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Defining A NL Holdem Pre-Flop Strategy

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  • Defining A NL Holdem Pre-Flop Strategy

    This is a response to mike2198's thread regarding a cash game chart for pre-flop hands.
    It can be found here:

    Put a lot of effort in my response so decided to post it in a new thread.

    It is a really great idea to have a well defined pre-flop strategy for opening/calling/raising. The major premise to keep in mind when approaching this is that it is a general strategy. Once you have the general strategy laid out, you have to constantly adjust your range of hands you are willing to play in every situation based on a multitude of factors. Factors such as the blinds playing extra tight or extra aggressive when your considering opening the cutoff/button. If there is an aggressive player to your left. If the table is loose or tight, aggressive or passive. Your stack size, the stack size of other players left to act. Etc...

    I have in fact printed out a sheet which spells out my standard ranges for general situations. You will probably not find anything like this online, and I won't share the specifics of mine. I will tell you what you want to include in such a chart, and I will share the source I used to construct such a chart:

    There are two distinct situations you want to break such a chart down into. Your pre-flop opening range and your pre-flop call/raising range.

    1) Pre-flop opening range

    Here you want to lay out what hands you want to open the pot with in each position. You want to break things up by position. In general, the earlier the position the tighter your range should be and the later your position the wider your range should be. In the blinds it is a good idea to go in reverse and tighten your range back up. A rough idea would be to open your middle position or cutoff position range from the blinds. In the lowest micro stakes your range should consist of a less balanced range of more premium hands and less speculative hands.

    So you should play the widest range on hands on the button and the tightest range of hands under the gun. The main reasons for this is due to your positional advantage in late position and the dead money in the blinds.

    2) Pre-flop calling/raising range

    You will want to lay out what hands you will be calling/raising with when facing an opening raise by villains with various pre-flop raise percentages (PFR). You want to break things up by various PFR amounts. A reasonable breakdown may be by 10%, 20%, and 30%+. 10% or less is a tight(strong) opening range while 30%+ is a loose(weak) opening range. The general idea here is you always want to play a tighter range of hands than your opponent is opening with. Doing this will give you a slight advantage over them in the hand right from the start.

    After figuring out what range of hands you would like to play with, the next step is sorting them by if you want to usually call or raise with each hand. Break down the chart by call range and raise range for each PFR%. You will want to raise with the strongest hands in your range and call with the weaker hands. A more advanced approach would be to raise with your strongest hands, call with your medium strength hands, and raise as a semi-bluff with the weakest hands in your range. You will want to take this more advanced approach eventually, but it is much trickier and probably not necessary when you begin playing poker.

    3-betting and 4-betting can be a third category entirely, or you can simply try to infer what range of hands to play based on your pre-flop calling/raising range. For example, if you are in a situation where you believe an opponent is 3-betting you 5% of the time, then you can look at your chart for 10% PFR and play only the strongest half of the hands you have listed there. Also, if you are out of position against the 3-bettor you may want to play an even tighter/stronger range than what your chart would imply.

    3) My source

    I used the book Harrington On Online Cash Games: 6-max No-limit Hold 'em to construct such a chart for myself. The book does a very good job of explaining all of this and laying it out as I have described. It even offers two versions, a tighter style and a looser style. At the micros, especially 2NL/5NL I would suggest the tighter style.

    4) Comments

    Everything in my posts consists of intermediate level poker strategy. The book I mentioned is an intermediate level book. It may take a while to approach and utilize all of this correctly. Even then, once you understand what you should probably do in each situation there is still the next step: Understanding why you should do it. To that end the book I mentioned only goes so far, and I am still learning the 'why' myself.

    If you have any questions about my post I would be happy to try and clarify what I wrote. I'm sure other PSO members would be happy to as well.

  • #2
    This is a great post.
    When I find the time, I'm going to start a series of articles (to be posted on my blog) that will include some hand charts that should enable a complete beginner to have a solid pre-flop game on cash tables. I will certainly reference this post when I come to write the article.
    Bracelet Winner


    • #3
      Thanks Arty! I really appreciate the compliment!

      I think that would be awesome if you made some beginner hand charts for cash games. I know personally I haven't come across much of anything like that online and I spend a decent amount of time digging around for good free poker information.


      • #4
        Cool post il be sure to have a look at this book myself



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