Should I call when I’m beat?

Should I call when I’m beat?

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Dear Dr. Tom,

I picked up pocket fours in middle position in an aggressive 5/5 No Limit Hold 'em game. I called a $20 raise and three players behind me also called the raise.

The flop came 4-8-9 with two hearts. The original bettor led out and bet $75. I raised to $150, one player called, two players folded and the original bettor called. The turn card came the 2h, which I think is a bad card. The original bettor checks and I make a defensive bet of $150, but the player behind me goes all-in for $450 leading me to believe that he has a flush. The original bettor folds. My question is this: even though I now suspect I am beat should I call the all-in bet and hope to fill up since there is now so much money in the pot, or should I cut my losses and fold?


Dear Mike,

Your click-raise on the flop is fine and dandy: if bettor has the hand he’s representing – an over-pair – he’s drawing thin; if he holds two over-cards, he might be enticed; and furthermore you’ve presented everyone else with poor drawing odds.

As for your turn decision, there’s now $110 (pre-flop), plus $450 (flop), plus $600, and you are facing a bet of $300 – that’s 1160:300, giving you pot odds of 3.9 to 1. Well, your chance of improving is 3.6 to 1 – i.e. slightly better, so you should call. In fact, assuming opponent has a flush, your call nets you, on average, £16.82. There’s a small chance opponent has a higher set, but a much larger chance he has something weird like an offsuit A-9, with the ace of hearts or god knows what. To be honest, people do strange things in poker.

Your “defensive” $150 was a bit iffy. With $560 in the pot, the ace of hearts is getting a price that’s good for him and bad for you. So it doesn’t deal effectively with drawing hands. Conversely, it’s a poor bet if opponent already holds the flush. Since it prices you in for a call as described above, effectively your 150 should be lumped in with the following $300 and the whole caboodle results in you paying pot odds of 1160:450 or 2.6 to 1, which is a losing bet when your set faces a flush. With bet size it’s usually better to take a view in poker, rather then find some middle ground.

Dr Tom

Tags: Tom Sambrook, Strategy,