McHaffie: MCU lesson 077 / Betting and calling

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2006.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at

Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 77: No-limit betting and calling

There’s a definite difference in betting and calling between playing no-limit poker and playing limit poker. Players often don’t grasp the distinction of when to bet and when to call whenever they go from playing one game to the other.

Mike says that in limit games, even though you’re unsure whether you’re holding a good hand, calling can be the right thing to do. The reason for this is that your call will be considerably smaller than the pot size before the bet was placed.

In no-limit, players often bet more than what is in the pot. Mike advises that you shouldn’t be so eager to call, as it costs more to call and, even if you’re right about having a hand with reasonable chances, you’re still going to end up fighting for the pot. It’s true that if you call, you’re always going after more than even money, whether it’s limit or no-limit. For instance, if the bet were $1,000, and there’s already something in the pot, and you call your opponent’s $1,000 bet and win, you’re still getting more than even money.

Don’t be inspired

In a no-limit game, Mike warns that even though you get more than even money, you shouldn’t be inspired to call as often than in limit, because often it’s not much more. What is the risk to you to make that no-limit call? If your opponent has just made a $3,000 bet into a $30 pot, he probably has a significant hand to be betting into such a small pot. You’re going to need a huge hand to call that bet – unless you’re fairly certain a bluff could be in play.

Now, in a limit game, your opponent must bet a set amount, even if he’s holding a large hand. It’s up to you to consider whether he is holding a great hand, moderate hand, or he’s just bluffing. Mike says, “You should consider the pot size and if you win once in 20 calls, often you’re still ahead in a limit game.” If your hand isn’t disgusting, you’ll usually call.

Not true with no-limit poker. You’re going to require an impressive hand to call a big bet.

A mistake that new players to no-limit poker make is they don’t know when to bet and when to call. You must have a strong hand to call in no-limit, because the caller has to fight for the pot, whereas the bettor can take it all without a fight.

Risky bet

There are many times that a skilled player will make a substantial bet or even an all-in bet on a small pair. Mike says that this can be risky, but what’s even worse than making that bet with a small pair is calling it with a small pair. Once someone has made an all-in bet, you assume he has a significant hand or there is a small chance that he’s bluffing. Mike advises against routinely calling in this instance, even with an A-10. He says, “Don’t do it!” Suppose, for instance, your opponent were holding an A-K, A-Q, or A-J. You’re not the favorite here, and heaven forbid he were to have the A-A, then it’s “crying time again.”

So, by calling a large bet the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. You might have a small advantage or you might have a large disadvantage. “It doesn’t compute,” Mike says. It’s safer just to let go and let the opponent that bet have it.

In no-limit, Mike says, you need a stronger hand to call, whereas betting a semi-strong hand is sometimes worth the risk, as you can often take the pot without a fight. But calling a large bet without a superior hand is another matter. It’s a no-limit mistake.

So, to sum it up, Mike teaches that in no-limit poker you should seldom call big bets unless you have huge hands; and in limit poker you should usually call bets unless you are holding poor hands. Therein lies the difference. — DM

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