It’s axiomatic that anyone who takes up poker will overuse the so-called safest play in poker at first: The call. This is common sense for a new player. When a player opts to call, they aren’t risking any more of their chips. They're simply calling the current bet, thus closing down any more betting for the round if there’s no one left to act.
Calling can feel like the safest play but in poker — as with many sports — “safe is dead.” At times, the call in poker is absolutely the best decision. Many new players tend to rely on the call a bit too much and are missing out on serious value at the tables. Often, one simple bet wins a pot when everyone else was content to just call.
Why Calling in Poker Is Often Bad
In poker, there are two ways to win a pot: 1. Having the best hand at showdown. 2. Everyone else folds to your bet.
As you can see, you don’t have any chance at scooping a pot with No. 2 if you are just calling. No one is folding to a call. By raising, you force your opponent to make a decision.
This has to do with the signals you send to opponents:
There is obviously a lot more nuance to poker but players who have good cards usually don’t like to let their opponents see free cards and potentially improve their hand. One of the worst mistakes that beginner poker players make a huge mistake when they call in poker on most hands.
The Advantages of Raising in Poker
Meanwhile, raising gives you a variety of ways to win a pot. The obvious way is to make a bet with an inferior hand and get your opponents to fold better hands.
What if Someone Re-Raises?
One aspect that players need to keep in mind when they make an initial bet is that it doesn’t preclude them from folding later in the hand.
When Calling is Actually the Right Decision
That being said, you might reach the conclusion that calling is always a terrible play and should never be considered. The truth is, a call in poker can still be an excellent strategy.
Poker pros like Daniel Negreanu are renowned for making world-class calls. It's an important tool in every poker pro’s arsenal. The issue is that new players simply rely on the call too much.
Here are some situations where calling is often the right decision:
The problem is trapping keeps the pot small when you have a big hand. It’s like letting opponents off the hook easily. It can still be a viable strategy but it’s important to switch things up.
The Five Player Options in Poker
The bottom line is that you generally have five choices when the action is on you in a standard game of No-Limit Hold’em.
There’s a time and a place for all five options. Last week we talked about the importance of folding the majority of your garbage hands.
Don't Be Scared to Bet
New players generally have no problem with checking, calling, or folding but they tend to struggle with finding the gumption to bet or raise.
Premium Hands vs Trash Hands: There’s a good chance a new player will defend their lack of betting on a lack of premium cards. The reality is that there’s a good chance your opponents are getting trash hands just as frequently.
Buying Pots: You might be surprised how often you take down pots with no resistance when betting instead of calling.
An Example of Raising in Poker
Think about the following hand:
Poker Call vs Check
Many new players confuse a calling with checking in poker. Because both are relatively passive moves, it's natural to confuse a poker call versus the check. The two are much different, though.
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Calling in Poker FAQ
How do you call someone in poker?
A call is when you match the bet that someone else made. If a player raises $100, then you make a matching $100 bet.
When should you call in poker?
When you have a hand that's ahead of your opponent's range at the moment but won't be ahead if any significant cash goes into the pot. In a tournament, if a player bets ahead of you and everyone else folds -- and you hold cards in the range of AQ or TT -- then it's better to make a call than raise.
In tournaments, a big part of the strategy is to avoid going broke. In the situation describes, anyone who calls or re-raises is likely to have a much stronger hand than you, so pot odds suggest that it's better to make a call than re-raise.
This is why poker is as much art as science. Experts tell players to avoid calling, yet they need to know situations were a call is better than a re-raise. Blindly re-raising is a foolish move in cerain situations.
What is the difference between checking and calling in poker?
Checking happens before a raise has happened in a new round of betting. The player foregoes the opportunity to bet and gives the next player a chance to act.
Calling in poker happens after a raise has happened. The player makes a matching bet -- but not an overbet -- to the original bet. Thus, calling involves a bet while checking does not.
What is a check-raise in poker?
A check-raise in poker is when you check when the action first comes to you, then raise on your next action. The order is (1) you check, (2) an opponent raises, and (3) you re-raise.
A check-raise sends a mixed signal to the opponent, because you showed indecision or passivity first, then showed extreme confidence and aggression after they raised the pot. It indicates to opponents that the original check was a trap -- not indecision. If an opponent check raises, it signals that they wanted you to build the pot instead of seeing the next card for free.
What is opening in Poker?
An Sportsbook in poker is an Sportsbook bet. The player who starts the first round of betting makes the Sportsbook bet.
What is raising in poker?
Raising is when another player has made a bet and a second player makes a bigger bet. When a player makes an Sportsbook bet, the next player (and all other players) have one of three choices: call, fold, or raise.
A call is matching the bet and staying in the hand, while a fold is declining to make a bet and dropping out of a hand. A raise is saying, "I match the bet and exceed it." Once again, all other players remaining in the hand must decide whether to call, fold, or raise.
What is re-raising in poker?
A re-raise when a player makes the second or other subsequent bets in a round of betting. Re-raising is telling the original bettor (and all other bettors) that you are very confident in your hand -- so confident that you're willing to make a huge bet.
It is a sign of strength, or at least it signals to other players that you hold a strong hand.
What does call in poker mean?
Calling in poker is when you match a previous bet. If an opponent raises $50, then you make a call by making a matching $50 bet.
What is folding in poker?
Folding is when you decline to continue betting during a hand. The player sits out the rest of the hand. One of the hardest skills in poker is folding in the right situation.
It's human nature to want to know what your opponent holds, but paying for that information is not always worth it.
What's the difference between a call and raise in poker?
A call is when you match another player's bet. A raise is when you make a better higher than another player's bet.