Pre-Flop Calling Ranges Guide

When faced with a raise during the pre-flop betting round in Texas Hold'em poker, each player has three options:

1. CALL: match the bet put into the pot

2. RAISE: bet more than the player who raised

3. FOLD: end your involvement in the hand and pay no more chips into the pot

Players normally fold or raise when faced with a pre-flop bet, but below we'll run you through instances when calling is the right decision. This article is not about limping (calling the Big Blind when there have been no pre-flop raises), it's about how you should react to a pre-flop raise.

On this page, you will find:

2 mins | How to play your position pre-flop made simple


Position Is Important

The strategies in this article are based on a nine-handed game.

  • Early position applies to Under the Gun (player to the left of the big blind) and UTG+1

  • UTG+2, UTG+3 and Hijack are considered middle position

  • Cutoff, Dealer (button), as well as Small Blind and Big Blind (given this relates to pre-flop play exclusively) are considered late position

There are many factors that come into play when deciding whether to call a pre-flop raise. The first thing to note is the position of the raiser.

Raises From Early Position

If the player is from one of the two early positions, it should be an indication they have a really strong hand such as a monster pocket pair (AA, KK, QQ and maybe even JJ) or a suited Broadway (A-K, A-Q, A-J and possibly K-Q or K-J).

If you're going to call, you need hole cards that play well against this type of hand. Aces with medium or low kickers are not advisable, because you are likely going up against an ace with a much better kicker or a high pocket pair. Let's say you have A-8 offsuit: against these cards A-K suited and pocket jacks both win more than 70% of the time. In other words, you are dominated by any hand that should be in your opponent’s pre-flop raising range.

Suited aces don't fare much better. Let’s say this time your A-8 is suited: both pocket jacks and A-K suited will win more than two thirds of the time against your suited A-8. Still dominated.

However, the odds shift significantly for suited connectors. Let's say you have T-9 suitedA-K suited is still favored, but its winning odds drop to about 61%A-K offsuit is even lower at 59%. The odds are similar all the way down to 5-4 suited.

A pocket pair dominates suited connectors, so you have to be careful playing this kind of hand, but if you think your opponent is playing a monster ace then it might be worth making the call.

Unless you are calling from one of the blinds, you will have the advantage of position on subsequent streets. If the early raiser comes out firing after the flop and you didn’t connect with the board at all, it's an easy decision to fold. If they check the flop and you missed but maybe have a backdoor straight or flush draw, you can decide to take a free card to see if that improves your hand.

If you're deep-stacked and confident in your ability to play with position, suited connectors can pay off against monster pocket pairs.

Raises From Middle and Late Positions

If the pre-flop raise comes from a middle position, then it is reasonable to expect this player's opening range has expanded slightly compared to the early position raises. In middle position, players will open with medium pocket pairssuited aces, even hands like J-T suited. As a result, the kinds of poker hands you should call with also expand. Aces with weak kickers are back in play, as are medium pocket pairs.

If the pre-flop raise comes from late position (cutoff or button), the player may be attempting to steal the blinds. Calling with second tier hands (like K-8 suitedmedium pocket pairs and any ace) is reasonable here.

This is when intelligence on your opponents is vital. Keep an eye on how many times the players to your right raise from either the button or cutoff, especially if it has folded to them. If they are a serial blind stealer then calling to see a flop could pay off, as they may be opening with less than optimal hands.

You also want to watch how many times they make a continuation bet (C-bet) after the flop. Players who try to steal lots of pots are prone to making lots of C-bets. One pattern to watch for is a pre-flop raise, C-betting the flop and then checking the turn.

A final note about position is to remember if you call from the big blind (or from the small blind and the big blinds folds), you will be playing out of position on subsequent streets. If you are not confident in your ability to play out of position, then folding might be your best move.

Bet Size Is Key

The size of the bet you need to call should be another major consideration. Calling is most likely an acknowledgement you are behind in the hand. Therefore, don't risk a significant amount of chips entering hands in which you suspect you trail.

In a multi-table tournament, the standard pre-flop raise is somewhere between two and three blinds (early in a tournament, when blinds are low, raises can be in the 5-6 BB range or even higher). Late in a tournament, effective stack sizes are smaller and every chip is precious.

Standard pre-flop raise: 2-3 BBs

Early in tournaments: 4-5 BBs

If your stack size is under 30 BBs, calling pre-flop should almost be eliminated from your repertoire. You don't want to risk 10% or more of your stack playing a hand where you need to hit the flop to have a reasonable chance of winning. You need to be protecting your chips and should focus on playing premium hands and taking advantage of position.

If your stack size is over 30 BBs, you've got enough flexibility to take a chance on a hand every once in a while, but you don't want to be loose with your chips. Pick your spots judiciously in these instances. You need to have a reasonable expectation that the post-flop action will be down to two players. You want to avoid finding yourself in multi-way pots with draw-heavy hands.

If you have one of the larger stacks at the table, you can loosen up and take more chances.

< 30 BBs: Protect your chips and focus on playing premium hands.

> 30 BBs: You can take a few more chances but don't be too loose.

Stack Size Matters

A final consideration when deciding whether to make a pre-flop call is the stack sizes of the opponents who have yet to act.

Be wary of the short-stacked players (10 BBs or less in tournaments or about 25 percent of the minimum buy-in for cash games), as they are apt to go all-in at any moment. There is nothing worse than putting chips into a pot and not seeing the flop.

Pre-flop Ranges Chart

Ranges are hugely important in poker. If you understand ranges, you may be able to predict what hand your opponent has. This will greatly benefit you when it comes to deciding whether to fold, call, or raise before the flop.

We recommended you use the standard poker hands odds chart below to familiarize yourself with hands that have the best chance of winning against random cards. This will help give you a better idea of your opponent's range based on how they act before the flop.

Note that the table includes both suited and offsuit combinations – suited combinations will generally be around 2% stronger (e.g. A-Ks is a 68% favorite while A-Ko is 66%).

A

K

Q

J

T

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

A

85%

68%

67 %

66 %

66 %

64%

63 %

63 %

62%

62%

61 %

60 %

59 %

K

66%

83%

64 %

64 %

63 %

61 %

60 %

59 %

58%

58%

57 %

56 %

55%

Q

65%

62%

80%

61 %

61 %

59 %

58%

56 %

55%

55%

54%

53%

52%

J

65%

62%

59%

78%

59 %

57 %

56 %

54%

53%

52%

51%

50%

50%

T

64%

61%

59%

57%

75%

56 %

54%

53%

51%

49%

49%

48%

47%

9

62%

59%

57%

55%

53%

72%

53%

51%

50%

48%

46%

46%

45%

8

61%

58%

55%

53%

52%

50%

69%

50%

49%

47%

45%

43%

43%

7

60%

57%

54%

52%

50%

48%

47%

67%

48%

46%

45%

43%

41%

6

59%

56%

53%

50%

48%

47%

46%

45%

64%

46%

44%

42%

40%

5

60%

55%

52%

49%

47%

45%

44%

43%

43%

61%

44%

43%

41%

4

59%

54%

51%

48%

46%

43%

42%

41%

41%

41%

58%

42%

40%

3

58%

54%

50%

48%

45%

43%

40%

39%

39%

39%

38%

55%

39%

2

57%

53%

49%

47%

44%

42%

40%

37%

37%

37%

36%

35%

51%

Pre-Flop Calling Ranges FAQ

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