In Defence of “Not Calling”

So here we are then almost at the end of 2007 (or at least it was when I wrote this) and it has been a very interesting year all round. I am going to round off 2007 by writing one more article on no limit hold’em before I switch to limit for a few weeks as I have been promising for a while…sorry to those who have asked.

There was a very interesting article by Gavin Smith recently about calling raises in position instead of re-raising, the article was called “In defence of the call” and was an excellent read. This reminded me of something that I see frequently online but in cash games. I don’t know if it is because of the influx of tournament players in cash games or because of over zealous aggressive players or what.

But the fact is that far too many players take this concept too far and call too many raises with marginal hands in attempts to outplay their opponents from the flop onwards. But in most cases this type of play just isn’t profitable. With the maximum buy-ins in online no limit games, calling raises with speculative hands just does not have the implied odds.

On top of that, the better players and tougher games reduce your implied odds anyway. When you call an early position raise from the cut-off with the 86 in a cash game then as far as I am concerned, you need to take a look at your game somewhat. First of all you don’t have the button and secondly, your call just implies weakness and has “speculative hand” written all over it. You also invite a pick up play as your call has also sweetened the pot.

But another overlooked factor is that you just cannot achieve what you were trying to achieve often enough and by this I mean that you can outplay your opponent from the flop onwards. I hear this kind of rationale all the time and most of it is based on either illusion or naivety or whatever you want to call it. The fact of the matter is that you cannot overcome the handicap of calling raises with weak hands often enough to make the play profitable.

It can seem that way when you run good for a while but I think in the long term that you are merely deceiving yourself. With most games having a 100 big bet maximum buy-in online, the stacks rarely get deep enough and this is something that I think many people who have read the no limit section in Supersystem fail to comprehend.

Doyle’s style of play was relevant and highly effective to him within the environment of the games that he played in.

The online arena is a completely different ball game. To make matters worse, many players buy in online for less than the maximum anyway so this reduces the overall amount of money on the table. In fact, depending on what game I am sitting in, I will also vary the amount that I will buy in for and I will not always necessarily buy in for the maximum. The size of my buy-in varies dramatically depending on what level I am at and how good my opponents are and several other factors.

But getting back to the point, let us say that you are playing in a $5-$10 six handed cash game and the UTG player raises it to $30 and you call on the button with the 97. You both have $1000 stacks and you call because your rationale is that you can outplay your opponent post flop who you think that you have a good line on him.

Firstly, your call invites one of the blinds to possibly become involved either by a pick up re-raise or by calling. But even if everything goes to plan and the pot is heads up, your opponent is highly likely to fire out at this pot on the flop whether he has hit or missed. So if any Broadway cards fall and he continuation bets and your hand is weak or mediocre then you cannot continue and to do so in the hope that you can move your opponent off this hand is highly dangerous.

As I said last week, the most difficult players to play against are not always the most profitable ones. This statement may sound strange but not once you understand it. Tricky play loses an awful lot of equity and it is this that can hurt the creative and imaginative player and certainly at the lower levels.

But going back to the above example and lets say that you think that you have both missed the flop and your opponent continuation bets….then what? Do you re-raise and try to move him off the hand or do you float him? Both of these options are very expensive when they do not come off.

What I do like about the call is that it controls the pot size but the fact remains that calling pre-flop has a zero chance of winning at that stage of the hand and has no fold equity. But there are times to utilise this play even in cash games and times not to and I will be looking more closely at those at a later date. Meanwhile, anyone who wishes to discuss this article with me is free to do so either on the forum or through my website at