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NLHE Foundations #03: Calling to Close the Action in No-Limit Hold’em

NLHE Foundations #03: Calling to Close the Action in No-Limit Hold’em

This is the third installment in the No-Limit Hold’em Foundations Course. Before you read this lesson, you should have completed lesson 1 and lesson 2, and this includes doing the exercises and posting them in the forum threads for each lesson. Also make sure to sign up for the course in this main thread because I’ll be PMing people and working with them directly in addition to what you see happening in the threads.


When you have the option to call to close the action, there are two possible scenarios that you’re in. The first is that your opponent has went all-in, and you’ll be able to call with more cards to come but no money left to bet. The second scenario is that you’re the last to act on the river, and you’re facing a bet or raise. Being able to correctly analyze situations where you can call to close the action is just as critical of a skill as being able to correctly analyze bluffs in a vacuum. Luckily, it’s not very complicated, and believe it or not, you’ll use almost an identical process.

The Process

Start off by dividing the amount you have to call by what the total pot will be after you call. This is the amount of equity you need to make your call profitable. You’ll notice that this is almost the exact process you used to determine how often you needed your opponent to fold to make a bluff profitable.

Next, you’ll look at your hand and compare it to the range of your opponent(s) and estimate your equity when you call. You’ll compare this to the value you just found above to try to decide if your call is profitable.

Some Basic Examples

This isn’t a very difficult concept to learn, especially if you did your homework with the second lesson. However, we’re still going to look at a few examples to show you how this works and what you can do with it.

Note: Notice that we aren’t really having to count hand combinations for this calculation. That type of counting mostly only applies to bluffing scenarios so that we know how often our opponent is folding and other types of range analysis where we need to know more than just the total equity of his range.

Getting Shoved on Pre-Flop

It folds to the small blind who had a stack of $2.00 in a 10nl game before posting the blind. The small blind goes all-in, and you’re in the big blind with A8s. We think our opponent is only calling with any ace, any pocket pair and any two cards nine and up. Assuming there is no rake for the sake of simplicity, can we make a profitable call?

Step 1: Find how much equity we’ll need to call.

We’re calling $1.90 (since we’ve already posted the $0.10 blind), and the pot will be $4.00 after we call. We need to have 1.9/4 = 0.475 or 47.5 percent equity to have a profitable call.

Step 2: Find how much equity we think we have when calling.

PokerStove tells us that we have 52.8 percent equity against that range. Since that’s more than 47.5 percent, we’re profitable.

Facing a River Bet

We’re facing two opponents on the river, and we’re last to act. We hold AsKs on a board of KhQs8d4h4s. The river pot was $10 before any betting. The first Villain bets $6, the second Villain calls, and the action is to us.

Suppose we believe that the first Villain would bet with {44, AA, KK, QQ, KQ, AK, KJ}, and the second Villain would call with {KQ, AK, KJ}. Can we make a profitable call here?

Step 1: Find how much equity we’ll need to call.

We’re calling $6, and the total pot will be $28 after our call. That means we’ll need 6/28 = 0.214 or 21.4 percent equity to make a profitable call.

Step 2: Find how much equity we think we have when calling.

Again, PokerStove tells us that we have 17.6 percent equity in this situation with AsKs. Because this is less than the 21.4 percent we would need to call profitable, we should fold in this situation.


For this week’s exercises, I want you to pick one of the two examples above (or do them both if you’d like) and find all of the hands that Hero would be able to call with profitably. Post your answers in this forum thread.

Jesse Eddleman is a gambling writer with over ten years of experience in the industry, and he has written for and many other top online portals. You can learn more about him at

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