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Why Calling Is a Bad Idea

Annie Duke has been heard to say that one of the biggest problems new poker players have is that they call too often. Either the hands you have are playable, which constitutes a raise, or they are not, which constitutes a fold (or check if you are the position to do so.) According to this line of thinking, calling is almost never the right thing to do. Yet so many times that is exactly what happens; either everyone calls the big blind and it goes to the flop, or one person bets and everyone calls or folds. Admittedly at some point someone has to call, so it is likely that Duke’s idea is an ideal to aspire to, a point she was trying to drive home about how new players call too much.

But, why is calling such a bad idea? After all it is the only way you are going to see the flop unless you are in the big blind. The value of raising preflop rather than calling is that you are more likely to push out players with draw cards and small pairs who may get luckier than you on the flop; calling is a meek way of buying into the pot, which is why it is referred to as “limping in.”

That is not to say that it is never okay to call; if you are in a late position and you only have the blinds behind you and there are no raises, then calling can be a cheap way to see if your hand improves with the flop. However, if you call from an early position in a full-handed game, you have a good six to nine players who may raise it enough to make your quasi-playable hand worthless, and the chips you called with are now gone with no chance of helping you.

Remember that calling is betting as much as raising is betting. When you call you are betting than no one is going to raise it behind you and essentially make you waste your chips. However, if you raise, then you are the one setting the pace. If you feel like your starting hands are not worthy of a raise, then you should just fold them in the first place and wait for a pair that are.

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