Many of today’s top poker pros believe that cold calling in cash games is dead. But are they correct? In this article, we’ll discuss the merits of calling a raise cold and attempt to answer that very question. So please keep reading to find out whether or not you should employ the cold-call strategy.

A stack of poker chips lies in the middle of a table. The King of Hearts and Five of Clubs can be seen in the bottom-right of the shot. A glass of alcohol also sits on the table.
Is cold-calling a dying strategy?

What does Cold Calling Mean?

Before we get into the theory, we’d better make sure that we understand what is meant by the term “cold call”. A player is said to be “calling cold” if they make the call without having any money in the pot.

So, for example, Player A bet the flop and Player B raised. If Player C made the call, it would be described as cold calling. They were covering the entire bet plus raise with no prior investment on this street.

But if it had folded back around to Player A instead, a call here would not be a cold call. Player A made the initial bet and, therefore, already has chips at stake.

Cold Calling Pros and Cons

Okay, so let’s now take a look at the positives and negatives of calling cold. Before we began, just a quick reminder that we are talking about cash games, as opposed to tournaments. Naturally, both forms of poker have quite different strategies. Cold calling is fairly reasonable in many tournament situations, especially when antes are involved, as this affects the pot odds.

Negatives

Here are the main downsides cited by those who don’t believe in cold calling:

  • You risk a player behind making a squeeze play and putting you in a tricky spot
  • Winning the pot there and then is out of the question
  • You encourage players behind to call what might have folded to a raise
  • These pots often end up with multiple players, thus lowering your own hand’s equity

Benefits

There are some clear positives to a cold call too, including the following:

  • Calling allows a degree of pot control, making flops a little cheaper to see
  • Poor players acting after you may be drawn in by the size of the pot and encouraged to call with weak and speculative hands
  • Small Blind aside, you will be in position post-flop in the likely event that nobody else calls behind

So Should You Ever Cold Call?

There are definitely some benefits, so we would argue that you can occasionally justify a cold call in cash games. However, you should only employ this strategy in a few very specific situations. Let’s look at them now.

Weak Players Left to Act

It goes without saying that you should look to engage fish at every possible opportunity. A poor player naturally has everyone else at the table licking their lips. So, if you have one or more behind you, this can be a good cold calling spot.

If you raise, you increase the chances of pushing them out of the pot. But with a cold call, they’ll see the pot growing. This will tempt them in, as they’ll have a chance to win a potentially big amount for a comparatively cheap investment.

While that’s not a terrible idea, a poor player will make bad decisions in terms of which hands to use. They will speculate too much and overplay all kinds of junk. And forcing opponents into errors can only be a good thing.

Avoid Squeezers

If you are up against a table full of maniacs who love to 3-bet squeeze, forget about cold-calling. This point is the likely reason why a new generation of players dislikes the cold-call play. After all, modern poker is much more aggressive than it used to be.

However, if the players left to act are passive and don’t frequently come in for 3-bets, give it a go. You’ll see many more flops and have a better chance for your hands to realise their equity.

Live Poker

Online cash games are a different beast to live poker. Since players have to travel to a physical card room, expending effort and expense, they tend to play more hands. You don’t want to turn up only to play no hands all night, right? So pots are more frequently contested multiway and preflop raises tend to be larger as a result.

So keep that in mind when thinking about a cold call in a live poker game. You’ll need to adjust accordingly. Perhaps remove some of the hands from your cold-calling range that would make weaker flushes and straights. Since everyone is playing more speculatively, such drawing hands are common. And you don’t really want to be on the end of a flush on a flush bad beat.

Final Verdict on the Cold-Call Strategy

So, what’s the answer? Well, as we have shown, we believe that you can employ a cold-calling strategy in certain spots. And most of the best solver software agrees with that assessment. However, the game of No-Limit Texas Hold’em is not yet fully solved, and may never be. So, in truth, nobody knows with 100% certainty. The debate goes on.

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