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Calling all hands!

18 April 2005

Dear Mark,
What are you thoughts about poker players who call an abnormal amount of hands? I find them very frustrating to play against. Is there a way to beat them? Tom C.

Calling a hand in poker is essentially matching the current wager. For instance, if there had been a bet of $2, then a raise of $2, it would cost a player $4 to call. Calling a bet is the cheapest and the most passive way to remain in a hand.

In the lingua franca of poker, a player who is forever calling hands is dubbed a calling station. Like you, Tom, I find them frustrating, though beatable to play against. You prevail over constant callers by obviously making your hands, and once you have identified a calling station, knowing they often fail to press their advantage when they have relatively strong cards.

Calling stations by and large tend to play passively, a style of play that is characterized by the reluctance to bet and raise. Contrast that to a loose player who plays more hands and holds on to them longer; a loose-passive player who will call with almost anything, but raise only with very powerful hands; an aggressive player whose play is characterized by frequent raising and re-raising; or a tight player who generally plays fewer hands and folds them earlier.

Unfortunately, as you well know, Tom, calling stations will hit more backdoor and other unlikely draws than most players, and that is why they can be annoying to play alongside.

The style of play that has worked very well for me over the years against most players, including pesky calling stations, is being tight-aggressive. Tight-aggressive players are very selective about the cards they play, but aggressive once they get involved with a decent hand. It is a playing style, Tom, I highly recommend.

Dear Mark,
Do you know if the game of Caribbean Stud Poker originates from the Caribbean, or by some game maker in Nevada? Kenneth H.

Caribbean Stud Poker, a five-card stud poker type game without the luxury of a draw, was invented and first offered in 1988 in an Aruba casino. Though the game has skyrocketed in popularity all over the world, popular or not, the house edge is still a tough beat at 5.3%, with the progressive bonus side bet at 48%.

Dear Mark,
In sports betting, what is the difference between taking odds and laying odds? Benny F.

With sports wagers, you can either be "taking the odds" or "laying the odds." A bettor who is "taking the odds" is wagering an amount that is less than they will receive if they win; that is to say, if you wager $100, you would win more than $100.

What "laying the odds" means is that some odds are so high in favor of the likely winner, that winning wagers are paid an amount less than the amount wagered.

Gambling quote of the week: "Always remember, the first thing a gambler has to do is make friends with himself. A lot of people go through this world thinking they're somebody else. There are a lot of players sitting at this table with mistaken identities." Pug Pearson, Fast Company (1975)

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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.