I came across this quote concerning the Chen Formula:

Just calling the big blind is not a profitable way to play NL Hold'em for the most part.

He is basically saying that you should always raise or fold "preflop".

Do you think it is a good strategy? What are the arguments for this?

  • Sorted your question "User link". Also, please use the flag link to alert mods, not answers. Thanks.
    – Toby Booth
    Jun 11, 2012 at 20:23

3 Answers 3


When the author of the post says "**Just** calling the big blind..." (emphasis is mine) he's referring to a strategy style where the only move some players make when opening the action is to call the big blind. I agree that it's a bad choice.

I don't believe he was stating, as you say, that someone should always raise or fold preflop. His use of the phrase "...for the most part." was alluding to the idea that taking any action all of the time is a poor strategy choice.

Sometimes calling, sometimes raising, sometimes folding, depending on your opponents tendencies is best. How you balance those actions, giving preference to any one of them at any time, is what adjusting strategically is about. Your opponents aggression, positional awareness, and table dynamics will all guide your decision here.

In short, I believe you're assuming the author to have said something that he hasn't. It's still an interesting point though.

On the whole, choosing an agressive strategy (prediminantly betting & raising vs. calling) is vastly superior to a passive one considering the most common poker situations you'll be confronted with these days. It's a good place to start. You'll certainly need to progress from this point though.

So, I went through the article quickly and a couple of things stood out to me. The author says it himself, using a starting hand guide like this is if "you haven't quite found your feet when it comes to starting hand selection yet." Experience will eventually dictate your decisions about the best actions to take, even if that actually is calling from the big blind all the time.

Also, the equity distribution of starting hands is NOT linear. The "Chen Formula" tries to equate for this weakness, but is less flexible than is best as hand strengths are relative, not absolute. For example, Many players think AA is just as much better than KK, as KK is better than QQ. It isn't. This graph illustrates that point...

Holdem Starting Hand Equity Distribution Example

The equity advantage of starting hands is exponential. Chens formula give more weight to Aces than to Kings, etc. but that will mean nothing on, for example, a four flush board with no card of that suit in your hand!

Good luck :)

  • 1
    I do not think the author is referring to players in the big blind in this quote. I believe he is indeed referring to limping as opposed to raising. Jun 11, 2012 at 22:05
  • @jeff you're right! My eyes saw it differently! A little rewording and my answer still holds, but thats for others to say.
    – Toby Booth
    Jun 11, 2012 at 23:00
  • Nice answer! Made me think about Chen's formula as a whole.
    – Lucas Reis
    Jun 12, 2012 at 13:06

Just doing the same thing in any given instance is a bad strategy. That's not really the purpose or intention of that kind of strategy.

The Chen strategy looks to be really more of a thumb-rule; just some help to keep my mind right.

A pocket pair losses it's value exponentially as the number of players increases. So raising pre-flop with a pocket pair tends to be a profitable strategy because it lowers the average number of players your hand is judged against. That's one part of this.

Of course the strength of the pocket pair is the other part. My juicy looking pocket pair is inferior to every higher pocket pair AND there are the odds that my pair becomes inferior on the flop. This counters how eager I am to try to chase everyone out of the hand.

So what you really want to know is:

  • "how many shots did he fire" (i.e. what are my odds) and
  • "do you feel lucky" (i.e. what is in the pot as my payout)
Chen's strategy tries to distill that process.

Well, do you feel lucky...?


Not sure if that is from Chen or a comment on the web page.

If you are getting raised late on a steal you need to defend or fold.

If you just call or fold it does not cost them much to steal. They get to see the flop in position. Pre flop is the only time the BB has position. Push back with a raise to re-steal.

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