The Tsunami

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Exploiting Players Who Shove too Wide Preflop

When action is jam/fold preflop in no-limit hold’em, I’m very cautious about playing exploitatively. With my knowledge of non-exploitable jam/fold play, it’s just very difficult for me to justify playing guessing games regarding opponents’ preflop ranges. However, I recently played a hand in a live cash game where I called an all-in a tad lighter than the equilibrium calling range. Normally, when talking about preflop jam/fold play, we think about tournaments; however, having a solid handle on preflop jam/fold play is important in cash games as well – since you can be in a game featuring one or more short stacks:

Action is 9-handed at a live $1-$3 no-limit hold’em cash game. I’m SB and about $200 effective against BB. UTG+1 declares he’s going all-in blind. Dealer doesn’t allow him to put his chips in (since he’d be acting out of turn). UTG folds. UTG+1 looks at this cards and then shoves all-in to $40. Action folds to me, and I have AJs. According to, UTG+1 should shove {TT+, ATs+, AQo+, KJs+} and SB should call with {99+, AKs, AKo} if everybody started with $40. Given that everybody behind UTG+1 is considerably deeper, UTG+1 can actually shove a little bit wider if playing non-exploitably – since the other deep stacks have to be aware of each other. Since there’s only one player remaining to act behind me, my playing range expands to {99+, AQs+, AKo} if I’m playing jam/fold.

AJs is outside {99+, AQs+, AKo}; however, I’m quite positive that UTG+1 is shoving quite a bit wider than equilibrium. Furthermore, AJs is part of a non-exploitable shoving range if action folds to me – meaning that shoving to isolate is reasonable. Instead of shoving, I chose to flat, because I felt that BB’s playing range would be the same regardless of whether I called or flatted. (Note that this means I’d also flat AA and KK here).

BB mucked after I flatted, UTG+1 showed KJo, and I held. Good times. There’s no way of knowing precisely what UTG+1’s actual shoving range was. However, I think I had very good reason to deviate from non-exploitable jam/fold. When it comes to exploiting players who shove too wide preflop, there’s one extremely important point to keep in mind:

If you have a hand that you can’t open shove with yourself, then you generally shouldn’t be calling all-ins from someone who’s shoving too wide.

I use the word “generally” because there’s one exception to this rule: you can get chips in with hands outside the non-exploitable shoving range had action folded to you if you know the shover’s range for sure (like any two cards if he shoved blind), and you know that the chips you lose to your opponents are compensated for by the chips you gain from the shover. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to do these types of calculations at the table (and even away from the table), and unless an opponent goes all-in blind, it’s difficult to know precisely what your opponent’s range is. Therefore, I think it’s good practice to use the non-exploitable shoving ranges as a guide for the widest possible range with which I should commit chips to the pot. And the exploitative calling range ends up being something between the equlibrium calling range (given shover’s position and my position) and the non-exploitable shoving range (given stacks and assuming that action had folded to me).

I should probably make one important concluding remark here regarding angle shooting in live cash games. Sometimes, you’ll encounter players who’ll declare an intention to shove all-in blind – but in reality, they intend on looking at their cards and shoving only with top hands. Know who you’re dealing with!

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

P.S. My cEV jam/fold cheat sheets are currently available exclusively to subscribers at PocketFives Training.


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Tony Guerrera is an established poker author, an instructor at PocketFives Training, a member of Team Moshman, and host of the popular poker strategy podcast, Killer Poker Analysis. Tony blogs about decision optimization on and off the felt at


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