Publish: 2023-11-14 13:27:48
An excellent strategy to improve your game is to tackle all your leaks, from the big ones to the most minor nuances. As preflop play is the most common part of poker, you really should have the least mistake possible.
One deviation from the theoretically preferred strategy is cold calling in various positions when you should not. Of course, you can still alter the optimal strategies when you have a good reason. But it would be best if you deeply understood what is an okay deviation and a –EV decision. Also, there are specific game variants, such as short-deck, tournament play, ante games, etc., where cold calling might be the correct play. We'll focus on 6-max Hold 'em games in a regular environment for small/mid stakes (which means the rake is also high).
So, one of the reasons we avoid cold calling is because it prevents us from winning the pot immediately when everyone folds. If that's not enough reason, consider that, in most cases, the pot gets raked once you get to the flop. Another possibility is that aggressive players will take advantage of you by squeezing a lot. Either way, you get to the flop with a capped and somewhat easily determinable range, which means your opponents can take advantage of you.
There are a few exceptions when cold calling will be profitable, mostly involving your button play. Hence, you'll be in position during the entire hand, and your hands will realize equity much better than they would from other positions. Another possible cold calling situation is from the Small Blind, when there is a recreational in the Big Blind who is unlikely to squeeze and push you out of the pot. So, you'll be able to call small pocket pairs, suited connectors, Axs hands, suited broadways, etc., which you would otherwise fold. Still, these should include only a tiny part of your play. The preferred strategy is only 3-bet with no cold calls.
Calling versus 3-bets out of position
If you check game theory optimal strategies (especially for high rake environments), you'll notice very few calling of 3-bets out of position. Playing out of position with a capped range with a relatively small stack-to-pot ratio is very hard. By the river, you'll almost always have to make tough decisions about your entire stack.
Besides that, consider that the player pool will be under 3-betting almost every position, meaning you'll be up against an even tighter and firmer range. If you notice considerable leaks in your opponent's postflop game, sure, take advantage of it. However, think twice if you are right about who will commit more significant mistakes.
So, we suggest a lot of 4-betting (mainly dominated off-suited broadway hands) instead of calling 3-bets out of position. Hands that could perform well, such as pocket pairs, suited connectors and AQs, and AJs-type hands, can sometimes go into your calling range. Dominated hands, like off-suit broadways, and mid-ranged suited connectors like 98s, T9s, and JTs are a no-no.
Playing too tightThere are various situations you should loosen up preflop. One of the most significant areas is not 3-betting enough. Once the tendency is overfolding to 3-bets, it seems an obvious response to attack that with a broader range. In reality, most low and mid-stakes players are not even near the optimal frequencies.
In position, this should vary between 8-15%, while out of position also somewhere between 6-15%, depending on the players' positions, respectively. For more detailed ranges, check these former articles: #5 What should be your strategy in position at 3-bet pot? and #6 When should you consider 3-betting from the blinds? Then compare which part is missing from your game!
Another situation typically played too tight is calling from the Big Blind. Considering GTO ranges and opening sizes, you should be incentivized to call a ton from the Big Blind since you've already invested 1bb to the pot. Against earlier positions, you can still defend around 20% by calling (calculating with a 2-2,5bb open size). Against the Small Blind, this number should increase even up to 40-45 percent (considering 3bb open size).
A common reason for beginners not to follow preflop charts is that they find postflop play highly challenging with wide ranges. You should consider developing your postflop skills if you fall into this category. Otherwise, by overfolding preflop, you give up a massive portion of the money share that "belongs" to you.
We suggest thoroughly studying defending charts, as we shared the abovementioned articles. Point out parts you are still avoiding, especially from the low ends and include them in your game in the future.
In this article, we named three widespread mistakes small-stakes players commit, such as cold calling with wide ranges when the situation is suboptimal. Consider playing only 3-bet strategy and deviate only in specific cases. Then we've discussed the issue of calling too wide against 3-bets out of position. The pool tendency is massively under 3-betting, so that's one of the worst possible spots for widening your calling range, especially with dominated hands. In general, you should rather 4-bet a lot and even overfold if necessary. Last but not least, we took two examples of playing way too tight; generally speaking, to avoid wide ranges, beginners tend to under-3-bet and under-defend from the Big Blind position.
Put your fears aside and start to implement the correct strategies. You'll notice that spots will become familiar through practice. To become a winning player, you'll need to work on each detail of your game!
Good luck trying out these strategies!