Thursday, September 12, 2013

Calling is Compromised

Listened to a Thinking Poker podcast on the way into work the other morning. The strategy hand discussed was a simple one: Full ring cash game. 100bb stacks. An EP player open raises UTG to 3x. A couple of field callers come along. The CO then 3bets. Action is to you in the SB. You have ATs. What do you do?

In a normal 100bb cash game environment against average players, this is a pretty easy fold. Why? Well, let's take an abbreviated look at REDi:
  • Read: UTG at a full ring table open raises. This usually means strength; call it 88+ and KQs+. Cold callers probably have stuff like middle and small pair-type hands and biggish suited connectors. CO's RR against these ranges is also quite strong. Call it JJ+ and AQo+. You will be OOP MW if you stay in the hand and see a flop. There's also the possibility that UTG villain could RR again here pre whether you call or RR.
  • Estimate: Against these ranges, your ATs has probably 15% equity at best. And with 100bb stacks, you don't have much implied odds. Fold equity is pretty low, too, as people already have a chunk of their stacks invested.
  • Decide: You'll be OOP with very little fold equity, itty bitty pot equity, and teeny-tiny implied odds. The obvious line is: Fold.
Fairly straightforward, right? Well, yes, but during their discussion of the hand, Brokos said something that made me actually stop and write it down. He said (paraphrasing here):

"Folding is the clear correct play. Raising isn't necessarily a crazy second option, but it's fraught with danger. The third option, calling, is really bad. Unfortunately, beginners often think that calling is a compromise between raising and folding. It's not."

This rang a chord with me, as I used to fall into this trap very early in my poker career. The books all said raise or fold, but calling felt to me like a safe "middle ground" between the two extremes. This was a mistake. A big mistake. Calling in general means you are foregoing any fold equity*. In other words, it means you're content to let your hand stand up on its own and see a showdown, period. Is ATs something you really want to see run hot and cold against two other players that have shown significant preflop strength? Uh, no. You might be happy if the flop comes down KQJ or monotone to your suit, but this isn't going to happen very often, and you're probably not going to get paid off anyway. Most of the time you'll hit nothing, or if you do hit, you'll be wondering about how strong your kicker is. Better to get out now, when the gettin' is cheap. Calling is not a compromise-- it's the worst of three options.

All-in for now...
*Assuming you're not doing something fancy like floating OOP....right.

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