General concepts

Points of Play

Tournament Play

Going For the Overcall

There is a situation that often arises in online poker that frequently is misplayed even by experts. It arises on the last round of betting in any type of one-winner poker game.  (Hi-Low split is the exception.)

When an opponent bets his hand on the last round of a limit poker game you may want to go for an overcall if there are other players in the pot who still can call behind you. 

By this I mean that you call with a hand that figures to have the bettor beaten, rather than raise, in order to extract money from one or more of the players behind you. 

The assumption is that these players would throw their hands away if you raised, but might call if you merely called. As always, a poker play should be evaluated in terms of how much money it will average for you, as opposed to an alternative play. 

By this criterion, it works out that most players tend to raise too much in this situation, rather than go for an overcall.

Let’s look at an obvious example. Suppose the bettor on your right appears to have a hand that you can beat. If you raise he probably will call, but if he reraises, you are in trouble:

Seven-Card Stud

                                                 
                                               
                                             
                                            
                  
                                                          

If the man on your right bets on the end it is probably better to go for a likely overcall rather than jeopardize an extra one or two bets against a bettor who may possibly have you beaten.

Meanwhile, there are two players on your left who you know will call if you call but who will fold if you raise. Now it clearly is correct just to call, as this should win two extra bets for you while a raise only can win one extra bet and may cost you two or three bets.

However, the example does not have to be nearly this extreme in order to make a flat call correct. In general, any time your poker hand is clearly better than anyone who might overcall behind you, but is not clearly better than the bettor, you normally should try for the overcall.

This action will result in winning two bets on the end (one bet from the bettor and one bet from the overcaller), without risking more than one bet yourself.

The only time to consider raising in this situation is if you seem to have little chance for an overcall and a good chance of getting your raise called by the original bettor or if your hand is so strong that you would welcome a reraise.

It works out, however, that those situations where a raise is correct are rarer than most players think. This is especially true against tougher players who may bet, but then fold when you raise.

Without going into any kind of poker mathematics, suffice it to say that it usually is correct to go for an overcall even if there is only a 50-50 chance that you will get it. 

You are quite sure that the original bettor will call your raise and equally sure that the original bettor will call your raise and equally sure that you have him beaten should you forget about going for an overcall.

Warning:  Do not confuse the aforementioned situation with two similar yet quite different situations:

  1. If there is some chance that a player on your left has a better hand than yours, but might not call your raise, it is critical that you do raise if you have a decent chance of having the original bettor beaten.  You don’t want an overcall if it will cost you the pot.
  2. Similarly, if there are more cards to come, you usually should not go for an overcall if you think you have the bettor beaten.  Unless your hand is extremely strong, you usually would prefer to knock out (or charge) hands behind you that could draw out on you later on.  The overcall strategy outlined earlier is for the last round only.

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