Preflop: The Fundamentals – Under the Gun (UTG)

Figure 1: UTG’s Raising Range in Yellow Highlights – 13.1%

UTG is the first player to act pre-flop, with three players having position on you—middle position (MP), cut off (CO) and the button (BTN). Since you will be out of position for most hands, it’s best to play with a tighter range than all other positions.

Hand Ranges

Here’s a conservative range of hands to play from UTG if you want to play at 23/18 or so. I recommend raising about 12-14% of hands.

  1. All pairs 44 and higher
  2. All suited broadways such as ATs, KTs, JTs
  1. AJo+ and KQo. If players behind me are aggressive, I would fold AJo and KQo as well.
  2. Medium suited cards such as 87s, 98s, T9s (stay away from single-gap suited cards like T8s).

Important Note: Avoid playing ATo from UTG because of reverse implied odds (how much you expect to lose once you made your hand). For example, ATo will be dominated by AK, AQ and AJ too often when the money goes in, and thus it has poor reverse implied odds.

While you can certainly expand your range with more speculative hands, this is a good starting point. How tight or loose you want to raise depends on how good and aggressive players are behind you and how good the blinds are.

Players Sitting Behind You

With several good players behind you, tighten up your pre-flop range. You will be out of position against them in all the pots. They can 3-bet you more often or float your flop c- bets. It’ll also be tough to extract value from your strong hands and even more difficult to see a cheap showdown. With weaker and looser players behind, you can open with more hands. Medium suited connectors like 98s or 87s go up in value for their drawing potentials and they are easier to play post-flop when your opponents don’t put a lot of pressure on you and let you draw cheaply.

Flow of Game

In a passive game where players don’t 3-bet often, you can add more small suited connectors (76s, 65s, 54s) and Axs into your UTG range. In an aggressive game, you should tighten up your range to include more high suited cards and 55+ and avoid opening with small suited connectors.

Fish in the blinds: Proceed With Caution!

When there’s a huge fish in the blinds who calls pre-flop raises very liberally, you should widen your pre-flop raising range to include hands such as A5s, K7s, Q8s, and J9s. Unless the players behind you are very aggressive and 3-bet a lot, it’s worth risking playing against them OOP and having the chance to play against the fish in position.

The majority of your earnings will come from really bad players so you should go out of your way to play pots against them. Some players like to comment how so and so is lucky because he always seem to cooler the fish. What they don’t get is in order to cooler a fish, you must play with them. Since the majority of fish are passive and rarely put pressure on you, it’s tough to make mistakes against them.

I strongly recommend slowly expanding your UTG opening at first. Don’t raise A5o when you’re starting out. Do it with hands such as A7s, K8s, Q7s, and T6s. Having suited cards will at least give you more equity and allow you to semi-bluff more often post-flop.

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