Calling gives you more control than raising?

by ~ August 26th, 2008. Filed under: Basics of poker.

This is in reference to low level play, where I get the feeling that some players believe that calling gives you more control than betting or raising. “I’m in control. I can call or fold.”, or something to that effect.

By calling preflop, you’re saying that you’re willing to pay the price to see a flop. You have a hand, you think it may be worth something, so you call. If someone raises behind you, you’ve already committed chips, so call the raise too.

There is some kind of weird logic behind it, as I can see how a beginner looks at AQ unopened from mid to late position and thinks that they need an Ace or a Queen to have a hand, so just call to see what they flop. This is the kind of play that bites me when I play low buyin SnGs instead of playing ones more expected with my bankroll, and I look down at A8 in the BB and think I might have fold equity if I shove. The schizophrenic nature of the weak players is such that they won’t raise when it’s their turn, but they’ll call someone else’s raise or shove. Calling, again, seems much less risky than raising because you can decline to accept. If I shove then the weak player turns from pansy to gambler, and in late stages of tournies this often means a hand that has me dominated.

Rather than AQ the same player can hold K5s, or 75o and think, hey, I can hit a big hand with this. I better see what the flop is.

An example of this recently at $25NL where I was in the BB, mid limper, hijack limper, flop comes 865 with a flush draw and I have J8 so I bet. Player in hijack calls. I bet the turn, call a river bet, he has 74o for a flopped straight. Who limps in a 74o? As it turns out, over the rest of my time at the table his VP$IP was 70%. That’s the kind of player who limps 74o.

This is a long ways from someone playing deep stack poker calling raises with 75s against other deep stacks. In deep stack poker you’re calling with 75s hoping for two pair, flush or straight draw or maybe both, against another big stack who has AA/KK or other big hand and you can get paid off big. But big is the key as you need big implied odds, not a limped pot with 74o against a mixture of 20-80bb stacks.

Anyways, back to this concept of calling being more attractive than raising. There are situations when this is so, like when a good player just check/calls a flop bet on a flop like K22, especially if they are in the BB and it’s limped pot. But poor players, and I put myself in this category at PLO yet, poor players are afraid to raise but willing to call and to call raises. PLO is a bit different as the strength of pocket cards are much less wide than they are in Holdem, but still I am aware that I limp/call too much. Is the embarrassment of raising and then folding a missed flop so great? Or are we afraid of not being able to control ourselves after raising; ie. we’re going down in flames over a missed board? Are we afraid that we set ourselves up to be bluffed off a marginal/missed hand over a bigger pot?

It definitely is easier to fold a limped or called pot than to fold one that we raised ourselves. But for me in PLO it’s largely a lack of confidence in reading the strength of my own hand, let alone the strength of my opponent’s hands. That, plus the fact that I’m playing PLO at $10 and lower levels so I don’t have much fold equity leads me to play pretty passively preflop. I suspect lack of confidence and lack of training is probably the reason why big hands get limp/called, and lack of training and lack of patience/desire to gamble/inability to fold is why poor hands also get limp/called.

As some point I guess I’ll get bored playing the cheap games. This probably won’t happen yet, but I do feel as if I’m not spending enough time playing better opponents where the thinking, hand ranges, plays at least make sense.

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