Calling Versus Raising

Joseph Tehan

Poker is a dynamic game, and winning players always need to adjust. The more the masses see players win with a certain style, the more they'll try and copy it.

A few years ago poker was generally a very tight-passive game. Now, with so many players taking notes from the top players, general aggression has gone up substantially.

Three years ago three-betting light online was almost unheard of. Now it's common to find people four-betting light at lower-limit games.

So an accepted winning strategy just a few years ago may no longer be as useful as it once was. A good example:

The maxim explained in this article from a couple of years ago, "

If you're waiting on Phil to make a mistake, you're probably going to go broke.

The Big River Mistake

If you think an opponent is making a bluff on the river, raising is a horrifically bad play. Your read the whole hand was that the other player was on a flush draw. The river comes, and the flush draw has missed. For the first time in the hand, they open the betting round rather than checking.

In this situation, raising is an obvious mistake. If your read is correct, the other player has nothing and will fold. If your read is incorrect and they actually have you beat, they will come back over the top to three-bet or push on you.

You gain nothing with this raise, whereas you would benefit in the long run from simply calling here.

Loose Ends

This advice works for all versions of poker: online, live, cash and tourney. But it's most relevant for live cash games. The majority of the time in most tourneys you will be forced to play a raise or fold game - other players' stacks won't be large enough for you to take a more long-ball approach.

Online poker is much more aggressive on the whole, and I'm not saying that you shouldn't return fire in kind. But there are times, as I previously stated, where calling is a better play than raising, even in online poker.

You can't really play golf with only a driver in your bag. Aggression is an important tool, but it needs to be used along with the other plays in your arsenal.

Sometimes maximizing your profits involves slowing your game down. There's always a brake right next to the gas pedal; I recommend using them both.

More strategy articles from Sean Lind:

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