Calling or raising?This article was posted on July 31, 2007
If you play online poker, you're probably familiar with the raise-call-call-call scenario. One player (usually from late position) bets into the pot, and everyone else calls.
While pre-flop, calling may only say: "I just want to take a look at the flop and I don't really want to spend a lot on it", post-flop, calling becomes a sign of weakness.
You're basically telling your opponents that you don't really have anything but you're hoping they don't have much either. That is just not the kind of message you want to send out to your opponents.
Some experts say, if a hand isn't worth raising on, it's probably not worth playing in the first-place. In reality, of course, the situation is much more complicated. First of all, you may want to raise on a hand you'd never take to the showdown just to make the others fold and take down the pot, when the reads you get from them, tell you it's possible.
On the other hand, some hands are worth calling on indeed. You may want to call, in order to check-raise a person you know will raise you. In a word, it's a great way to trap someone. You may also call to slow-play a hand, to generate money into the pot.
Despite that, you make all those calls with the intention of raising later, so if you look at it like that, calling just for the sake of it, is futile indeed.
What is the reasoning behind raising on a hand then? First of all, it will force a bunch of players to fold, thus increasing your odds, then it will probably generate some dead money, last but not least it will give you control of the hand.
Picture this: you raise pre-flop with your A, K, and you make some people fold right away. You've already improved on your EV+ play. The flop completely misses you, (J, Q, 2) but you bet into it again.
While a person holding a pair of 8s might've called you pre-flop in order to give himself a chance for a set, he will certainly think twice about calling you after the flop too. Most likely, he'll fold it, and you'll take down a pot you would've otherwise lost.
This is the exact reason why you'll sometimes hear good poker players referred to as tight-aggressive.
These guys are rigorous about their hand selection. If something is not worth raising on, they'll fold it right away. When they do commit however, they'll come at you full strength.
It is the essence of poker really: do not commit on EV-, if you do commit on EV+ try to maximize the odds by whatever means possible, and take as many EV+ situations to success as you can.