What Does It Mean to Call In Poker?


There are only four legal moves that players can do in poker: check, call, raise, and fold. Call and raise are the only two that remain constant throughout the game. But have you ever asked yourself what does call in poker really mean and how it can affect your game?

Call in poker means that you’re matching the bet of the player moving before you. If your opponent bets $2, calling means that you also need to place $2 before proceeding. If the bet is higher than the total chips you have on the table, you need to bet all your chips, or what we know as all-in.

It’s a straightforward move that every poker player should understand. But it can affect the decisions that other players make significantly. If you want to be a more competitive poker player, you need to understand what a call really is and learn how to take advantage of it.

Example of a call in poker.
Calling can be very profitable if done correctly. But if you are calling in wrong spots, then it will cost you a lot of money and might even turn you from winning into losing player.

Facts You Should Know About Call

Despite being one of the most basic poker moves, many people still can’t take advantage of a call. Aside from this, many enthusiasts also have some misconceptions about it. So, before we proceed, let’s discuss the 5 facts you should know about a call in poker.

Call Is Irreversible

Whenever you move in poker, the first move will always be your final move.

Announcing that you call means that you’re matching another player’s bet; you can’t get out of the game, and you can’t raise either. If you call, then suddenly retract it to a fold or raise, the dealer won’t honor your second move.

Mistakes happen, and players may unintentionally declare the wrong move, which is fine. However, if you keep making the same mistake, you lose the respect of other players. Some may even label you as an angle shooter, while others may use it to gain the upper hand when playing against you. So, before you call anything in poker, be sure that your hands are good enough for you to join the pot.

You Can’t Call a Lower Amount

Calling means that you want to match the bet of another player. You can’t call, then place a lower amount at the table. The dealer can penalize you for doing it because it’s a breach of game rules. Before you make the call, it would be best to consider your position and the number of chips you have.

The only time you can put a lower amount at the table is when the other player raises more than the chips you have.

If the other player raises to $5, and you only have $3.75 left on the table, calling means that you’re willing to bet everything. We also refer to it as an all-in, one of the most prominent displays of confidence in a player’s hand. Other than that, players aren’t allowed to put a smaller bet on the table when they call.

Call Doesn’t Always Mean Weak Hands

If you’re playing in more sophisticated tables, a flat call doesn’t always mean that their hands are weak. In fact, many professionals use it when setting traps for their opponents. If you believe that anyone who flat calls a bet only has a mid-range hand, you’ll often fall in these traps.

It would be best to consider your position and your opponents’ ranges when they call because it will give you more reliable data when making decisions.

Remember, as you learn to play more complex games, your opponents’ moves are mostly trivial when trying to determine their strength.

The key to becoming a more competitive player is to think ahead and consider what most people would do in a particular scenario.

Many professionals fall prey to these traps, so you have to be careful when thinking about your next moves.

Proper Calling Depends on Position

If you want to become a more competitive poker player, you need to understand proper positioning and how it can affect the moves you make. When you’re in an early position (one of the first players to move), a flat call displays weakness.

As a general rule, you should never flat call in an early position, especially when you’re doing it because your hand isn’t as strong.

Call in poker may seem simple and straightforward, but it conveys a lot of information to the other players. Aside from that, it also determines your postflop strategy and whether your next street will put you in a challenging situation. Always consider your following actions because a flat call in an early position means that many players can still affect your strategy.

Call Allows You to Be Cautious

If you’re only starting to understand poker, one of the first things you should learn is to play aggressively. However, this rule doesn’t always apply to everyone, especially if your hand isn’t that strong. If you want to play your hands, but you’re having doubts about it, a flat call will allow you to stay in the game without putting too much equity.

You have to consider many things when playing, but protecting your chips should always be your priority. Remember, once you run out of chips, you’re out of the game (tournaments and sit and go’s) or need to reload (cash games or rebuy tournaments). However, if you’re only going to call a mid-range hand, it’ll save you more chips. It also helps you avoid challenging situations that may require you to put more equity in the game.

Instances When You Should Call

Poker players only have four moves to work with, and all of these will represent what their hands are. If you want to call, you have to be more strategic because your opponents will use it as their basis for their moves. Here are some of the instances where a flat call is a good idea:

Call When You’re Setting a Trap

If you have a strong hand, you don’t want to be too aggressive because it forces the other players to fold out of the game. When the other players fold, you won’t extract value from your hand, which can help you offset your losses. What you want is to set up traps by flat calling your opponents, making them believe that you have a weak hand.

However, just like other poker strategies, you don’t want your opponents to figure out how you play. It would be best to use a mix of loose and tight plays to keep them wondering how strong your hand is, compared to what they have. It’ll require a lot of practice not to be aggressive when you have quad aces, but it’s one of the best ways to force your opponents to play loose.

Calling when setting a trap in poker
Calling with the purpose for the bettor to keep betting on further streets can work out very well especially if you play against an aggressive player. If someone is very aggressive then often the correct play is to close your eyes and call with a mid pair or better (but the player needs to be very aggressive and willing to bluff a lot).

Call When You’re Protecting Your Chips

If you have borderline cards, you don’t want to play loose because you’re putting too much equity in the game. Some examples of these hands are backdoor flush (three flushes at the flop) and a gutshot straight (1 more card to complete a straight).

If the table doesn’t require you to put too many chips, it’ll be hard for you to fold them. Raising wouldn’t also put you in an ideal position because you’re still holding an incomplete hand.

What you need for these situations is to protect your hand and your chips. A flat call will allow you to stay in the game without being bloating the pot too much (placing too many chips on the table).

Remember, poker outs will help you determine your odds of winning the hand, and knowing it will help you figure out your next move.

