2. Early Game Opening Ranges

The start of the tournament is often where your biggest edge will exist. This is due to the larger stack depth of 25 big blinds allowing for bigger in mistakes from weaker opposition. A solid pre-flop strategy will immediately stand us in good stead and give us a slow but consistent advantage. We shall be using the word ‘strategy’ to refer to game-plan about our range, where as the word ‘line’ will be used to describe the action we take with some given hand.

Opening the Button Three Handed

Our chosen raise size on the BU (button) will be 2BBs. If we start to make it much larger than this, the problem is that we will increase our opponents’ EV when they choose to jam by dangling more dead money out there to surrender to a shove. Here is our opening range and how we will react to a shove, which is the most common 3-bet size at 25bb stacks. There is very little room to develop a 3-bet/fold strategy at this stack depth. It would involve 3-betting to 5-6bb, but we shall ignore this option for now as it does not occur much at all throughout the lower limits where many of you will be starting out.

This opening range will fold 74% of the time to a shove. This might seem like a lot, but it’s fine based on how poor Villain’s risk reward ratio will be from risking 24-25bb to win the pot of 2.5bb.

Let’s imagine that with blinds at 10/20, we open to 40 on the BU and the BB shoves on us with a hand like A7o. We will fold 74% of the time as indicated above.

When we fold Villain gains 70 since he takes down our raise plus the blinds. This happens 74% of the time. His EV is +70 x 0.74 = +51.8.

When we don’t fold Villain will have just 30% equity vs. our green open/call a shove range. This means he will get back 30% of a pot of 1010. He will get back 303 on average, which equates to a loss of 480 – 303 = 177. This happens 26% of the time and so his EV is 177 x 0.26 = -46.

Overall, it is slightly profitable for Villain to shove a hand like A7o. This is fine, because, firstly, A7o is a much better than average hand, and secondly, most players will not be shoving hands like this very often. If we are worried that we are playing against very competent players, or that the player pool in a certain game (2x prize pool $1 games for example) is particularly shove-happy, then we should tighten up this stealing range slightly and/or start calling more hands to the jam.

Opening the Small Blind

From the SB, we are incentivised by the favourable pot odds to play a lot of hands. It is sensible to take advantage of this by constructing a limping range. However, this does not mean that we do not also desire a raising range, and indeed there are many hands that make less suitable limps. Let’s meet the strategy and then I will explain it in some more detail.

First off, what makes a suitable limp/calling hand, meaning limp and then call a normal sized raise? A good limping candidate is a hand that has a lot of playability and value against any two cards (BB’s starting range) but cannot stand a 3-bet. For this reason, we are playing a lot of the flop-friendly suited and off-suit mediocre broadways in this way.

By contrast, a limp/folding hand is one that has some playability but is dominated and too frail to stand a raise. The limp/calls balance out the limp/folds leaving us less exploitable to raises. Weaker players go wrong in this spot by having far too many limp folds (sometimes hands like 83o even creep in here) and not enough limp raises. Onto those now.

Good limp/raising hands are holdings with decent equity when they get all-in, but that are also vulnerable. While JJ and TT are vulnerable limp-raise value hands that are happy to fold out hands with an over-card, picture A2s-A5s and 22-55 as semi-bluffs. These hands crave fold equity but perform okay when they are forced to stack-off pre-flop at 25BB stack depth.

Now onto the raising hands. The green hands are pure value and are interested in building the pot, not minding being 3-bet as they are strong enough to not fold. ‘Cont.’ here means ‘continue’ and we can call shoves or make shoves with these hands when raised.

A2o-A6o have a blocker to hands that might 3-bet and flop relatively poorly and so don’t mind just picking up pots pre-flop while denying equity to two live junky cards like J7o.

Hands such as K3s and 75s are the steal part of the polarized raising range. They are more than happy to fold to a jam as they do not give up too much equity in the process. Contrast these to limp/call holdings like KTo that play very well against any two cards but poorly against a filtered 3-betting range if they were to open.

Our SB strategy is not as simple as the BU range, but it is very logical and chunks hands in clear qualitative ways unlike some confusing and unnecessarily exact ranges that you may come across on your poker travels.


Now that we know how to play the BU and SB in the early stages, we shall look at defending the BB in part three. Stay tuned for that as we explore 3-betting and flatting facing an open at the start of the Spin & Go.

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