At about an hour and four minutes into the movie, Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) explicitly states his reasoning to his partner, Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham):
He deduces the next likely location while considering:
- Vernon, TX (population ~10,000) is a "fair sized town" with a Texas Statewide Bank not a "Midlands Bank."
- the size of the towns and banks which the brothers have robbed so
- that there are only seven Texas Midland banks total
- his hunch that the robbers aren't tweakers (because they were smart and only took loose bills, small denominations, "no ink pack" and no "hundreds")
- that they hit banks early in the morning ("A little early in the morning for tweakers")
- his hunch that they have a plan to raise a certain amount
- he also figures that because Tanner Howard (Ben
Foster) robbed one bank alone, it was not part of the plan.
Because he realizes the robbery in Vernon was an aberration, Hamilton is able to see the pattern. As he states earlier in the film, he is confident that they are not just some meth heads (like Parker suggests while they're driving to investigate the Vernon robbery) and instead these robbers have a goal and a plan how to get it.
Hamilton: Well, these boys, they ain't done yet, I'll tell you that.
Parker: How come?
Hamilton: Well, they're patient. They're just sticking to the drawers, not taking the hundreds - that's the banks money, we can trace that. They're trying to raise a certain amount, that's my guess. It's gonna take a few banks to get there.
He doesn't need to know the goal, and figures that the plan is to rob Texas Midlands Banks in small towns. He then considers the seven Texas Midland Banks in the area and (excluding Coleman and Ft. Worth) the choice is between Post or Childress. He deduces that the one with the smallest population is the obvious next choice.
"The only branch that fits the bill is in Post"
-Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges)
In the film's narrative, knowing the area isn't required for accepting the idea that Hamilton knows what he's doing (despite Parker's "reluctance" to oblige his deductions), but looking at a map and knowing the town populations might help with understanding Hamilton's thinking:
"They aren't gonna mess with a bank in Childress, that's a fairly decent sized town"
-Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges)
This map shows the general area West of Fort Worth, TX (pop. ~800,000) where the film takes place:
- Jayton, TX (pop. ~500) - CLOSED
- Archer City, TX (pop. 1,750) - ROBBED
- Albany, TX (pop. ~2,000) - ROBBED
- Coleman, TX (pop. ~4,500) - THE TOWN THEY ARE IN
- Post, TX (pop. ~5,200)
- Childress, TX (pop. ~6,000)
Vernon, TX (pop. ~10,000) ROBBED
Ft. Worth, TX (pop 800k) MAIN BRANCH
Hamilton: I think I got this figured. The first two banks, they were Texas Midlands Banks. Alright, there's seven branches altogether. The main branch is in Fort Worth. They're not gonna mess with that. Alright, they hit the branch in Albany, they hit the one in Archer City, then there's the one here.
Parker: Which they did not hit
H: There's the one here. Then there's the one in Childress. There's the one in Jayton.
P: That one's closed
H: That's my point: Jayton is closed. That just leaves Post. They aren't gonna mess with a bank in Childress. That's a fairly decent-sized town.
P: Branch in Vernon's wasn't Midlands and they hit that.
H: One of them did.
Post is "the only branch that fits the bill" because Hamilton has figured out that they are focusing on small Texas Midlands Banks by presuming the Vernon robbery was a fluke.