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Pay Attention To Their Calling Ranges

by Alex Fitzgerald |  Published: Jun 18, 2023


I get asked this question all the time.

“What is a simple adjustment that any poker player could make that would dramatically increase their profit?”

The answer to this is that people never pay attention to what their opponent is calling with preflop. If they did, they could win more orphan pots and stop pissing away continuation bets constantly. This all adds up to a ton of money over the years.

Let me explain.

Many aspiring poker players will continuation bet every time they see the flop when they were the preflop raiser. They believe that they have to keep betting because they are representing a good hand with their aggression.

The cold, harsh truth is that your opponent is likely playing their own hand. Most people play in low- to middle-stakes games. In these games, some people certainly can take themselves seriously and have some game, but many of them are just playing their cards. They don’t care much about what you’re representing. If they have a pair, they likely are not going to fold.

Whenever you are the preflop raiser and one person calls you, you need to ask yourself what they are calling you with.

Let’s say the person called you from the big blind. That is likely to be someone who is completing the bet with any slightly connected or suited hand. The reduced price entices them to get involved. Versus this wide range, you can continuation bet more often. Your out-of-position opponent likely missed on most flops. There is a good chance they are going to fold.

Where things get trickier is when somebody cold calls you from the button or cutoff.

You need to know more about your opponent at this stage. If you know that they are a serious player who studies often, you know they are careful with what they cold call with. They know that the play is weak to begin with, because they would have three-bet with their premiums, so cold calling has capped their range. This range tends to be solid suited connectors, suited aces, big cards, and pocket pairs.

Versus this player, you do not want to continuation bet on boards that have an ace, middle cards that are connected, or multiple high cards. They likely have hit that board and are not going anywhere. If you flopped nothing, you can go ahead and just check-fold your hand. Saving all those big blinds will add up at the end of the year.

Even if you believe it is possible your opponent missed a decent percentage of the time, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily bet. They are in position. They study poker regularly. They know they need to float you with some regularity. You will need to also have a plan for the turn and river. If you do not have a plan for the turn and river, it’s much better to just let it go.

If you end up having to check and then fold in a few of these situations it is not the end of the world. In the future, you can check-raise a top pair with a solid kicker and get additional value. This will teach people that your checks are not necessarily always indications of weakness.

Now, let’s say a typical recreational player calls you from the button or cutoff. This range is closer to the big blind’s calling range. It’s likely to be suited aces, suited kings, suited gappers, unsuited big cards, small pairs, medium pairs, suited aces, unsuited aces, and so on. This range is going to miss often, so you should continuation bet more versus this opponent.

However, remember that they are in position. Players tend to want to call more when they’re in position. In fact, they should call more. They get to see if you check the turn. If they believe your check on the turn indicates weakness they can then bet and take the pot.

For this reason, you will need to be prepared to fire multiple bets when the board is likely to have missed your opponent. Say the board is Q-5-2 rainbow. Your opponent really can only have the queen, some middle pairs, or nothing there. However, combination-wise, their most likely hand is a high card or suited hand that is waiting to see if you’ll blink on the turn. You should consider double barrel bluffing in this situation.

What if someone cold calls you from an earlier position? The general rule is that people cold call with better hands from earlier positions. People get a little bit more wary about cold calling when so many players behind them can squeeze. They know it is more likely that someone will wake up with a hand if several players are yet to act. For this reason, they might fold more of the speculative suited gappers and unsuited big cards.

Of course, there are many people who don’t care much about position. If they want to see the flop, they are going to see the flop dammit! Versus these players, you do not need to be as cautious when they cold call you. If a thinking player cold calls you from early position, you want to pump the brakes regularly. If a gambling-style player just wants to see the flop, you can continuation bet more often.

This leads us to an obvious question. How do we know if we are dealing with a recreational player or a serious player? How do we separate the different cold calling ranges? How do we know when to bet and when to give up?

The answer to this question is showdowns. When you are not involved in a hand you want to pay attention to the players around you. This is a game of intelligence gathering. If they’re going to give away free information you want to take that to the bank.

Recreational players will be cold calling often preflop. Even when they do fold, it will look like it physically pains them. At showdown, you will notice they have more speculative hands that they called down with.

If you see this kind of player, know that they are playing to see flops. That is how they relax. They are there to gamble and have a little fun. You can continuation bet more versus their wide ranges until they show you that they are more aggressive.

If you see someone who is comfortable with folding regularly preflop, you want to be careful with that person. If that same person is always showing down solid hands on the river, you want to be doubly careful. Save your continuation bets versus this person. They will not get involved with you regularly, but when they do, they are going to have it. ♠

Learn how to play A-K when it misses the flop!

Alexander Fitzgerald is a professional poker player and bestselling author who currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He is a WPT and EPT final tablist, and has WCOOP and SCOOP wins online. His most recent win was the $250,000 Guaranteed on America’s Cardroom. He currently enjoys blasting bums away in Ignition tournaments while he listens to death metal. Free training packages of his are provided to new newsletter subscribers who sign up at