Saturday, April 10, 2010

In defense of the call

Alas for the humble call. Disparaged by so-called experts, overused by the inexperienced and the weak, the call has somehow earned the reputation as the Shemp of poker moves.

Bullshit, says I. Granted, calling is not a viable option 100% of the time, but the same could be said for raising, calling, and folding as well. No, calling has its place at the table, and an honored one as well. To articulate every scenario would be as boring as listening to Josie's incessant self-aggrandizing, but forthwith two important cases where calling is by far the best option.


Having four of a suit after the flop is a seductive temptress; you're 2:1 against and unless this is your first time at the tables you know it. Yet you just can't help yourself, can you? You want to see the turn, or even better, that glorious heart on the river, where you do everything you can possibly do not to blow your load right there and ruin a nice felt table (suggested term: pokergasm). So: you do what you can to keep the pot small, for the moment, to reduce your risk. In short, you call. If you hit you can bet it out or wait for your opponent to do so, so when you turn over your flush you can rake a nice one in.

Many people would semi-bluff right there and take a shot at the pot but I'm usually not one of them. If you semi-bluff on the flop you could take it down right there, sure. But you are taking a risk for what is at that point a small pot, and playing hands when you're a 2:1 dog only pays off when you can claim a big pot when you hit. Plus god forbid you're up against a real hand, or an aggressive asshole, and you get re-popped. Now you're surrendering a big pot and you look like a fishcake.

The downside to this strategy is that it LOOKS like you're playing a four-flush, so if you bluff on the end, a smart player will pick you off right there, so I would counsel not trying. But calling the flop and the turn there keeps things nice and calm, while building the pot for when you do hit.


Don't get me wrong; I love the continuation bet. Even if you whiff the flop completely, betting out right there tells a strong story, and lesser men fold immediately. It's a powerful way to steal pots, which you simply have to do to win a tournament. But next time you suspect someone missed the flop and is betting anyway, try this: CALL the bet. BET OUT the turn, say, 3/4ths of the pot. That's going to make bluff boy shut right down. Strength with strength, that's my motto. And the humble call is the key to it all. Hey, that rhymed.

So to sum up: Come up with a poker strategy that rhymes.


  1. blah, blah,'s like "Hamlet plays poker" says I.


    Um, nice blog.

  2. Hamlet woulda kicked ass in poker, like I just did palying a super-turbo game with 5 fishies. Winning hand? J10, of course.

  3. I will often bet out on a flopped flush or oesd. Not so much to take down the pot, but to represent a weak made hand like middle pair. If the draw hits, you can slow play to induce a bluff, and it can be very lucrative. I think this might work online a bit better than live, where fewer players actually pay attention...