Sit and go strategy

Calling a raise.

Mike asks:

I see a lot of information here on raising hands but nothing on calling. When should I call?

Good question Mike and one that needs to be looked at in depth.

There are two situations where you would call when playing poker. One is where you are calling a raise and the second  where you are calling the blinds.

Let's look at these two facets independently as they both mean two completely different things.

First of all lets take a look at calling the blinds.

In most instances you should not call the blinds. You either have a hand which you think is better than the two random cards that the blinds hold in which case you should raise or you think your hand is not strong enough to raise and you should fold.

Now of course, this very much depends on the game situation. This is not an exact science. Very often you can raise with say KK and run into AA or even a lower pair who hits a set on the flop. That's just the way the cookie crumbles and there is nothing you can do about it.

In higher stakes poker games you may possibly be able to get away from calling an all in against a set,but frankly at this SNG level if it happens then you can consider yourself unlucky and sleep soundly.

If you call the blinds then be prepared to fold when you get action. Any two cards can easily beat your 10,J suited.when you are three handed and they move all in.

Calling the blinds should only be the ploy when you are in the small blind and don't want to provoke a raise to your mediocre holdings and you can play on the flop.

So now to the more important issue of calling a raise.

Calling a raise is fraught with danger. If you keep getting beat with AA then you are calling raises way too much.

Now of course in a sixhanded SNG we are going to be playing a lot tighter than everybody else at the table and they are going to be raising with hands far worse than you are going to be folding.

However this is how you beat the game.

This strategy is not how you beat a cash game. If you keep folding the best hand in a cash game then you will have your arse handed to you on a plate. In an SNG it is different, a lot different, there are many more dynamics to take into account.

These days it's very rare that someone shows me a pair of Aces and I lose to them. I don't call raises unless I have a big hand and want to trap. If someone keeps raising on the button I am sure they are stealing then I will re raise with my junk to try and stop them stealing.

The key word here is “try”. There is a load of tosh talked about “putting your opponent on a hand”. It's just not possible most of the time. In an SNG the game is too fast paced to leisurely surmise what your opponent has. It's just not feasible. All you can do is to make sure that when you enter a pot you have a good chance of having the best hand.

And that means not calling raises.

Now, if this seems an alien philosophy to you then that's why you are a losing player. Calling raises is the way to destroy your bankroll. You want it the other way around. You want to be the raiser and the other players doing the calling.

That's how you turn from a losing player into a winning player.

It makes much more sense to fold KQ in the face of a raise than it does to make the call. The chances are you are up against a pair or AK or AQ possibly A10 or AJ.

In sixhanded SNG poker if you have a pair then the chances are that it's way the best hand before the flop and those odds increase as the players dwindle.

It could be garbage you are calling down. But how do you know? Unless you have some secret way of knowing what the raiser is raising with? If you do then let me know.

The best method and the best approach is not to call unless you have a very strong hand that you want to trap with. Even then it is preferable to re raise and not slow play. Slow playing makes you cry at night when they hit their set on the river.

If you must call then call when you have the button. At least then you have position over everyone else.

If you have say KJ then you do not want to be calling with it (unless we are down to bubble play). However if you are raising and first into the pot then it is a totally different matter. Your raise signifies strength and if you have been playing tight as advocated you will usually push it through without argument.

Raising has all the advantages that calling does not – it's totally possible to keep folding better hands in a calling situation than you are raising with – and that's the game plan I advise.