PokerTracker 4

PokerTracker 4

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Analysing Pre-flop Calls in 2Bet Pots, by James "SplitSuit" Sweeney

We’ve discussed how to play three-bet pots in previous articles in this series, but knowing when to call basic pre-flop two-bet raises is just as important and often overlooked these days. Calling a two-bet is commonly defined as the percentage of the time that a player called the first pre-flop raise, given that he had a chance to do so.

Optionally, we could consider Cold-Calling 2Bets Preflop, but I advise using the standard Call 2Bet Preflop stat in this article because it also includes times where you limped pre-flop and then called a raise. The error that players commonly make is either to call the initial pre-flop raise too often or too tightly; often you will find that the optimal play will be within the middle ground of these two extremes. That is why it is helpful to use a personal tracking suite such as PokerTracker 4 to perform post-game analysis and filter so that we only see all of the hands that occurred when we called a two-bet raise, to review how those calls are performing, and to explore some profitable adjustments we can make from the results.

To analyse the times that you have called a two-bet raise in PokerTracker 4 as a whole, simply go to More Filters... and then select Actions and Opportunities > Actions and Opportunities – Preflop > Preflop Calls > Called 2Bet. The Called Preflop filter section will be turned ‘ON’, and a checkmark will now be placed to the right of the Called 2Bet filter option to confirm that this is our selection. Anytime we make a filter selection, we must of course finalise the filter by clicking Add to Filter > Save & Apply Filters.


Over all, the results in any reports you review should now be positive if you have a large enough sample size in your database to override any variance that may occur in the course of your day-to-day play. If your report results do not show a positive win over a usable sample size, then I suggest that you put some serious time and effort into adjusting the decision process you use when calling pre-flop raises, as there may be a flaw in your strategy. Even if you are positive calling over all, you may be calling an incorrect range in certain situations, so whether you are winning or losing here you want to dig down a bit deeper.

Now that we have a general view of our overall profitability when calling two-bets, let’s look at the results of certain parts of our hand range that was used to call two-bets.

To explore how our calling range has performed, return to More Filters (the global PokerTracker 4 filtering system) and then click Add Filter > Hand Values > Hole Cards Range Selection > Holdem Hand Range and select each pair from 22 to 66. Now click Add to Filter to engage the filter and return to the report. This change will allow us to analyse how we performed when calling two-bets with small pairs. If you’re playing optimally, then we can safely assume that most of these calls were done with the intention of “set-mining”. I suggest using the Position report when applying this selection or any similar filters to review the performance of your pre-flop cold-calling hand ranges. Reviewing by position will help you look at your performance when calling raises in position versus the times you called from in the blinds or limp-called from out of position.

If your play is optimal then the filtered report should once again display a positive win-rate when calling with these pairs over a large enough sample size.


If your results are not profitable, then I suggest that you review the actual hands played in PokerTracker 4 to determine exactly why the win-rate is negative in each position. Ask yourself if we caught a few sets only to have an opponent show up with a better hand at showdown? Is it possible that we are catching sets at a lower frequency than the normal expectation? Are we failing to maximise our value when we do catch our set? Are we calling pre-flop in spots where there are shorter-stacked players, or against players that don't offer the right implied odds to make the call profitable in comparison to the amount invested?

Your pre-flop calls should always be made in scenarios which are likely to show a positive expected return of investment in the long run. The more losses you have here, the more work you should want to put into this aspect of your game. Of course, your post-flop lines will also be a factor in your results, although our primary focus is on results which are affected by our pre-flop decisions.

It’s very rare that we will have a large enough sample size that we can look at a single hand, such as 6-5s, but there are other range types we should strive to review such as 7-7 to 9-9, T-T to J-J, K-Q to A-J, suited connectors and junky hands. Continuing to review collections of hands that tend to play similarly (such as 9-8s to 5-4s) will help increase the sample size used within our analysis. This solution is not perfect, but it will give us a better idea of our results than analysing just a few samples of calling with a specific hand.

If you’re a tighter than optimal player, chances are high that you are not calling many two-bet raises pre-flop. Because of this, the results of most of your calls when facing two-bet raises will probably be positive, meaning you probably don’t need to remove hands within your range. But just because you are positive doesn't mean you aren’t passing on good opportunities. You may be accidentally missing potentially profitable situations. If you fit this example, review hands where you called a two-bet to determine how you are winning. If your opponents are check/folding frequently against you, then why not call more in position and look to bet the flop when they check? Or if you are often calling your pairs versus their continuation bets in position, and you find that your are frequently winning when they check the turn, then why not call more hands pre-flop with the intention of floating? Essentially your goal is look to find more winning opportunities and then take better advantage of these opportunities in the future. However, if you are frequently losing when calling two-bets, then we should look to see if you can remove parts of your calling range, or if you just need to improve your post-flop game.

Calling two-bets and performing three-bet raises pre-flop are interrelated. If you cannot call a two-bet profitably, then you are left to either three-bet or fold the hand. If you can call a two-bet profitably, then you should consider if a three-bet is more or less profitable than calling the two-bet in the long run. When you analyse situations where you called a two-bet to remove bad calls from your decision process, you may find additional profitable opportunities in your game.

If your sample sizes are too small, then performing the filters recommended in this article may not show the optimal results you are looking for in PokerTracker 4’s reports. If you find this to be the case, then just spend some time considering the various scenarios we have discussed, and perform this analysis as you make every decision in game to help improve your win-rate. So get to work, run some filters, and start improving your two-bet calling game. Good luck and happy grinding!

James Sweeney is a noted poker coach, and author of the book Dynamic Full Ring Poker: Beyond the Basics, published by Daily Variance. James contributed to the tutorial content development and support of PokerTracker 4 and remains an active player advisor to the PokerTracker management team. His single-serve coaching video content is available at, featuring his newest release The 100K Micro-Stakes System: Crushing 50NL In 2012.

Tags: PokerTracker 4, strategy