What does call mean in poker?

Jon Sofen
Posted on: July 14, 2021 04:32 PDT

What does call mean in poker? We can assure you it has nothing to do with picking up a telephone to communicate with friends, although it is a way to communicate at the poker table. There are three actions a player must ponder — bet, raise, fold, or call. For this article, we're focusing on the latter.

What does call mean?

In poker, a call means to put chips into the pot that match the bet of another player. So, if your opponent bets $50 and you say, "call," you must put exactly $50 into the pot. Once you verbally announce "call," you are committed to that decision. You can also make a call just by putting chips into the pot, without verbally announcing your decision. Once your chips are in the pot, you've made a call and cannot take it back.

Call, fold, or raise?

After another player bets, you have three options — call, fold, or raise. The only exception to that rule is if your opponent put you all-in. In that case, your options left are to call or fold, as you can't raise with chips you don't have. If you announce "fold," your hand is immediately dead. All verbal actions at the poker table are binding.

Once your hand is declared dead, you cannot win the pot under any circumstances. If you declare a raise, you must place a bet that is at least twice the size of your opponent's initial bet. So, if the other player bet $50, you must raise to at least $100. In no-limit hold'em games, you can raise up to the size of your stack. In limit hold'em games, you are required to raise exactly twice the size of the initial bet. Hence, why it is referred to as "limit" poker.

If your decision is to call, you simply put the amount of chips your opponent bet into the pot and the hand continues. At showdown, when there are no more cards left to be dealt, if you opt for a call, the hand concludes and the player with the best poker hand at that point wins the pot.

When to call

The right time to just call a bet isn't always so cut and dry. That's what makes poker such a difficult game. But the decisions you make — whether it be to call, fold, or raise — can have a significant impact on your wins and losses over time.

In general, you should just call a bet when you have a decent hand, but one that isn't quite strong enough to raise with unless you're turning your hand into a bluff. In some cases, you might have a decent hand such as middle pair but are concerned your opponent has you beat. Situations such as this often call for you to turn your hand into a bluff by raising, in hopes of convincing your opponent to fold the superior hand.

Another time you should opt for a call is when you're slow-playing a monster hand. Let's say you have pocket aces and the flop comes A-2-9. You have the best hand, or "the nuts," and the goal should be to maximize your profit in the hand. If your opponent bets into you, calling the bet instead of raising is typically the smart play. That's because if you raise, you are indicating to your opponent that you have a big hand, and it could force them to fold, which you don't want to happen.

When calling is a poor play

There are numerous situations in poker, especially Texas hold'em and Omaha hold'em, where making a call is a terrible idea that can cost you money. The first spot you should never just call in is on the river when you have the nuts — unless you're facing an all-in bet, of course. If you have the absolute best hand on the river, you should always raise because there is no risk involved since your hand can't lose.

Calling a bet is also a poor decision when you have a weak hand and are up against a tight player. This type of player rarely bluffs and almost always has a big hand when they are betting. Sure, in some cases, you'll end up folding the best hand. You shouldn't underestimate anyone at the poker table, and sometimes tight players get bored and get out of line. But if you're consistently calling a bet with a marginal hand against a tight player, you'll lose over the long run.

Another situation where you shouldn't just call is if you're in early position pre-flop. In Texas hold'em, and most poker games, you should very rarely enter a pot by calling the size of the big blind. Instead, the better play is to raise (or fold if your hand is weak). The reason for that is you don't want to allow too many other players to enter the pot. Even if you have a monster hand like pocket aces or pocket kings, your chances of winning the hand decline if five or six other players are in the hand.

The same can be said if you're in the blinds with premium hands such as pocket aces, pocket kings, pocket queens, or even Ace-King. If another player raised before it was your turn to act, you should then re-raise (also referred to as a "three-bet") instead of just calling. By simply calling the raise, you minimize how much you can win. Your goal should be to get as much money in the pot when you have monster hands. That's how you win big playing poker.

Some players become losing long-term players simply because they don't maximize their profits during winning sessions. Even if you have a huge winning session and walk away with a $1,000 profit, there were likely opportunities to win even more money that day had you gone for maximum value in certain pots. It's not always about if you won or lost, it's sometimes about how much you could have won.

Featured image source: Flickr