The poker term “call” is one of the most basic tenets of the game. It’s also one of the most fundamentally important concepts to understand.
To call in poker is to match the bet amount of a player who’s acted before you. Doing so allows you to remain in the hand and have a chance at winning the pot.
Let’s take a look at what it means to call in a game of poker:
What is Calling in Poker?
Call is one of four decisions a player can make when the action comes around to them in a poker game. Those four decisions look like this:
Depending on the situation, some of these options might not be available when the action is on you.
Calling becomes an option when a player in front of you bets. When it comes your turn, you must at least match the amount of that bet to stay in the hand. If you don’t want to call the bet, you must fold, surrendering your opportunity to win the pot.
Examples of Calling in Poker
Let’s take a look at an example hand beginning to end, and see how calling (along with the other three basic actions) apply to a poker hand.
The small blind and big blind post mandatory bets before the hand begins. The first player to act then gets the opportunity to either call the amount of the big blind, raise (make the active bet a higher amount), or fold.
Once that player acts, all other players can either call, raise or fold.
For instance, let’s say you’re sitting in a $1/$3 No-Limit Hold’em cash game at the Lodge. The $1/$3 notation means the player in the small blind position posts a $1 mandatory bet before each hand. The big blind position must post $3.
Each player is then dealt two hole cards, and the preflop action begins with the player to the direct left of the big blind. That player can either call the big blind amount (putting $3 into the pot), raise (putting at least $6 in the pot), or fold.
Let’s say the first player calls. The next player can then call, raise or fold.
If the first-to-act player were to raise to $10, the next player can still call, raise, or fold. The call would now cost $10, however.
In any hand, a player must either call the amount of the active bet, or raise, to stay in the hand.
Once the preflop betting round ends, the hand goes to the flop. The amount of the active bet resets to zero.
If the amount of the active bet is zero when the action gets to you, you can check. Checking means not putting any money into the pot, and passing the action to the next player. You can also raise.
Let’s say three players are in a hand on the flop with $30 in the pot. The first-to-act player checks, and the second player bets $20.
The third player can then either call (match the $20) raise to a larger amount (must be at least $40), or fold. Suppose the third player calls.
The action the goes back to the first player, who can either call, raise, or fold. If they call, all three players advance to the next betting round. If they fold, the other two players advance to the next round.
If the first player were to raise to $80, the second player must either call the $80, raise or fold. Note that since the second player already has $20 committed to the pot, a call costs $60 more.
If a player bets or raises, and all players behind them fold, the hand ends, and the player that made the last bet or raise wins the pot.
In the last betting round (known as the river), if a player calls a bet/raise, and no other players remain in the hand, the players still in the hand go to showdown. The player with the best hand according to poker hand rankings wins the pot.