This chapter is going to demonstrate preflop strategy and will focus on raising ranges, calling ranges, and 3betting preflop (3B) (aka preflop reraise).
Under the Gun (UTG)
Being under the gun means that you have three players to act that hold position on you; middle position (MP), cut off (CO), and the button (BTN). It also means you have two players to act that are out of position relative to you, the small blind (SB) and big blind (BB). Your UTG raising range should be the tightest of the four non-blind positions. Let’s take a look at a standard preflop UTG range, assuming full stacks and a mix of tags/lag fish (players that play too many hands without purpose)/and loose passive (fish that check call and are easy to extract value from):
- ● 22+ (all pairs)
- ● ATs+ (meaning ATs, AJs, AQs, AKs) (s meaning suited)
- ● AJo+ (meaning AJo, AQo, AKo) (o meaning offsuit)
- ● 98s+ (meaning 98s, T9s, JTs, QJs, etc)
- ● KQo
- ● KQs
- ● KJs+ (KJs and Aqs [which was already covered]) (meaning suited 1 gappers)
This will account for 13% of hands and is a conservative but very solid and profitable preflop
raising range. Your UTG range can adjust based on the game quality you are in.
Add hands like KJo or ATo, because you can make 1 pair type hands and extract value from players calling with weaker top pair hands or second pair hands. The reason we typically avoid these type of hands in tight games is because we will frequently show up with second best 1 pair hands out of position (OOP) and will put us in tough spots and to lots of decisions. Always try to make poker easy to play.
Include hands such as 65s+ or A5s. These hands have a lot of potential and will not often put you into situations where you have weak 1 pair hands out of position. These hands widen your range against likely better players and make you a more difficult and tricky opponent.
You should also adjust your raising range based on stack sizes. For instance say you are UTG and there are two or three players with say 40BB stack sizes (or less). In this scenario you should avoid hands like 22-66 and 98s, and instead substitute in hands like KJo, QJo, A9s, ATo, because against these players you again are simply looking for a top pair type hand to get it in against (These 40bb stack players will generally be very bad and play poorly postflop getting it in with a wide range that doesn’t include many top pair type hands)
Though it should be made clear in the higher MSNL and HSNL (medium and high stakes games) there are players who play a very tight and solid short stack game that are more difficult to play against, however it is uncommon to encounter one of these players anywhere below 3/6NL.
Middle Position (MP)
Being in Middle Position means that you will have one player to act in front of you (UTG) whom you have position on, two players to act behind you (CO and BTN) who have position on you, and two players to act behind you (SB and BB) that you have position on. Middle position is very similar to UTG. You will incorporate a few more hands, however all the same principals apply. Again lets examine a standard preflop MP range, assuming full stacks and a
mix of tags/lag fish (players that play too many hands without purpose)/and loose passive (fish that check call and are easy to extract value from):
● 22+ (all pairs)
● KQo/KJo/KQs/ KJs/KTs
This accounts for about 15% of total hands. Just like UTG this range can be manipulated based on the game quality.
Loose games: You generally want to avoid things like A9o, as its potential is very small. Just like UTG you can still profitably raise 98s and T9s, just do it less frequently. For example maybe you only raise these hands roughly half the time you are dealt them. Use your image/table history to determine the optimal raising opportunity. For the most part in a looser game you want to keep things closer to the vest, so just simply raise less hands in this position. Tight Games:
These games you can open up more from this position, include;
● A8s, A5s
Pending a very weak player, playing 40% or more of his hands, you need to keep in mind that peoples limping range UTG is as tight as it will get for them (even though it could be wide). You have to be careful about isolating in this position because there are two players with position on you that understand you can isolate these players with a wide range. It is ok to try to add a hand like J9s to your range here for the purpose of isolating a weak player (by weak I mean folding too much, whether it be limp folding, or to cbets/double barrels) however if you have one or two tight aggressive opponents behind you that will exploit your extended range you should err on the side of folding to avoid marginal situations.
In the event that these players are in the blinds or you game selected well and you aren’t at a table with opponents that go after you, sure go for it, isolate that limper.
In general you should be 3betting far more in position that OOP.
The only person you can 3bet in MP is UTG. You need to be very cautious when 3betting an UTG opener, because this is where their raising range is likely the tightest (ignoring when they are in the blinds).
Light 3bets are certainly profitable, however the ratio of light 3bet to value 3bet should be weighted heavily towards value. Lets say for number’s sake we value 3bet an UTG opener 80% of the time, and light 3bet 20%.
First lets assign our 3bet range: Value:
- ● AKo/s
- ● Aqo/s (situational)
- ● Ajs (situational)
- ● KQs (situational)
- ● AA
- ● KK
- ● JJ (situational)
- ● TT (situational)
When I say situational I mean that it is possible that 3betting with these hands is marginal to the point where you are not clearly ahead of their range. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t 3bet them, it just means you shouldn’t do it every time and that you should be more inclined to do it in position. A player that plays 14/12 and raises UTG probably raises the top 8% of hands. The top 8% of hands looks like the following:
The equity of these hands against this range are:
- ● AQ (all combinations) 48%
- ● AJs 41%
- ● JJ54%
- ● TT50%
- ● KQs 38%
Light 3bet hands:
- ● 56s-QJs
- ● Axs (x should = 5 most often, as you will be able to flop gutshot+FD+over type hands,but 4-T are all fine as well)
- ● 22-77
- ● KQo
- ● Ajo
It will generally be more profitable to call with small pairs preflop (as I will outline in post flop chapters) however they can certainly make their way into a light 3bet category every once in a while. You generally want to 3bet an UTG opener with 56-T9s or Axs because with the SC’s you will generally avoid second best hands and have tremendous flop potential. The Axs hands will block combinations of AA and AK (which will help avoid him 4betting you) and also have tremendous flop potential. Avoid all other hands as they will form second best hands often and get you in marginal spots.
Anyway, back to examining when to 3bet. We said we wanted to use an 80/20 ratio, 80 value, 20 bluffs. This means for every 4 times you 3bet an UTG opener with something like AK or AA, you want to 3bet him once with 56s.
Just like UTG you should also adjust your raising range based on stack sizes. As stacks get shorter this scenario you should avoid hands like 22-66 and 98s, and instead substitute in hands like KJo, QJo, A9s, ATo, because against these players you again are simply looking for a top pair type hand to get it in against (These 40bb stack players will generally be very bad and play poorly postflop getting it in with a wide range that doesn’t include many top pair type hands) Though it should be made clear in the higher MSNL and HSNL (medium and high stakes games) there are players who play a very tight and solid short stack game that are more difficult to play against, however it is uncommon to encounter one of these players anywhere below 3/6NL.