As you increase your own preflop aggression you will invariably face more preflop shoves. The good news is that making a +EV decision when facing shoves is actually simple. The bad news is that it requires some practice and repetition for the math to sink into your brain. But in this article we’re going to breakdown the act of calling a preflop shove into 3 simple steps:

1. Know Your Pot Odds

When you face a preflop shove you only have two options (barring multi-way situations): you can call or you can fold. Our guiding light in these situations is the pot odds – or what price the pot is laying us to make this call. If you are getting great pot odds you will end up calling more often. If you are getting bad pot odds you will typically call with a tighter range of hands. Pretty simple.

If you aren’t 100% sure what pot odds are, start by watching this video:

In a typical 100bb situation where you open, they 3bet, you 4bet, and they shove – you are going to be getting about 1.5:1 on a call. So according to the pot odds you’ll need about 40% equity to call. But how do you know if you have enough equity?

2. Know Your Equity

Any basic poker software like Equilab, PokerCruncher, etc. can calculate hand vs hand, hand vs range, and range vs range equity. The pot odds let you know the bare-minimum amount of equity you need to make a call – and the software tells you exactly how much equity you have based upon your assumptions.

Now, in real-time you can’t pull out any of these tools and do the calculation. So the goal is to do enough of these calculations away from the table that they become internalized and you can make a close estimate in real-time. Again, this takes time and effort, but knowing these things is extremely powerful when it comes to making +EV calls preflop.

To make your life easier, I create this downloadable chart for you. You’ll see the equity of common hands vs common shove ranges so you can quickly see how certain hands perform in these spots.

3. Compare & Decide

If you are a cash game player, you are pretty much done. If your equity is lower than the equity required by the pot odds, you just fold and move on. If your equity is higher than the equty required by the pot odds, you snap-call. If it’s close, just use your best judgement and ask yourself if there if your opponent could reasonable be shoving even wider preflop…

all-in calls

If you are a tournament player you also need to consider the value of your chips. Are you making a bad ICM call? MTT players face a lot more all-ins preflop – and they aren’t always in 4bet/5bet/6bet situations either given the smaller stack depths compared to cash games. If you are looking for strategy when calling preflop shoves in a tournament, our PRO video library has multiple videos on the topic made by our tournament specialists.

Showing 4 comments
  • Steve

    Thanks for the chart. I tried running some of the match ups through Pokercruncher and they came out around 4-5% higher than as shown on the chart, any ideas?

    • You’re very welcome Steve! Can you give two or three of the exact matchups that created the disparity so I can dig into it? Thanks!

  • steve

    I was looking at things like the the AK, AQ, AJ matchups, but looking again i’m seeing that the percentages on your charts are the mean averages of the suited and unsuited matchups for the unpaired hands. Thanks for the reply, love the resources!