Higher Level Poker
ArticlesPreflop StrategyBeginner strategy: Opening ranges from each position
Beginner strategy: Opening ranges from each position
Written by: SHIPIT2KG · Date Added: 14 Apr, 2011 · Number of views: 13421
WIN BIG like our pro's!
*Note: This article targets our beginning/intermediate players, it is an attempt to introduce players to proper hand selection, opening ranges, and how those opening ranges are affected by position.

*Note: A list of terms and abbreviations is listed below the article

Hand Selection, Opening Ranges, Position’s affect on Opening Ranges

In NLHE there are 1326 combos of hands. That's a lot of hands, and we must arrange these hands in some sort of order to give us an idea of each one's strength, or in some combination's case's, lack of strength. Every pocket pair can be produced in 6 different ways, also known as combos. Each off suit hand that isn't paired; 12 combos, an example being there are 12 combos of AKo (A spades K clubs/A diamonds K spades/etc.). For every suited hand there are 4 combos, example: AKs (A spades K spades/A hearts K hearts/etc.). So AKo + AKs = 16 combos in total. To figure out the number of combos for an off suit hand you would be multiplying the (4 various suits)(3 other suits) = 12 combos. For a suited hand, there is obviously 1 of each suit, equaling 4 combos. To figure out a pair you would use (3x1)+(2x1)+(1x1) = 6 combos. Now you have an idea of where all those combinations come from.

The next step is to determine which hands hold the most value and why? The most obvious answers are AA/KK/QQ and the list continues down. When you are done listing the premium hands, things can get slightly more complicated. For instance, why is A9o such a horrible hand to open the pot for 3 big blinds UTG? You may think, "I have an ace, that’s a good card, I should raise!", but truth be told, when you open A9o UTG, there is an extremely high likelihood that a player calling you not only has position on you postflop, but also has a hand that has you crushed in terms of equity. Both of those things will lead to you "leaking" a lot of money, something we want to avoid. "Ok, so we know we don’t want to open A9o UTG, then what do we open?” The answer to this is elastic and will vary from player to player depending on a combination of things; style of play, postflop skill, type's of player's in later positions, dead money in pot, image, etc. With all that in mind, we have to start somewhere, and that somewhere for a beginning player, in my opinion is something around the top 12.5% of hands in No Limit Hold'em. The top 12.5% of hands can also be expressed as the 166 strongest combos in the game. Those combos are 22+/AJo+/JTs/QTs+. This is a solid opening range that will help keep you out of tons of difficult spots OOP postflop. The tool I am using to figure out these percentages is a program called Pokerstove, it's freeware you can download via Google and is a must have for anyone looking to improve or take the game even semi-seriously. *When downloading, make sure you obtain version 1.23, the prior version is outdated and no longer works*

So we have an UTG opening range, now we need an opening range for the remaining positions, MP/CO/BTN/SB. Once again, these will vary from player to player and change as you improve, but I have created a list of opening ranges that should work fairly well for players just beginning.

The list is as follows:

UTG: Top 12.5%, 166 combos, 22+/AJo+/JTs/QTs+

MP: Top 14%, 185 combos, 22+/AJo+/98s+/A3s-A5s/ATs+

CO: Top 23.4%, 310 combos, 22+/ATo+/JTo+/QTo+/65s+/T8s/Q9s+/A2s+

BTN: Top 40%, 530 combos, 22+/A2o+/A2s+/54s+/64s+/K5s+/Q8s+/98o+/T8o+/96s+

SB: Top 22.5%, 298 combos, 22+/ATo+/JTo+/QTo+/T8s+/76s+/A2s+

Obviously these numbers aren't the "answer", but they should be a solid starting point for your online poker endeavors. Also, overtime you will learn that some hands are so close in equity preflop that they are interchangeable. Basically this means that nobody (theoretically) can quantify whether it is better to open A4s or 98s in Middle Position. Some people prefer one hand over the other, some will open both. What works best for you is what should dictate decisions like this. Be aware that these are only RECOMMENDATIONS for a new player looking to play a solid TAG style. As you become a better hand reader, and more capable post flop, these ranges will widen and change.

If you notice in the chart, as we move into later positions our opening ranges become wider. This is because we can play a wider range more effectively in position as opposed to OOP, so naturally we open more hands as we get closer to the button. At the end of your poker "career" you will undoubtedly make the most money from the latest position, which is the button of course. The button also has the most dynamic range of all positions because it is so drastically affected by the players in the blinds in unopened pots. If the player's that posted the blinds are playing much too tight, then it is going to be profitable to open almost any hand, because they are not defending their blind's with a high enough frequency to prevent you from showing an immediate profit. In result, we should be widening our button opening range dramatically.

I hope this article has given you a better understanding of what hands are suitable for play from varying positions and how those positions affect our hand selection. Question everything when learning; don’t take someone's word for it, that’s how you improve. See what works for you, and know why it works for you. GL everyone! See you at the tables.

A screenshot of what the Pokerstove software looks like...

Terms and Abbreviations
NLHE: No Limit Texas Hold'em
Combos or Combinations: The number of possible ways a two card hand can be composed
UTG: Under the Gun; first player to act
MP: Middle Position; second player to act
CO: Cutoff; third player to act
BTN: Button; player with the button and last to act before the blinds
SB: Small Blind
BB: Big Blind
Dead Money: Money that is posted in the pot that wouldn’t ordinarily be there; if a player posts the BB rather than waiting for to actually be the BB, there is extra or "dead" money in the pot
Image: How you are perceived by other players at the table; examples are: Tight, Loose, Crazy, Passive, Aggressive, etc.
Opening Range: The range of hands you choose to raise when the pot hasn't been raised prior to your action
IP: In Position
OOP: Out of Position

Comments (2)
Please login or register to post a comment.
A Few of Them
Bruce Walker 18 Nov, 2011
Free Member

Long time to get a comment here, lol.

I think I get what you mean mostly, first of all do you mean EP rather than UTG ?

Under UTG you have JTs, do you mean JTs+ ? Also no suited Aces UTG ?
Oh, I see now, your AKs is included in suited connectors JTs(+)?,
and your AQs in suited 2-gappers QTs+.

OK so now, what about AJs, and did you really want to put some of those 2-gappers in there ?

Good article for people looking to get used to basic TAG strategy and will help keep you out of a lot of messy spots, especially for beginners.
View Coach Information
Request Private Coaching
Videos by SHIPIT2KG
Shipit2kg 4-tabling 200NL Rush
Sign up and improve your poker skills!

This is one of our free articles...

...written by one of our poker professionals. And there are loads more like it - giving you that edge when at the tables. All of our articles are wrote by a select few poker professionals, revealing the secrets on how to make more cash when playing poker.

What do we mean by "poker professional"?

A poker professional we define as one who knows the in's and out's of poker and makes a living by playing online or live poker. You can take a look at our pro's by looking at their profiles.