This article will mainly be applicable to full ring tables (9 players) since the proposed ranges are too tight for 6-max. Ranges for 6-max will be discussed in the next article.
Early position (EP) is first 2 seats on the table, namely UTG (under-the-gun) and UTG+1.
Opening ranges (+ defense against aggression)
EP has to act first, so is the most disadvantaged in preflop action. Postflop it may have position on the blinds.
- With 7+ players still to act, there is a good probability someone has a premium holding (so we will face a 3-bet, usually out of position).
- Another issue is that one or more players in position might flat call, which opens up a possibility of a squeeze play or more callers – neither of which is particularly desirable unless we are at the top of our range.
- Therefore the range itself has to be tight and strong so it is not vulnerable to automatically profitable aggression. This happens when the opening range from EP is too wide so it can’t defend against 3-bets and squeezes (has to fold way too often).
Regulars in full ring tend to have EP range from 8% (this is really tight and top heavy) up to 12-15% on the high end. Vast majority employs a 10% range, which is tight enough to be fairly easily defended against 3bets and has decent board coverage. The composition of range itself does vary slightly between players.
In normal circumstances (against mostly regular players who use HUDs and are not stepping too out of line with 3bets) I use this standard range:
This range contains 136 hand combinations.
Actions we take against 3-bets vary depending on our HUD data and notes.
You can refer to a previous article for notes on this: https://www.cardschat.com/blog/important-tools-for-a-serious-poker-player/
I will assume here that we face a 3-bet from CO / BTN and we are out of position in later betting rounds. Facing a 3-bet from the blinds is not a big worry due to the positional advantage.
I automatically fold AQo and all suited Broadways except for AKs and JTs. Those hands are dominated by AK (if the opponent 3-bets AK, many people don’t) and we must have a folding range in any case. That is 44 hands out of 136 (around 32%).
It may be best to fold AKo too in specific cases (if we expect to either split the pot or get coolered when we hit a card). If we do that, we fold 56 out of 136 hands (41%). We can also 4-bet it as a bluff (AA and KK blockers) but in a vacuum we do badly against a shove. I am not going to repeat any math at this point, there is stackoff data on all hands in Hand Quality articles.
For the rest (non-dominated hands), I have found that instead of folding it is more profitable to call all suited connectors (excellent flopability) and pocket pairs (bad flopability but can hit the set and then XC, XC or XR to get stacks in).
Against many players, it is actually possible to take away the pot on the river with complete air via XC, X, small bet (around 1/3 pot) line. We take this line with KK+ and set+ type hands too (for protection).
Calling with KK and AA is good vs people who will more-less always continue with BC (when we XR shove), B + shove turn (there are players who like to put maximum pressure when they have the initiative) or go for big river bluff with B, X, raise – shove line against our small river bet.
If I decide to 4-bet at all (this depends on the opponent), then I do it with AKo (range filler with blockers), KK and AA. It sucks to run AK or KK into AA, but such is life.
I will try to go into postflop lines in more detail later on, but this gives the general idea on the strategy. Basically, our EP range is strong and we have to defend it properly.
Squeezes and 3-bets + cold 4-bets
Against a squeeze, we usually have no choice but to fold or shove, since calling will probably draw in the original caller and we will be out of position against 2 players.
Folding to a squeeze is not a tragedy since squeezes against our EP ranges happen fairly rarely. If we try to call and original caller decides to suddenly shove we can only fold because he has probably trapped us with a premium hand.
The decision entirely (!) depends on HUD and notes. We must know how the opponent(s) perceive our range and probable actions.
It is generally more profitable to 4bet shove against a squeeze than a 3-bet because a large majority of the time we get some extra money from the caller and many people do not have very different 3-bet and squeeze ranges against EP open.
Sometimes the caller might have KK+ and was trapping the trigger-happy squeezer (I like this move too). Make sure to make a note of this!
Against a 3-bet and cold 4-bet, we are usually in a terrible shape and even KK might have to fold (depending purely on HUD/notes). There are exceptions, I know a few players who absolutely love to try for a cold 4-bet and then fold (too much) to shoves. To each his own, that is what notes are for.
This only applies in UTG+1 vs UTG scenario.
Since UTG range is so strong, we can 3-bet a small polarized range (basically KK+ and some suited wheel Aces as bluffs).
I generally do not 3-bet much here because I like flatting KK+ and trapping squeezers. It is good to make people think twice about attacking flat calls.
This only applies in UTG+1 vs UTG scenario.
If we do not have a premium hand, the decision on calling depends almost entirely on the probability of a squeeze.
The reason is that call – fold with weak hands reduces our positional EV too much (we never realize our equity) and call – call is not all that great either. Basically with call – call we might compound 2 unprofitable actions where the initial call “justifies” the next one so we pay a lot of money just to see the flop.
Obviously, the solution is to punish the squeezers by flatting and then shoving premiums.
If we decide to call, I suggest doing it with non-dominated hands (= suited connectors, pocket pairs, AK).
This range contains 92 hand combinations and it is the absolute maximum pool of hands I would even consider calling with.
I do not call without a clear idea why I do it. Exact hands I call in each situation depend on reads on UTG (does he barrel away, or does he B, XF and XF a lot) and the possibility of a squeeze.