When you are thinking about calling a raise with a hand that is not likely to be ahead of your opponents in average you need to think about your implied odds. This means that you should think about how much you will likely win in average when you hit a good hand.
You can of course sometimes also win with these hands without hitting a monster. Most of the time either by having a pair when your opponent has nothing or by bluffing. More on that in Preflop Strategy – Someone has raised where we look at scenarios were you have addition equity on top of the Implied Odds.
There is an old rule-of-thumb for this situation called the rule of 5-10. This might have worked in the less competent poker games a couple of years ago, but that needs an update.
The rule of 5-10 say that if the effective stack sizes are less than 10 times the amount for the call you should fold. If it is more than 20 times the amount for the call you should call. If it is somewhere in between you should think. Simple enough, but not good enough unfortunately, as people are getting better and better at poker – and few players nowadays will stack off with an overpair or a TPTK (top-pair, top kicker).
So here are my suggestions:
Rule-of-thumb: Calling with pocket pair against one likely opponent based on implied odds:
- call if opponent is a TAG on a very narrow range (max 5 %) and is likely to be willing to stack off with overpair or top-pair and effective stack size is at least 20 times the call amount or
- call if opponent is a maniac and effective stack size is at least 20 times the call amount.
Rule-of-thumb: Calling with pocket pair against several likely opponents based on implied odds:
- call if raiser is TAG on narrow range (max 10 %) and at least one person has called before you and effective stack size between raiser and you is at least 20 times the call amount and risk of squeeze is max 10% or
- call if at least one of the other callers is a fish willing to commit a lot with a weak holding or
- call if at least two persons has called before you and risk of squeeze is max 10 %
Rule-of-thumb: Calling with suited connectors against one likely opponent based on implied odds:
Rule-of-thumb: Calling with suited connectors or suited aces against several opponents based on implied odds:
- call if raiser is TAG on narrow range (max 10 %) and at least two persons has called before you and effective stack size between raiser and you is at least 20 times the call amount and risk of squeeze is max 10%
Important note: here I talk about calls made more or less only based on Implied Odds. The decision might be different when you consider winning by bluffing or by hitting a mediocre hand. See Preflop Strategy – Someone has raised for more discussion about that.
Examples with Implied Odds Preflop
You hold a pocket pair – Set Mining. Your chance of hitting a set on the flop is 7,5 – 1.
This means that you need to be able to win 7,5 times the amount called in average when you hit a set (for the moment simplifying by assuming you don’t win unless you hit the set and you always win when you hit, see below).
Let’s take a deeper look at what that means with an example.
Let’s say you are playing $0,5 / 1 and someone has raised to 3. You call. The pot is now 7,5. Opponent bets 5 on the flop. You call. The pot is now 17,5. Opponent bets 13 on the turn and you call. The pot is now 43,5. On the river opponent checks and fold to your bet. In this example you win slightly less than 7,5 – 1. The situation will be similar if you raise on the flop instead of calling and opponent checks on the turn and folds to a bet. Sometimes opponent will call bet of half the pot on the river in which case it has netted you $43. But this will surely not happen the times they don’t even have a pair.
It is easy to see that it is rarely correct to call with a pocket pair against a single opponent unless he is particularly willing to put a lot of money in the pot with a semi-strong hand (based on implied odds for hitting a set alone).
Assume his 5 % range is AA-99, AK, AQ. Exactly what a 5 % range consists of varies from opponent to opponent, but this is a common top-5% range. This opponent will have an overpair or a strong pair by the turn about 40% of the time. But some boards will be so scary that he will not commit. Let’s assume he is willing to commit 30% of the time and the rest of the time will only bet one barrel and fold to resistance:
0,3*60 + 0,7*9,5) – = 25
This is slightly more than the 7,5*3 which is needed for call to be profitable on implied odds alone. This scenario would be similar if he has 3-bet and you call. Let’s assume you bet 3 and he raises to 9. If he misses he is only willing to pay one barrel – let’s assume he bets 14 on the flop. In this scenario you consider calling 6 big blinds and you need to win in average $48 the times you hit your set.
0,3*120 + 0,7*26,5 = 54
Which makes it profitable to call. If the same opponent only has 100 big blinds (less than 20 times the call amount of 6) the call is 0 in EV – meaning it doesn’t matter if you fold or call.
Let’s assume the same opponent on a 10 % range consisting of AA-22, AK, AQ, AJ, KQs. Now he will have an overpair or a strong pair by the turn about 15 % of the time. Sometimes he will have a fairly strong pair and be willing to commit 2 bets. For simplicity let’s assume he commits about 15% of the time and only pays one barrel 85% of the time.
0,15*100 + 0,85*9,5 = 23
This is almost enough, but not quite – even assuming he will commit 100 big blinds. And you rarely know for sure what an opponents range will be in a certain situation AND that he really will be willing to commit with a semi-strong hand. So to compensate for this uncertainty the guidance recommends a 5 % range as max.
Let’s take a look at another opponent, a competent but aggressive TAG who is often willing to double-barrel bluff. But not willing to stack off with only a pair. Let’s assume he bets 3 preflop, 5 on the flop, 10 on the turn and calls 12 on the river with TPTK or overpair. Let’s assume he C-bets on the turn 75 % of the times when he has a weakish hand and folds to a bet the other 25 %. Let’s assume he calls the river bet with TPTK or overpair 100% of the time (reasonable since the bet is only 1/3 of the pot).
5 % range:
0,3*31,5 + 0,7(0,75*19,5 + 0,25 * 9,5) = 9 + 10 + 2 = 21
This is not enough to make a call profitable. So advice is to not try set mining against a lone, competent TAG based on implied odds alone, even if he’s very aggressive. The scenario is even worse if he is on a wider range (which he normally is).
There are some exceptions when the stacks are shorter, if the raiser is willing to often stack off when missing the flop. For example if effective stack size is 30 big blinds and opponent will be stacking off most of the time with AK and AQ on missed flops it can be profitable to call if opponent is playing a 5 % range and is willing to stack off 80 % of the time.
The second scenario is much more complicated. There is a risk of losing to flushes and straights, there is a risk that opponent will not C-bet at all etc. But examine one scenario to support the rule-of-thumb:
Opponent is TAG and raise to 3, there is one caller ahead of you. In this scenario opponent has range of 10%, will fire 2 barrels after missing the flop 30% of the time and with TPTK or overpair will call a bet of slightly more than 1/3 of the pot on the river 100% of the time. The other opponent folds on the flop.
0,15*49,5 + 0,85(0,3*29,5 + 0,7*14,5) = 24,5
If we assume that there is a raise behind and you have to fold, it is still (barely) enough to make set mining profitable.