Poker Strategy: Calling to Split the Pot
It’s very important to have a sense of humor when you’re a playing poker. There will be times when the board runs out in the unlikeliest of ways, spoiling whatever plans you made heading into the flop. Here’s a classic from no-limit Hold’em: Someone opens from the lojack, you call from the button with Queen-Jack suited, and everyone else folds. The flop is Ten-Nine-Eight rainbow, giving you the nut straight. The lojack bets, you call. The turn is a Jack, leaving you with only the second nut straight. The lojack bets, you call. And the river… is a Queen. Now there’s a straight on the board – and the lojack bets again. What do you do?
Most players would make the call here and not even think about it. Unless your opponent has the King, they can’t have you beat. However, there’s one thing that most players overlook in this situation: Calling to split a pot is not the same thing as calling to win a pot. You have to be “right” with your call a lot more often in this spot to make it worth putting in those chips. Sometimes, you’re just going to have to fold – and laugh it off, instead of cursing your fate.
What to Think About When Calling to Chop
To demonstrate how difficult it is to call for a split, let’s say our opponent in the lojack bets $10 into a $20 pot on the river. Normally, if you’re going to call that bet, you’re calling $10 to win $30; your pot odds are 3-to-1, meaning you’ll break even if you’re right just one in four times. The chop pot, on the other hand, only gives you pot odds of 3-to-2, since you’re calling $10 to win $15. Now your call has to be right a lot more often to break even: 40%, instead of 25.
Should you make the above call anyway? In this case, to make a proper decision, you’ll need to figure out how many combinations of hands in your opponent’s range have a King in them, and see if that ratio is higher than your pot odds. That can be hard to do when you play online poker at Ignition, or even live at the casino, and you don’t have a lot of time to make your decision. Using a solver in between sessions will help you figure out what to do the next time; in the meantime, think twice before calling to chop.