the one from John, who, for years, it seems, has been talking about visiting Costa Rica.  Finally, this past November, he did so, taking an ecotour by bus, enjoying wading in the Pacific and watching the baby turtles tumble their way into the Atlantic.  He even saw Poás on a sunny day.

He never mentioned the potholes, the fear of crime or the littered highways, but he did say he is already planning to return and, to quote John, “I now easily can see why you have lived there so long.”
I haven’t seen nearly as much of Costa Rica as John did.  But I am thankful that I have been able to live for 15 years in a country that has been at peace with the world for so long.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.  May we all find peace in the year that follows.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 238

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Two policemen wounded in shootout with bus robber
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A gunman shot and wounded two male police officers after he robbed two female officers of their weapons Thursday afternoon.

Fuerza Pública officers captured a suspect after a running Wild West-style shootout in Guadalupe, police said.

The armed man, who intended to hold up a public bus in Guadalupe, appeared to be surprised when he saw the two women officers on the bus as passengers. He was able to get the drop on the two officers, identified by the last names of  Fallas and León. They were on their way to work.

The gunman carried a 9-mm. pistol that he put to the head of one of the female officers as he demanded the weapons, said a report from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.
The gunman then escaped on foot with the two women following at a distance, said officials. The women notified two more officers, who pursued the suspect on foot.

The gunman fired the 9-mm. weapon but dropped it, according to Sgt. Billy Oporto of Fuerza Pública in Goicoechea. The gunman then used one of the weapons he had robbed from the police and fired a total of 15 rounds, said police.

Marvin Mora Salas, who was in pursuit, received two bullets in the shoulder and one in the forearm, said officials. The second officer, Luis Carpio Pérez, fired and injured the gunman, who in turn fired and wounded the police officer in the hand.

The two officers, and the suspect, who is under police surveillance, were all being treated at Hospital Calderón Guardia. The suspect was identified by the last names of  Gonzáles Vega.

Protests fill streets of Caracas as Venezuela gets ready to vote in referendum
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thousands of Venezuelans are protesting in the capital, Caracas. against President Hugo Chavez's proposed constitutional changes ahead of a national referendum  Sunday.

Opposition parties and student groups gathered in several locations across the capital Thursday before converging in the city center for a massive demonstration.

Venezuelans vote Sunday on the proposed changes that include eliminating presidential term limits and establishing socialist reforms.

The proposals also include giving authorities sweeping powers if a national emergency is declared, including
allowing detention without charges and controls on the news media.

Human rights groups and the Roman Catholic Church have condemned the plan.  Chávez, however, still enjoys strong support among Venezuela's poor for lavishing the country's oil income on social programs.

Chavez's reform package has raised concern among many Venezuelans that he could turn the country into a communist dictatorship.

A recent poll shows that Venezuelan voters oppose the reforms by a wide margin.  The polling company Datanalisis announced last week that 49 percent of likely voters oppose the reforms, while 39 percent favor the changes.

President in Ecuador begins process to rewrite constitution there, too
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa is expected to call for the shutdown of the opposition-controlled Congress as a new assembly begins to rewrite the country's constitution.

The assembly launched its first session Thursday to start making the changes.

Correa's leftist political movement, Pais, controls more than 60 percent of the assembly. He has called on the body to
dissolve Congress, which has blocked many of his proposed reforms.

The president says the current Congress is corrupt and inefficient. He says he wants to use the assembly to curb the influence of traditional political parties. Correa's opponents say he is trying to grab more power.

The assembly will have six months to prepare a final draft of a new constitution and present it to voters in a referendum.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 238

Marathon runners will take the streets Sunday in la Sabana and downtown
By Anne Clark
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Watch out for more pedestrians than normal Sunday when the latest installment of San Jose's International Marathon takes place. 

The 11th marathon begins shortly after noon inside the Estadio Nacional in Sabana.  There is a designated route going around Parque Sabana, past the Teatro Nacional and back through Sabana to Parque La Amistad.  The marathoners will run the course three times to equal just   over 42 kilometers (26.2 miles); half-marathoners will run it one and a half times.
There is also a wheelchair marathon, and a mini-marathon (4 to 8 kms.) for children, families, handicapped participants and anyone else who would like to enter.

The prize ceremonies begin at 3:30 and run until 7 p.m..  The top male and female marathoners win 300,000 colons or about $600.

Registration continues through Saturday, with a 7,000 colon ($14) entry fee.  Runners can sign up inside the Estadio Nacional, at On the Road in La Sabana, or at the Adidas stores, such as the one in Escazu's Multiplaza. 

