When to call raises out of position

Small to medium pocket pairs are tricky hands to play when out of position in online poker and especially no limit hold’em. This article discusses ways to play these trouble hands in a couple of key areas.

I will start this article off with an example, you limp in the UTG+1 seat in a full ring NL200 game with 4c-4h and it is folded around to the button who makes it $9 to go and both blinds fold. The pot is $21 when you call and you both have fairly deep $200 stacks. Your decision to call the raise here cannot just be on pot odds and implied odds because the pot odds are simply not there to make the call and if your opponent is a good solid player then neither will your implied odds to hit your set either.

So you need back up plans to continue but those back up plans do not involve making the same play all the time because that would be horrendous at this level and easily exploitable. You can make any play you like really in a vacuum because it will be potentially profitable in the right situation. Like if the flop comes 8c-6c-2s and you have 4-4. In this situation then a lead could well take your opponent from the hand or wrestle the initiative.

You could even check and go for a check-raise to try and blow away hands like big cards that have few outs and may not in the eyes of your opponent even be the best hand if they hit. In this situation then the 4-4 has a fair chance of being the best hand and you need to take the opportunity. What you cannot do 100% of the time is check-fold because that is terribly weak poker. Your opponent simply steals all pots where there are overcards to your fours and you do not make a set. You simply cannot compensate for that in the tough modern online environment by making a set.

Using a combination of past history, position and flop texture can assist you in coming to a pretty good decision on the flop. For example let us look at another situation here where the raise has come from a relatively early position player and the rest of the table folds and you call with the same hand. The flop comes As-Kd-5h and now you have to decide what to do. I think discretion is the better part of valour here as the ace and king has hit a very big part of your opponents range.

Here I would simply check fold but there are many types of flop that allow you to take the initiative in the hand or to get your opponent off a better hand. Let us say that you decide to check-raise with 4-4 on a 7-7-3 board. In this situation then your opponent could even fold a hand like 8-8 or 6-6 fearing that you have a seven and this could especially be the case if they were somewhat risk averse


Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

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