A reader, David Monath, sent me an email about my book Reading Poker Tells yesterday, pointing out some inconsistencies in the “Speed of calling” chapter, specifically what I say about immediate calls and what they mean. I wanted to address the inconsistencies here for the benefit of people who read the book.
Most of the book was making a lot of sense, but I ran into some questions in the ‘Speed of Calling’ section under “During-Action Tells.” The second sentence of the second paragraph says: “An immediate call will usually eliminate hands like 2-pair or top pair, good kicker from their range.”
However, the next paragraph says, “In my experience, an immediate call is … something where the value is obviously apparent. Or else it’s a hand like top pair, good kicker…” While I understand there are no absolutes, the two statements appear to be in complete opposition. Does an immediate call “eliminate hands like 2-pair or top pair, good kicker,” or instead /indicate/ that “it’s a hand like top pair, good kicker?”
It’s fitting that he picked out this section as being bad. Out of the entire book, this chapter was the one that I struggled with the most. I even rewrote this section a few months after publishing and republished the book, because I wasn’t happy with it. I think I must have introduced some errors in it when I rewrote it. It’s obviously still got problems and I should have spent more time on it.
Keep in mind in this section I’m talking about calls that happen immediately, as in a second or less. Very fast. If I could rewrite this section now, after having time to think about it more, I would rephrase it to sound more like the following paragraph:
When someone calls a bet immediately, it tells you that they have ruled out raising or folding almost immediately. This is the main thing to be considered. When most people have a hand that could be worth a raise they are going to spend time thinking about whether they should raise it, even if it’s a close decision. While occasionally a player (usually a good one) will just call immediately with a very strong hand, it is not a very common occurrence. So when someone calls a bet immediately, I usually think that it is likely the player has a medium-to-decent strength hand or he’s got a draw that has obvious strength.
The example pointed out in the email, regarding when a player might have top pair, good kicker, was badly mis-stated. What I was trying to say, but didn’t do, was that a strong hand or a weak hand varies based on what’s on the board. In some cases, depending on the board, top pair good kicker could be considered a very strong hand that deserves at least some consideration for a raise. In other cases, top pair good kicker is of medium strength and not worth thinking about a raise.
For example, if the flop comes AT2 rainbow and your opponent holds AK, he would be unlikely to call immediately, because his hand is very strong for the situation. Or at least it is imaginable that most players would think about a raise in that spot.
On the other hand, if the flop comes 259 rainbow, and your opponent has A9, that could very well be a hand that someone would immediately call with, because it’s easily imaginable that’d be a hand they’d auto-call with but not consider raising with.
Main point, though, is that if the opponent had a set or 2-pair on either of those boards, it’s unlikely they’d call immediately.
As I’ve said in earlier blogs and I think I talked a bit about in the book, this behavior will be influenced by a few things:
- How quickly the player’s call is to when the new card(s) came out
- How significant the bet is (for example, an immediate call on a significant turn bet lets you narrow a range down more substantially than an immediate bet on a small flop bet)
- The texture of the board (for example, on a wet suited flop, there are more drawing hands that could be considered worthy of an obvious, immediate call but not a raise)
- How aggressive the bettor is perceived by the player (for instance, a player is more likely to call immediately with a wider range if he is playing against someone who he perceives as loose and aggressive)
Thanks, David, for pointing this out. I very much appreciate hearing criticisms because it makes me think more critically about the subject.