The registration committee said about 200 have signed up.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 238

Oriental engravings brighten up Semana Japonesa
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Oriental engravings that have travelled half way across the world from Japan have ended their journey in Museo Calderón Guardia, where an exhibition of 75 works was inaugurated Thursday.

Subjects from autumn trees to high-rise apartments chart the growing influence of the West and development on post-war Japan.

All the art works date from the 1950s until the 1990s, detailing an important time of change as the country opened up its borders and ideas after the tragedy of the Second World War.

“We chose 1950 as starting point because there is a marked dividing line in Japanese art at this point. The country's art is very different to its precursors after this date," said a museum release.

Spring trees
Japanese art
Festival de muñecas - Ushio Shinohara

However, the influence of the 30s and 40s can be felt in this  exhibition, as the bequest that it bestowed upon contemporary Japanese art is important to the understanding of this exhibition.

 To this end, the curators have involved artists who were also active in the 30s and 40s, the decades leading up to the divide in Japanese art, but who continued to produce and evolve after World War II.

The influence of artisitc movements such as pop art and symbolism can be seen infiltrating the works as time progresses, and the evolution of materials from traditional wood engravings to the incorporation of photography and video installation.

Engraving has been a strong trend in Japanese art for a long time. Traditional Japanese art, which has been closely linked to ink and brush work, using block colours translates well to engraving, and the typical Japanese style of bright colours etc  etc, can be seen in the earlier works.

The exhibition is part of Semana Japonesa, which has been going on all this week in various locations around San José.

A second exhibition was also inagurated in the museum Thursday night, showing photos taken by Costa Rican children, as part of the Conozcamos Nuestra Mundo project, getting children to look critically at the world around them.

The celebrations have involved several martial art performances and Japanese film showings, and will finish this evening with the final film showing of "Final Fantasy VII" in Centro de Cine.
         Gran arbol a la inicia de la primavera - Joichi Hoshi

Christmas Entertainment ...

Time to get into the Christmas Spirit

The run-up to Christmas is a time of panicking about where you're going to find fresh cranberries, deliberating about whether you can really buy socks for your aunt for the fourth year running, and struggling through Multiplaza in Escazú like a packhorse,
dodging the toy train and cursing the dancing Christmas tree.

Amid all the hassle it can be difficult to get yourself into the Christmas spirit until you finally sit down on Christmas Eve, down a swift sherry and breathe a sigh of relief that the only obstacle you have left is the cooking.

Opportunities do, however, abound in San José for a bit of old-fashioned festivity during Advent, from getting hooked on an epic cinematic adventure to joining in some Christmas carol singing with tinsel in your hair.

 Nutcrack scene

The Nutcracker at the Teatro National Dec. 7

Click here for more ideas on Christmas entertainment - read the full article

Art Galleries ....

Banco Central exhibit brings out the animal in art

free tanding art 200
The Museos del Banco
Central de Costa Rica is
running "La Animalística
en el Arte Costarricense"
in its temporary exhibition
space below the Plaza de
la Cultura. The collection
presents the varying uses
and depictions of animals
by Costa Rican artists throughout history.
The exhibition signage placed at the entrance said that the
presented works depict animals from two perspectives:
The representation of animals for their own qualities and
the use of the animal figure as a metaphor for human behavior.

The exhibit contained works in virtually all media, from
traditional painting and sculpture to a few installation pieces
and a single piece with an electronic component.

Read more - click here

Galeria Nacional                                               
 Mes de Escultura
Sculpture is the theme of the month, and the first floor of the gallery is full of works made of material as diverse as clay, wood, coconuts and roses. American artist Charles Coiro is among the exhibitors, showing "La Novia", pictured right. Other works include traditional feminine figures and curving Henry Moore style wood carvings

 Costa Rica Luminosa
Art work two
Californian artist Carl Aldana shows a collection of watercolours and oils that evoke Costa Rica's lush vegetation, and 
imbue landscapes from Manuel Antonio to Heredia with vibrant colours. A pleasing exhibition with an unfortunately boring layout.

Dramatic Arts ...

Contemporary dance festival here will promote experimentation

Dancer in choreography show Ballet-dancers may despise it, disco-lovers may be baffled by it, but contemporary dance has been a firm part of the theatrical agenda in San
José for almost 25 years,
and the finalists for this year's weekend dedicated the the art have now been announced.
Ten Costa Rican acts have been chosen by a national board of judges for the XXIV Festival de Coreografos “Graciela Morena”, to take place in the Teatro Nacional Thursday through Sunday.

Read more - click here

Symphonic Conductor is a big supporter of music education

A mugging at gunpoint could have robbed Costa Rica's Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional of its new conductor just as he was beginning the job, but the conductor, Chosei Komatsu,
did not turn his back on San José, and now the next generation of musicians is feeling the benefit.

