Big Blind Heads Up Strategy – Facing the Shove  

Pete Clarke | Grand Tour

Last time we played the role of the player going all-in. Now we become the caller. Being on the receiving end of the shove is a much worse place to be for one simple reason:

There is a zero percent chance of you winning the pot by making your opponent fold.

As a general rule, your calling range must be tighter than your opponent’s shoving range at most stack-depths but can be wider than it if you are priced in due to the effective stack being around four big blinds or less.

As always, the ranges below are to serve as a general roadmap and not as a rigid blueprint of how to call against shoves. Remember that many of your Grand Tour opponents will be too placid and will fail to adapt appropriately to the effective stack getting short. Other opponents might overreact and shove close to any two cards.

Our focus today is on what we call the equilibrium calling strategy – the ranges we should call vs. shoves at each stack depth assuming our opponent is playing perfect push/fold poker.

20BB Calling Range

Building a shove or fold game plan 20BB deep is not necessary or advisable. Many players will choose to limp or raise small from the BU in these heads-up situations, but some with a phobia of post-flop decision making will elect to some kind of all-in game. While some maniacs might shove anything, most will jam quite selectively. If you face an equilibrium jamming range at this stack-depth, then you should look to call with this range:

Be careful! Many opponents will have both all-in and smaller raises (and maybe also limps) in their inventory at this stack depth. When they utilise all of these different options, the limp is normally very weak and can contain some hands that an equilibrium push or fold strategy would simply jam. Against these players, we need to tighten our calling range even further vs. the 20BB shove as it will not contain as many weak hands and will be much more Ax and pair heavy.

12BB Calling Range

Now onto the more traditional stack-sizes where opponents will frequently play push or fold. We saw the 12BB shove range for BU in the last episode of this series. Here is the BB’s reaction. As you can see, we call in the BB much tighter than we would shove as the BU. We are lacking the fold equity hat BU enjoys.

The other thing we should note about calling ranges in general is that they are top heavy – meaning loaded with high cards. The BU’s idea is to jam some cute looking smaller cards which are underdogs when called, but are very live against big brute force hands like AT or KQ. These semi-bluff jams hands are profitable due to a combination of fold equity and the ability to be in okay shape when called.

The caller, on the other hand cannot combine fold equity with his chances of winning the pot at showdown. Since his pot odds are little better than 1-1, he needs close to 50% equity to call it off 12BB deep. Therefore, he needs to gear his range towards hands that are favourites against the smaller cards in the BU’s shoving range, and especially, hands that can dominate them. For this reason, we call off a lot of Ax and Kx holdings and stay away from the lower cards which will not be reaching the required equity needed to call; no matter how pretty they are.

8BB Calling Range

This range is wider than most people think, and this is probably the stack depth at which players are most likely to fold too frequently to the shove. Some of the calling hands below are a bit counterintuitive for newer players, and indeed, not a great idea to call with against overly tight opponents.

If you feel like K2o or J7s should be a fold, it might be because your opponent is playing badly enough that you wish to reject these marginal calls in favour of better spots. For example, if Villain is folding way too many big blinds to your own shoves, then you can just fold these hands and continue harvesting his stack through fold equity. If there is no major edge to gain however, then you’ll need to suck up the variance and call these hands.

Grand Tour is a high variance game, but one in which large edges are possible.

6BB Calling Range  

Now pot odds really start to come into it. When your opponent shoves for 6BB, you need to call 5BB to win a pot which will become 12BB. This means that you need just 41.6% equity to break even in terms of chip EV. But we are allowed to pass up profitable chip EV spots for better $EV spots. Hands which are just barely profitable calls become folds if you think your opponent is folding too much in general or making bad call offs. Without such a read, however, here is the range you should call it off with. Again, having a high card will give you the equity edge vs. a lot of Villain’s semi-bluff shoves and so we call primarily with these hands.

4BB Calling Range

At this stack depth, folding too much can be a disastrous error. I recently coasted to victory in a Grand Tour final live on stream when my opponent started folding the majority of his hands at this tiny stack depth. Two things have happened now to make us inclined to call it off very wide.

  1. The pot odds are phenomenal. We need just 37.5% equity to break even on a call. Most hands will have this comfortably against a wide jamming range.
  2. If you fold, your stack is crippled and generates no fold equity whatsoever in the next hand.

Here is the range for calling it off 4BB deep. Many of these hands are reluctant ‘flick-it-in’ calls rather than triumphant ‘fish pump’ calls:

Calling it off at 4BB stack-depth is not about being happy about investing your money – it is usually about necessity. Do not fold in disgust with Q3o – it’s a very big mistake!


Try to be hypervigilant to the everchanging stack size in Grand Tour, it has a massive effect on which hands you should call against shoves.

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