Let’s start by talking about the big picture. Should preflop calling be a significant part of our strategy for how to make money? The short answer is, no. It’s very difficult to make a substantial amount of money by calling preflop, for the simple reason that when we just call instead of raising, we can’t win the pot uncontested by making our opponents fold. We have to rely on either making the best hand, or winning it uncontested on a later street, both of which are not easy to do.
A large number of poker players, particularly at lower stakes or in beginner-level games, will adopt a strategy of calling with a wide range of hands preflop, with the intent of making a strong hand postflop or simply folding if they don’t; otherwise known as “Bingo”. This makes sense from a certain perspective, but it’s actually the cause of a lot of lost money. The reason is that players fall victim to three specific misjudgments:
- They overestimate the frequency that they will flop a strong hand after calling
- They will overestimate the size of the pot they will win if they flop a strong hand
- They underestimate the frequency that they will flop a middle-strength hand and lose the pot
So when can we call a raise preflop? There are two main opportunities:
- When we are on the button, and therefore guaranteed to be in position postflop. Being in position makes it much easier to realize equity, and we are less likely to face a re-raise behind us when there are only two players left.
- When we are in the big blind heads-up, and therefore getting a better price on a call, as well as closing the action with nobody left to act behind us who could re-raise.
Outside of these positions, we will need a hand possessing all three of the hand properties we discussed in the previous lessons: showdown value, suitedness and connectedness (pocket pairs being the exception). On the button we only need two, and in the big blind we only need one or one-and-a-half, providing the pot is heads-up.
Finally, let’s talk a little about calling versus 3-bets. This is a simpler equation than it seems. If you’re out of position, your hand needs to possess all three of the properties to justify calling (again, pairs are the exception). If you’re in position, you only need two, but two-and-a-half is preferable; and just like calling a regular preflop raise, the bigger the 3-bet, the more you should fold.
That’s all for this lesson. Join me in the next to discuss 3-Betting and 4-Betting. Namaste.