Eating ice cream in the same hotel outside which he was mugged in 2004, the sweet-toothed conductor recounts how the media assumed that he would flee the country immediately.

Read all of our interview with Chosei Komatsu here
Festivals ...

Quepos to get it's own international music festival

costa bazooka 175
The usually sedate sportfishing town of Quepos is awaiting a greater inundation of visitors than usual this high season, as a gang of rock bands will descend on it for aclaim will put Quepos on the international music festival map.

Experienced American promoters and their rock star friends have taken a gamble on the festival, even though they said they were warned that it was doomed to failure by prominent Costa Rican promoter Marvin Cordoba.claim will put Quepos on the international music festival map.

Experienced American promoters and their rock star friends have taken a gamble on the festival, even though they said they were warned that it was doomed to failure by prominent Costa Rican promoter Marvin Cordoba.

Five American bands, a Panamanian group and a Canadian band will be flown in to play alongside a line-up of around 10 Costa Rican bands that is rumored to include both Gandhi and Malpaís, currently the country's most popular home-grown talent.

Read more here

First International Blues Festival

Texas blues bands are heading down to Santa Ana for an afternoon of live music. BBQ's and cold beers will accompany artists including Smokin Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Robbie Clarke & the Live Wire Blues Band.

Two stages at Motorpsychos Bar and Grill will host a total of seven bands during the afternoon of Feb. 9. Tickets cost $25 and can be found by contacting

Identidad Art Festival

Fifty artists will have the enviable job of displaying their work on a warm beach in Guanacaste this February, as part of the Identidad art festival.

Hosted by Playa Conchal Reserve, the festival aims to revive the cultural values of the area, promoting local art as a tourist attraction.

Painters, sculptors and musicians are all welcome to participate and show of Costa Rican talent to the high season tourists during Feb. 2-4.

Organisers Jaguart are on the lookout for artists to participate in the show. Interested parties should visit the site

How much to raise? There are no pat answers in poker
In a structured limit game, like $10-$20 limit hold’em, you’ll face simple decisions when it comes to betting: check, bet the designated amount, or raise.  Players don’t have to think about how much to bet and raise because both actions are predetermined by the structure.

That’s not the case in no limit Texas hold’em.  It’s a more complex game with multiple betting variables to consider and more decisions to make.

In this column we’ll examine one of the more common sources of disagreement among expert players:  How much to raise pre-flop. 

Let’s look at an example.

In a game with blinds at $400-$800 plus a $100 ante, the minimum raise is to $1,600.  You won’t see many professionals make that raise, however.  They’re much more likely to raise to three times the big blind –— the industry standard — making it $2,400 to go.
I can live with that kind of raise in some cases but caution that you shouldn’t go with it in all situations.  If you did, you’d become far too predictable and that’s bad for your game.

I tend to play a small ball style in no limit hold’em with a standard pre-flop raise of two and a half times the big blind.  So, in this same example, I’d usually raise to $2,000 but would always leave myself betting options.  Why?  Because in poker, always doing this or never doing that isn’t optimal. You’ve got to be willing to mix it up.
Let’s add a twist to our sample hand.

Say two players already called the $800 bet before the action gets to you.  Well, if you’re planning to raise, make it some amount greater than three times the blind.  Since the other players have clearly shown interest in the hand, it’s almost certain that they’d call an additional $1,600.  And that might be just what you want.  If it is, keep in mind that they’d probably call another $2,200, or even $3,000 more.
You see, the greater the number of players that call the $800 in front of you, the larger pre-flop raise you should make.  When multiple opponents call before the flop, the pot grows so large that they’ll be enticed to try to chase you down. The perceived payoff is worth the extra chips. 

When several players limp into the pot and you want to raise, ask yourself these questions before you act:

   • Do I want all these players to call?
   • Do I want everyone to fold so I can steal the pot?
   • Do I want all but one of the players out so I can play the
           hand heads-up?

Then, after you’ve clarified your objective, decide the amount you need to raise to increase the chances of achieving your goal.

If there’s already $4,000 in there and your goal is to steal the pot without seeing a flop, make a large raise to force out players with marginal hands.  That might mean raising as much as $5,000 or more.
Or, if you have pocket aces and hope to get a little action, you might raise only another $2,400.  That size raise might even induce someone else to re-raise before the flop. 

There’s no perfect amount to raise in no limit hold’em but you can properly size your bet within a range that will best accomplish your objective.  As your poker skills improve, you’ll be able to read situations quickly and come up with a raise that feels about right.

As with most things in life, practice makes perfect in poker too.  It will become easier to determine the proper pre-flop raise in different situations as you gain more playing experience.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2007 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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