Preflop: The Fundamentals – Middle Position (MP)

Figure 2: MP’s Raising Range in Yellow Highlights – 14.6%

MP is the player to the immediate left of UTG. Being in MP allows you to open up your pre-flop range a bit more since there’s one less player to act behind you.

Hand Ranges

Generally, I would treat my UTG and MP ranges almost the same. I recommend opening 13 to 16 percent of hands in this position: all pairs, A9s+, AJo+, KQo+, KTs+, QTs+, J9s+, T9s, J9s, T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, 65s. If players behind me are not aggressive, I would include all Ax suited in my opening range.

This is only a standard guideline and your range should change with respect to table conditions. In an aggressive game, I would fold all Axs suited and small suited connectors below T9s.

Limping behind

You shouldn’t always raise after UTG limps. Consider limping behind with hands that play well multi-way (22-55, Axs, and low SCs such as 65s). This benefits you in a couple of ways. Low pairs and low SCs don’t do so well heads-up because they generally don’t flop anything big. By calling, you encourage weaker players to come along, and thus you increase your implied odds. Limping behind also shows that you are not loosely isolating (or raising) the limper every time, which earns you more respect when you do isolate. One downside to this is that a loose-aggressive player from late position may raise your limps a lot. To counter this, tighten up your limping range by folding a lot of marginal hands and isolate the UTG limper with a strong range.

Isolating UTG player

Isolating, or raising, a limper is another alternative and should generally be your default play as oppose to limping behind. You want to have the betting initiative because it allows you to take down most pots pre-flop or post-flop. Whether it’s best to limp behind, raise or even fold will depend on a couple factors.

  1. Is Villain likely to fold to your pre-flop raise? If not, is he likely to fold to a continuation bet on the flop or turn? If you answer yes to either question, then go ahead and raise.
  2. Will the players behind you 3-bet lighter because they know you’re isolating UTG with a wide range? If yes, then limp behind or just fold small suited connectors like 76s.

3-betting the UTG raiser

Unless UTG is playing at 40/28, his UTG raising range is usually tight. For this reason, when you 3-bet from MP, make sure it’s more for value than semi-bluffs. Never 3-bet bluff here with a random hand like 64o. That is just FPS (Fancy Play Syndrome). Even if you feel like you have a great handle on how he plays, just muck it.

The hands I would 3-bet with in this spot depends heavily on how tight UTG is and how aggressive players behind me are. Unless the players behind me are squeeze happy, I would 3-bet with QQ+/AK. If UTG is really loose, then I would add TT/JJ/AQ/KQs to that range. Sometimes I’ll 3-bet with low suited connectors such as 87s and 76s but I wouldn’t go crazy with the idea and 3-bet more than 25% of the time.

There are times when I’m not 3-betting with premium hands such as QQ+/AK:

  1. If UTG rarely calls 3-bet and folds all the time. In such a case, I would add more speculative holdings such as suited connectors to my 3-betting range.
  2. If a fish is in the blinds and I want him to tag along. I always try my best to play against the fish.
  3. If the players behind me are squeeze happy and like to 3-bet all the time.

Against good aggressive players, I like to call with TT/JJ/AQ/KQs because I don’t want to get 4-bet and have to fold. Additionally, if there are aggressive players behind me, I would call with these hands and shove if UTG folds or calls against a 3-bet. With so much dead money in the pot already and my range is so strong when I take this line, it is a profitable play. It should be noted that if a tight player 3-bets, I would fold those hands.

3-betting with small pairs is the exception rather than the rule. Unless UTG is really bad, I would call instead of 3-betting to isolate. Small pairs play much better in a single-raised pot. Calling also encourages bad players to come along as well.

3-betting with small suited aces is fine some of the times. I would 3-bet more often with A2s-A5s rather than A6s because you can make a straight and you’ll have more situations where you can semi-bluff. It should be noted that the difference between A6s and A2-A5s in terms of absolute strength isn’t much as UTG will rarely call your 3-bet with anything lower than ATs. Having an ace in your hand also decreases his likelihood of having AA and AK/AQ. Again, 3-betting with Axs should be minimal. It should be fold > 3-bet > call.

Low suited connectors such as 76s and 65s are great to 3-bet with because there is some deception value to what you have. In the chance you get 4-bet and have to fold, you don’t lose much value. Low suited connectors also can’t profitably call an UTG raise so it’s best to either 3-bet or fold.

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