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Correct Calling Ranges vs. Preflop Short-Stacked All-In's

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  • Correct Calling Ranges vs. Preflop Short-Stacked All-In's

    Hoping to get Dave's opinion on this idea of mine:

    Preflop, when one faces a short-stacked all-in opponent (and one is guaranteed to close the action), many people generally believe that as the last player to act, pot odds of 2-to-1 are sufficient to call with any two cards. That's because just about any hand is better than 33% to win against a typical short-stack's shoving range. I discovered today that against weak opponents, this is probably not even close to true. A closer figure would be 2.5-to-1. Here's why:

    Essentially, it's because weak players shove too tight. Consider this hand that I played earlier today:

    PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em, 11 Tournament, 500/1000 Blinds 100 Ante (9 handed) - PokerStars Converter Tool from

    Short Stack (Button) (t3654) (3.5 BB After Posting Ante)
    SB (t12364)
    Panicky (BB) (t28887)
    UTG (t19598)
    UTG+1 (t9662)
    MP1 (t8919)
    MP2 (t3322)
    MP3 (t9615)
    CO (t8150)

    Preflop: Panicky is BB with 9, 3
    6 folds, Short Stack bets t3554 (All-In), 1 fold, Panicky calls t2554

    Flop: (t8508)

    Here, I was getting pot odds of roughly 2.3-to-1. I needed 30.02% equity to profitably call. I thought that this call in particular would be a profitable one, because ideally, the short stack should be shoving very wide here. I wouldn't be shocked if shoving any two cards here would be a correct play for the villain. Against ATC, my equity would be 40.02%, giving me a massively profitable call. But this is what the villain actually had:

    Short Stack had J, K

    I know that this doesn't say much, because one hand doesn't say anything about the villain's range. But, I did some more math, and found this little tidbit out: in order for me to profitably call with 93o, my opponent would need to be shoving almost 40% of hands here. This is where I think the assumption that, "2-to-1 is enough," finds its weakness. Inexperienced players don't shove that wide. People tend to play too tight. The short stack in this scenario had been at my table for six hands prior to this one. He hadn't played a single hand in that time, and had blinded away over half his stack since he was table-switched.

    I don't think most people understand shoving ranges. I've been playing poker for months, and I'm just starting to learn the theory behind good short-stacked play. Most people just know what a hand looks like. It either looks like a good hand (like KK, which is in the top 10% of hands by hand strength), or it looks like a bad hand (like 75o, which is in the top 80% of hands by hand strength). But when a situation arises where shoving 60% of hands is mathematically correct, inexperienced players will look down at K5o and not realize that it's a shove.

    In this case, the villain would have needed to be shoving hands like Q9o and 98s for a 93o call to be correct. I think the villain was inexperienced, and therefore, I think they were only shoving pretty hands. If I assign them Pokerstove's top 25.2% of hands, then I would have needed 2.45-to-1 in order to profitably call. I did not have that, so I think this should have been a fold. A marginal fold, perhaps, but still a fold.

  • #2
    It's a good point Panicky. When I talk about this in my classes in particular, I stress that 2-1 is a good number vs. a wide shoving range. I think many times when people discuss this concept, they lose sight of the "wide" part. 72o for example is slightly better than a 2-1 dog vs. a random hand (1.9-1 dog actually). Random hand though = 100% shoving range. Move their range to 80% and 72o is 2.1-1. Now in practice 2-1 is a reasonable estimate... it's easy to remember and apply in game, and it's usually enough as we're usually not holding the absolute worst starting hand of 72o (vs. that same 80% shoving range even a slightly better garbage hand like 95o is only a 1.6-1 dog, so the number does quickly become favorable). However there are times when 2-1 may not be enough. One of those is when you do have the absolute worst hands like 72o or 82o. But they have to be the complete bottom of the spectrum if even stuff as weak as 95o fairs as well as it does vs. an 80% range. The other, more appreciable time is when you have a tight shover, someone who is NOT shoving a wide range. Now on a short stack they do have to be pretty weak to not be shoving wide, but if they are the type to blind themselves off waiting for a hand, then your point has a lot of validity. Their shoving range isn't nearly as wide as it should be so you need extra compensation in the odds or a relatively stronger hand yourself (ex.- 98s is a 1.7-1 dog to a 25% shoving range, so when I say "relatively stronger hand yourself" I'm not talking "big hand only" type stuff). But the bottom line is the tighter they are shoving, the tighter your calling range becomes and/or the more odds you need. Play around more in stove to feel out these thresholds. umbup: Dave
    Head Live Trainer
    Check out my Videos

    4 Time Bracelet Winner


    • #3
      Thanks for the response, Dave. In this case, the general assumption is that the villain is shoving wide. That's the assumption, because shoving wide the correct play. I've been used to making this assumption, but perhaps a little too liberally, because to a mass of micro-stakes players, 'wide' doesn't seem to mean the same thing as it should in higher stakes play, because there's little understanding of optimal play in micro-stakes games. I've heard a number of excellent players refer to the 2-to-1 idea, but I think in micros, it should probably be questioned on a case-by-case basis, just because micro-stakes players aren't necessarily good at short-stacked play. There are many cases where shoving ATC is the correct play, but you'll find players shoving well under 50%. That's a massive difference, and responding to it with the assumption that they're shoving wide might actually be a leak. So, calling ranges should probably be heavily influenced by reads.

      I'm doing a lot of poker math study lately, so I'll definitely be playing with Pokerstove a lot in the next few weeks. I've ordered a poker book on math, too, which I hear is pretty homework-intensive, so I'm really looking forward to getting it. Fun fun fun!


      • #4
        Good stuff panickyumbup: 93 off with a big stack... I fold, but I tend to be a nit when I get chips... but its the math of the situation that I like.. the math makes it almost a profitable situation to call... this is where so many tinfoilers call donk and how can you call with 93 off and I had KJ sooted...As a big stack your game plan is to accrue chips and make da maney and with your chip count if you lose it like losing 2BB not much, so worth the shotumbup:


        • #5
          I think it's prudent to evaluate on a case by case basis every time, no matter what the stakes. umbup:
          Head Live Trainer
          Check out my Videos

          4 Time Bracelet Winner


          • #6
            Originally posted by TheLangolier View Post
            I think it's prudent to evaluate on a case by case basis every time, no matter what the stakes. umbup:
            true dat



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