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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

In Poker, You Usually Raise or Fold - But Don't Call Much

17 March 2007

Every time there's a bet made to you in a hand of poker, you have three choices - call, raise or fold. Sociable players who are in it for the fun of gambling tend to call way too much. If you're in it to win, you should usually be folding and sometimes raising – but calling only now and then. Here's why.

Suppose you're playing $10/$20 limit Hold'em and you're seated in the middle of the table with an unsuited Q/J in the pocket. The blinds have their money in and the next three players have all folded. It's $10 to call, $20 to raise, or you can fold. What's your play?

Passive, sociable players would say to call because you don't have a bad hand. But competitive, winning players know if you're going to play this hand from this spot, you should raise. Why?

It's because between you and the two blinds, you probably have the best hand so far and there there's $15 in the pot for the taking. Your raise will also tend to discourage players yet to act from paying two bets to see the flop. One of them might even throw away a bad Ace hand like A/7 or something. And if the blinds want to play with you, let them pay for it. If they don't want to gamble, you make a quick few bucks.

Now let's play that same hand over again, this time with a little different twist. Let's say only the first player after the blinds folds, and the second player raises before you. Now what's your move? You should fold.

Why, when you had a good enough hand to raise before? That's because before, up to your point in the betting rotation, nobody seemed to have anything much. So your Q/J was actually looking pretty good. But now that a player in an earlier seat than you has raised, your Q/J isn't so good anymore.

These two contrasting examples were intended to illustrate that very often in poker, your hand may look good enough to launch an offensive stand. But then, somebody else in a more disadvantageous position raises first and suddenly, your hand isn't even worth a call. It happens all the time.

In amateurish, low stakes poker, most players just call, call, call. At the end of the hand, everybody turns over their cards and the best hand takes the pot. Not much skill is used in these games – it's a lot like showdown.

But in competitive poker for money, a chronic caller is doomed to be a chronic loser. Why is that? It's because raising gives you two ways to win – when they fold and when you make the winning hand. If you just call, you can't win by making anybody fold. That's why if you hold a hand that seems good enough to play, you should consider raising. If you don't feel it's worth a raise, there's a fair chance you shouldn't even be calling. When you play serious poker, you should be folding, betting or raising most of the time. Calling should be done only sparingly.

Raising can also be an effective way to gain information. Suppose in Hold'em you've got Js/Jc in the hole, so you raise and the flop comes down:

10d-5d-2d

If somebody bets the $10, he might have a flush, or he might just have a pair of 10s. Raising it another $10 may get you your answer. If he re-raises, you should probably fold right there, rather than call two more $20 bets to see if he really has the flush.

Nevertheless, there are still some appropriate calling situations in poker, and most occur when you have a "draw" to a straight or a flush. In these situations, you don't have anything unless you hit your hand, and if you do hit it, you'll probably beat everybody. At a time like that, you want a lot of customers, so just calling along will let you build a bigger pot cheaply.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey