Pre-Flop Calling Strategy

As a LAG, our entire strategy is based on not needing to make a hand in order to win a pot. We accomplish this by playing in position with initiative. Since calling will often find us going to the flop with neither, raising or folding is almost always the best option. Putting money into a pot just to see what happens or to try to “hit a hand” is a fishy and losing play. As a rule, you should only be calling in specific situations for specific reasons. Even so, under certain circumstances, direct or implied odds are too great to ignore, and it is profitable to forgo initiative and speculate. This chapter will give you all the tools necessary to navigate those tricky spots where implied odds governs your decisions.

Implied Odds

Implied odds can be defined as the amount of money you stand to win on later streets, should you call a bet or raise and then make a strong hand. There is no way to know exactly what your implied odds are in any given situation, but you can learn to recognize common scenarios where calling is profitable.

Specific hand types that tend to have strong implied odds are small pairs, suited connectors, and non- suited connectors. These holdings can make well-disguised straights, two-pair, and three of a kind hands. Suited connectors have the added benefit of frequently flopping powerful combo draws.

Opponent Specific Considerations

The type of opponent we are facing weighs heavily into pre-flop flat-calling decisions. Whether an opponent is tight or loose largely determines how the hand will play on future streets. As the likelihood of a player stacking off post-flop grows, so does the value of a speculative holding.

Your implied odds are heightened when facing a raise from a very tight opponent. For example, a player who seldom raises UTG is much more likely to commit to the pot after the flop than a loose player raising on the button. Therefore, the reward for hitting your hand is much higher on average against tighter ranges.

The opposite is true against loose opponents. Since their range is wide before the flop, there is a much smaller chance that they will obtain a post-flop hand that they are willing to commit with. Therefore, against loose opponents, your implied odds are diminished.

Before considering any call as a small stack against an average player, you typically will want at least 3 to 1 direct pot odds. Against loose players, the odds need to be even better. I would look for at least 4 to 1 direct odds before calling a raise against a wide range, a situation that almost never arises. Conversely, against very tight players you can consider a call with slightly worse than 3 to 1 direct odds.

Understanding Reverse Implied Odds

Reverse implied odds refers to situations where you call a bet and make your hand, but are still second best. This concept affects every implied odds decision you will make and is the most important factor when deciding to continue without initiative. As a small stacker, you will want to avoid these situations like the plague. You will rarely have the necessary implied odds to call in most situations. So if reverse implied odds is a concern, then you almost never want to commit more chips to the pot with a speculative hand.

Before the flop, reverse implied odds situations arise by making calls with hands that can make very strong hands which are not the nuts. A good example are suited hands which do not include an Ace. Since many players like to limp suited Ax hands, you will find that your frequency of losing flush over flush will be increased when you consistently call with two cards just because they are suited. Before we go more deeply into calling raises, let’s talk about limping, the most frequent pre-flop calls you will be making.

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