More on immediate calls (snap-calls) in No Limit Hold’em

In my previous blog post I talked about what immediate calls (snap-calls) of significant turn bets in NLHE might mean. Some responses let me know that I hadn’t made it clear that I was just talking about significant turn bets, as opposed to flop bets, so I wanted to reiterate that. I think some of what I said can apply to flop bets, but flop bets and calls are usually not as meaningful, just because they’re usually smaller in size. In other words, a player could snap-call a regular pot-size flop bet with a wide range of hands, but he is unlikely to snap-call a significantly larger turn bet with a wide range of hands. As with all behavior, the more significant the situation is and the bigger the money at stake, the more meaningful it can be.

I wanted to add a couple factors that affect an immediate call.

One factor is stack size in relation to the pot. My last post about snap-calling a turn bet was assuming that stacks were substantial in relation to the pot. In other words, that both players have big enough stacks after the bet/call of the turn bet to make at least a pot-size bet. If this were not true—for example, if the player facing the turn bet only had enough money to cover the turn bet—then they are going to be capable of snap-calling the turn bet with a much wider range of hands. This is simply because the betting is effectively over. If they have a hand that is worth calling with at this point, then it is more likely they have made that decision quickly. There are no big river decisions to be made or implied odds to think about. So a smaller stack size for an opponent facing a turn bet will lead to a wider range of hands he snap-calls with. (Not to mention that we don’t really care about tells at this point because the hand is effectively over.)

Another factor is the perceived image of the bettor. A bettor that is perceived as aggressive by his opponent will be snap-called more often, while a bettor with a more nitty image will not be. This might be fairly obvious but just in case, I’ll spell it out. A player who is perceived as very tight (nitty) will be given more respect for a strong hand when they make a decent-sized turn bet; an opponent will have more reason to consider whether a call is worthwhile. A player perceived as very aggro (aggressive) will be called down with more hands; because an opponent will call down with more hands, more of those hands will be easier, “snap” decisions.

There is also a third sub-factor related to image. If a player is perceived as very aggressive, an opponent facing a bet can also snap-call for diverse psychological reasons. For example, an opponent who is especially fed up with an aggressive player might snap-call in an ostentatious way, almost as if to say “I’m not scared of you and am calling you down without  much decision.” Depending on how tilted such a player is by their opponent’s aggression, they might call the river bet without much thought, or they might reconsider and fold to a river bet. But their immediate call of a large turn bet is usually going to be very meaningful and would indicate to me (as I elaborate on in my last post) a decent but vulnerable hand or a draw but seldom a strong hand. (If you were the bettor in such a hand and you think your opponent has snap-called you on the turn out of frustration with your aggression or history, knowing how likely they are to call a big river bet in such a situation would obviously be great to know, whether you were bluffing or value-betting. That’s where the value of understanding your opponents’ tendencies and psychological state really come into play.)

To sum up the last few posts, the factors in a snap call of a significant turn bet (and probably some other significant non-final calls, too) are:

  • Time that has passed since new card(s) arrived: the more time that has passed, the less reliable an immediate call will be
  • Strength of hand: players will not often immediately call with a strong made hand because they would be more likely to consider a raise
  • Stack size: Players are more likely to snap-call the less deep they are
  • Perceived aggression level of bettor: players are more likely to immediately call an aggressive player than a tight player
  • Nico Lindenr


    thanks a lot for your thoughts, Zach! I’m glad I found your site. And I look forward to see your next video blog entry, too.

    Beste Gröten, Nico

  • Dan

    Thought I’d add a story of a big call I made last night based off tells:

    I raised w 9h9s in late position and get 3 callers. Flop comes J 7 4 all spades. Chked to me and I bet $35 into a $65 pot and get one call. I noticed the guy who called me looked at his cards before calling (spade check – a typical tell) and looked unhappy when looking at his eyes. The turn came another spade – 5s and he INSTA shipped all in for $180. I probed him, than showed him my card, waited and kinda got a certain look looking away which I read as weakness and called and I was good. He had AJ with no spades. The insta ship when the scariest card in the deck came combined with the other factors made this a call and gave me a decent pot. There’s a lot to be said about tells imo. This was one example where vs a total unknown I made the right decision just based on tells.

    • Zachary Elwood

      Were you able to give specific reasons why you thought he was weak? If you weren’t able to think of objective reasons why you interpreted his actions as weak, you may have just gotten lucky with a guess. I see a lot of people say “Oh, I knew he was weak so I called him”, but this kind of thing doesn’t mean much without specific reasons. Now maybe you felt his actions didn’t make sense from a fundamental logic perspective, which is fine, but I recommend not basing decisions on tells without a real reason you can pinpoint. For example, maybe you saw him act this way in a spot before where he was vulnerable. Or even, maybe you’ve seen most people do x in this spot when they are vulnerable.

      I’m not saying there’s not room for intuition in poker, but the more you can spell out specific reasons behind your actions, the more you will be making well-thought-out decisions instead of just relying on a vague amorphous “feeling” – because those can be very unreliable.

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