06- 3-05, LearnTexasHoldem:
Betting Versus Calling
New players often overvalue slow playing. It is ok to trap opponents, but with marginal hands that are worth calling, a bet is usually a better play.
A bet in poker can win two different ways while a call can only win with one. A bet can win by forcing an opponent to fold or by showing down the best hand, a call can only win by showing down the best hand.
An example of this might be if you were playing heads up and flopped bottom pair. Notice if you bet, you might get your opponent to fold a better hand, but if you just try to check and call the whole way, you'll have to have the best hand to win.
When you practice this aggressive approach to poker, do it at the lower limit games. Poker Stars always has good traffic in that section. Only move up in stakes when you can beat the low limits consistently.
A good style of poker consists mainly of betting, then of folding and calling. That isn't to say that there isn't a time to call, because there certainly is, but you can't win much by just being a checker and caller.
Sometimes flat calling is preferable, though, because you intend to show the hand down.
An example of when calling is often the right strategy is when you are up against a super aggressive player.
If you just call their bets, they keep firing away with anything, while if you were to raise them, they might only keep playing if they have you beat.
For example, let's say you have A4 and flop top pair against a super aggressive player.
You know he'll keep betting to the river if you check to him, so you just check and call. If you were to check raise, it signals to him you have an Ace and he might only keep playing if you are beat, while he would fold a smaller pair. You'll get the most value from the hand if you just check and call the whole way (and you'll limit your risk).
Lastly, many pots are won or lost purely based on what we call "initiative." (Granted they aren't huge pots, but they are worth something.) Initiative is when you are in the drivers seat and bet into a pot.
Let me give you an example...
Let's say you are in the big blind with only one limper and the small blind in the hand. The flop comes back 552. Most likely the first person to bet into this pot will win it. If you play poker well, often times the preflop raising initiative will be enough for you to win some pots unimproved on the flop.
Let's say you hadn't raised in a while and raised AK off suit. One person called you. The flop comes back J-T-4. The opponent has T8 or A4. He checks, and you bet the flop, like you normally do when you raise preflop.
A good percentage of the time, the opponent will just muck on the flop, because he/she assumes you have a big hand.
Another example might be if you have TT preflop and raise, get one caller and bet into an Ace high flop. You would probably get the person with JJ to muck, all because you have "initiative."
Contrast these examples with when you didn't raise preflop, no longer are you in the drivers seat so someone else bets and forces you out. Don't fall into the trap of thinking aggression alone will make you a winner because it won't.
You still need to show down winning hands, but you can pick up a lot of small pots and make it harder to play against you if you use initiative to your favor.