Preflop: The Fundamentals

The Blinds

Look at positional stats in PokerTracker or Holdem Manager and you will find that you’re actually losing money in the blinds. The amount is probably a little more than you would like. This is the fate that most, if not all, poker player share because it’s very difficult to win money playing pots out of position. It’s difficult to extract value from your strong hands, and your range is more faced-up. You also give your opponent more information regarding the strength of your hand than vice versa.

When the decision to fold or call pre-flop is close, folding is better because a small mistake can lead to a bigger one post-flop. In the occasion that you do play and find yourself being out of position, try to keep the pots small so you won’t find yourself in many sticky situations.

Raising from the blinds

Be very conservative with your raises from the blinds. With a few limpers in the pot, don’t raise unless you’ve got a good hand like 99+, ATs+, AQo+, or KQs. Another thing to remember is that when you raise from the blinds after a few limpers, most people will put you on premium hands (AQ+, TT+). So, on a flop like AT3 rainbow, you’re not going to extract much value from weaker hands. Players will know what your range is and they have the opportunity to continue or not after you act. If you get raised here, then be very cautious against standard TAGs and especially NITs. Unless there is any history, if your c- bet gets raised, you should fold one pair in this spot. No one is going out of their way to make you fold AQ /AK on an AT3 flop.

3-betting From The Blinds

Against a UTG raise, the majority of your 3-bets should be for value. Unless I know UTG is a fish, I rarely 3-bet in this type of situation because my perceived range is so strong. An argument can be made that if my opponent thinks my range is strong, I should 3-bet with marginal holdings to make him fold his good hands. Although this reasoning is valid, I’m going to get called pre-flop a lot since Villain has position on me. If he is aggressive and good, he’s going to make my life pretty tough post-flop. My philosophy regarding poker is to put myself in situations to make simple decisions and avoid making costly one. This is one of those situations that I wish to avoid and I hope you do too.

Since we are rarely 3-betting a UTG open from the blinds, we should call with the majority, if not all our holdings. If you only 3-bet with the nuts, an observant opponent will notice and will put a lot of pressure when you only call from the blinds. Besides, it’s not like we are giving up a lot of value by calling from the blinds. It is just one of those situations where no matter what you do, you aren’t going to get a lot of value out of it. The sooner you accept this fact, the better your game will be and subsequently, your bankroll.

It is important to note that there are a lot of players who won’t notice that you are 3- betting from the blinds with only the nuts. In such situations, I would definitely 3-bet KK+ and try to get as much money in as possible. If you find a particular player who fold to 3- bets a lot, you can start 3-betting with marginal hands such as 98s and KQo. However, I would be cautious of such an approach. There are much better situations in an orbit of hands where your edge is bigger.

Against an MP open, the same principle applies, although you can widen your 3-betting range since your opponent’s opening range is wider and your perceived range is wider as well. It is important to note that you should try to have your range as wide as possible.

In this situational dynamic, you should 3-bet more often with JJ+/AK against looser opponents. If my opponent folds to 3-bets a lot, I wouldn’t 3-bet with JJ and AK and would call pre-flop to keep them in. I rarely flat call in this spot with QQ+ because it would be disastrous if I fail to stack my opponent’s premium holding. I would call with QQ+/AK only if I know the players who have yet to act is squeeze happy and will 3-bet if I call. If those players don’t exist at the current table, you lose too much value for not 3-betting pre-flop.

You shouldn’t be 3-betting with non-broadway suited connectors. They don’t play well in 3-bet pots and you won’t flop enough hands to continue after c-betting. Don’t 3-bet with weak suited Ax either. It doesn’t flop well and it is very tough to play post-flop. When you flop an ace, you rarely dominate your opponent and you only get action when you are behind.

Against opponents who rarely fold to 3-bets, tighten up your range by removing suited connectors. If they call 3-bets a lot and fold to c-bets when they miss, then go ahead and widen your 3-betting range to include suited broadway hands that are easy to play post-flop.

Against a CO/BTN open, you should 3-bet with a wider range because his stealing range is wider. The question is which range should you be 3-betting with?

In this type of situation, I would like to 3-bet with a polarized range. What this means is I would 3-bet with premium hands such as JJ+/AQ and speculative holdings such as 65s and 87s that can’t play profitably post-flop without the initiative. I would call with marginal hands such as AJ, KJ, QJ, and pocket pairs. The reason is by calling with AJ, KJ and QJ, I can keep some of the hands I dominate in the pot since worse hands are rarely calling my 3- bet. Sometimes I call from the blinds with AK/AQ as well to have some nut hands in my flatting range and for deception value. Some players like to 3-bet small pairs from the blind against the CO/BTN because it works well with their game. Since I don’t like to play out of position, I like to call with those holdings and make my decision post-flop.

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