Perils of Cold Calling

If you're learning Texas Hold'em one of the first things you'll learn about is cold calling. No, this is not because insurance agents will start calling your house at dinner time asking you to buy poker insurance. Cold calling is a kind of poker calling which means that you enter the game pre-flop by calling the blinds and a raise.

Now, the thing you learn early on about cold calling is that it's a no-no. Don't do it. Is that correct advice?

If you're truly a newbie, yes. But if you want to expand your capabilities in Texas Hold'em, you will learn that there are times to cold call. Certainly not all the time, but all more advanced poker players understand that situation is to the poker player as location is to the value of real estate. That's why "every hand's a winner, and every hand's a loser."


Just as there are times when you've got to fold 'em when you have a strong hand, so there are times when you can win the big money with correct cold calling. Poker calling the right way at the right time is yet another advanced strategy that makes the game more fun and more profitable. And as with all Hold'em strategies, the right or wrong time for this will partly depend upon your poker image as well as your position and the overall situation you face with your particular cards and your opponents. If you can call as cold as ice, you're going to see your bank get bigger.


The first thing you've learned is that you never stay in the game against a pre-flop raise unless you have pocket Tens or a higher pair, or if you have at least a Ten and an Ace or a Royal card and they're suited. If you don't have that and someone else raises, fold immediately. But is this always the most sagacious advice?

  • You're in a late poker position--in fact, you're sitting to the right of the dealer. Everyone who hasn't folded has limped in so far, but the guy to your right raises the bet to four times the BB. You've got pocket Kings. Now, this is a bit of a reverse on the no-no of cold calling. You're supposed to re-raise here, because the odds are very, very strong that you have the best hand in the game right now. Yet, what if you just cold call instead? This "no-no" poker call can make you some big money. It can whittle away the competition and substantially get that pot up there for you to take after the flop, if you don't take the pot pre-flop. And yet at the same time, if the force of luck has also been with someone else and they have the other Kings in their hand or even the Aces high, you should be able to figure it out soon enough and minimize your losses by cold calling that raise.
  • Another time to cold call is when you have knowledge of those you're playing against, and you know that they are loosie goosies and don't know when to fold'em. Even if you don't have one of those big starting hands, if you have something halfway decent like A-Q unsuited or a pair of threes cold calling can be highly profitable as you capitalize on their mistakes or lack of judgment later on during the flop, turn, or even river.

On the other hand...

  • The warnings about cold calling should not be ignored entirely just because you have some experience in Hold'em. The big danger with this kind of poker calling is that it can all too easily be done in an unreflective way, and that leaves you open to being tempted by starting hands that aren't as strong as you think they are. This is where the dire warnings about folding against a pre-flop raise if you have high cards unsuited or a middle or low pocket pair come from.
  • Unless you know for a fact that you are up against a constant raiser who is a maniac, if someone is still in the game after the flop and still raising, assume the worst (for you, that is). Some players who have gotten great luck with the board texture since the flop try to cold call their way to the pot...only to blow half their bankroll. If you started the game K-9 and now you've got KK99 after the river, and you're in a showdown with a guy who has been doing continuation betting while you've kept cold calling, guess what? Yes, he probably has a set of Kings or he has a hand that matches yours but also has an Ace for the kicker. By-bye bankroll.
  • Some players try cold calling their way into a flush if they start the game with a high and middle or low card suited and they pick up a third suited middle card on the flop, or something like that. Don't bet on the flush. You've only got a 6% chance of getting it even by the river. Play more realistically than that.

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