Only Call Your Opening Ranges

Many poker players, especially the ones that are still learning the fundamentals, play too many games. Some of them will only fold 10% to 20% of their hands, forcing them to lose most of their games. Remember, when you’re playing poker, you’ll lose more times than you win, so playing a lot of hands forces you to win more games.

Setting your opening ranges will make it easier for you to decide whether you should play a hand or not. If you’re playing tight, you should only call 10% of your hands and fold everything else. With the help of opening ranges, your games will be more manageable, and you won’t be in challenging situations as you enter the flop. It’s one of the first things you should learn in poker, and it’ll save you from playing hands that you may not win.

Instances When You Shouldn’t Call

A call is a strong move if you use it wisely. But there are some instances when it won’t be advantageous for you. In fact, some of them may even put you in a tricky situation, which can be detrimental to your strategies. Being a strong poker player means knowing his hand’s strength and thinking ahead on whether a call will be helpful or not.

Here are some of the instances where calling may not be a good idea:

Never Call a Big Blind

Calling a big blind is, almost always, never a good idea. Professionals call it limping, and it shows weakness with your hand. Remember, if you are the player under the gun (the first player to move), many players will still make their moves after you. If you flat call the big blind, you’re putting yourself in a tricky situation, especially when another player re-raises after you.

When you’re the player under the gun, an important rule you always need to remember is never to play a hand that you’re not comfortable re-raising. If you have borderline hands that you’ll fold if you see action, it would be better to stay out of the game. Of course, there’s a strategic advantage when limping, but it’ll require a high skill set and premium hands to support your move.

Never Call Bets When in Doubt

Similar to limping, you should never call when you don’t feel like playing the hand. It could be your odds to win the game or your intuition. Sometimes, instincts are so powerful that they can tell you what’s going to happen. If you’re having doubts about your hand, don’t call. It only means that you don’t have a strong one, and playing it would only waste your chips.

Aside from saving your chips from a potentially devastating hand, it also helps you avoid tilt. If you’ve been playing poker for quite some time, you know how tilt can affect your strategies. It makes you too emotional to make sound reasoning and practice keen observation. So, to help you minimize your triggers, fold when in doubt.

Calling in poker when unsure is a bad idea
If you are unsure about calling, then most of the time correct play is to fold.

Never Call Just to See the Next Card

Another prevalent mistake that beginners make when playing is that they call the bet just to see the next card. They think that it’s a small price to pay for the chance to improve their odds. However, one crucial thing that many professionals understand is that, in many cases, a strong hand preflop will remain the best hand at showdown.

If you’re only calling to see the next card, you’re putting yourself in a more challenging situation. The more equity you have on the table, the harder it’ll be for you to fold. A better course of action would be to consider your odds for a made hand, and only play when you have a relatively high chance of drawing the cards you need.

Can You Raise After You Call?

You can raise after you call, but not on the same turn. If there are only two players left on the table, and you call, the betting round ends. However, if you’re at preflop, the big blind will be the last person to act. If he raises, each player gets another turn, and you can re-raise. It’s the only time you can call then raise, which is also a highly sophisticated move.

If you only call a raise, then 4bet (re-raise after a re-raise) after another player re-raises, it displays hand strength. The other players automatically think that you have a premium hand, and you’re trying to extract value from it as early as preflop. It’s also an effective way to steal the blinds, but you only have to do it when you’re within your range, and you have high odds of winning the hand.

Things to Remember Before You Call as a Beginner

Call in poker is straightforward, but you can use it to manipulate the other players and win the hand. You don’t have to be the best player to win games, but making the right calls can make you a more competitive player. Here are a few things that you need to remember before you move, which can help you win more or last longer at the table:

  • Always use a mix of loose and tight plays. Before you call, try to examine your previous games if you’ve become too predictable. It’s one of the pitfalls in poker, but you can easily balance it by having the right mix of tight and loose plays. It’ll keep your opponent guessing what your hand is, making it easier for you to extract value when you have premium hands. 
  • Always consider your position before you call. How many players will make their move after you? If there are at least 5 more players, a flat call can put you in a tough spot. Imagine if you call, then the next player raises, and another player re-raises. Will your cards be able to support calling a 4bet? If not, then it would be better not to play your hands and save some chips.
  • A call can strengthen or devastate your strategy. Making the right call can improve your position. It allows you to move to the next street without having too much equity in the pot. However, it can also prevent you from gathering data from your opponents, which is a crucial factor that will help you win games.
  • An incorrect call can put you in a tricky situation. There are times when you’re drawing dead—playing a made hand that is bound to lose. It happens when you make an incorrect call that can’t help you establish your position or have an idea of how well your cards stack up against your opponents. Aggressive plays can simplify poker, but you’re not playing aggressive if you’re only calling most of the bets.
  • Calling or raising depends on various conditions. Aside from position and making yourself unpredictable, you also need to consider the cards you have before you call. Are you trying to set a trap, value betting, or bluffing? Remember, bluffing is another way for you to offset your losses, and you can’t bluff your opponents if you’re only calling their bets.

Conclusion

A call is one of the moves that players can do in poker. It may be a straightforward rule that doesn’t require in-depth analysis. However, it’s also the one that has the most significant impact on a game.

If you want to be a more competitive player or simply improve your results, you should first learn how to take advantage of a call. The proper use of this move will make you more unpredictable and allow you to set traps when possible, while also protecting your chips.

Primoz

I have played poker professionally for more than 10 years. I was a winner at every poker format that I played - from tournaments to cash games, both in NL Holdem and PLO. Now my biggest satisfaction is to provide enthusiastic but new poker players with answers to all of their questions.

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