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Middle Position Ranges

August 25th, 2016 by LD1977

Articles on MP (Middle Position) and LP (Late Position) ranges are mainly intended for full ring tables (9 players) but are applicable for 6-max, assuming readers understand the relative positions:

  • BB, SB, BTN and CO are the same on both types of tables
  • MP (UTG+1) on 6-max table is MP on full ring table (called HJ or “hijack”)
  • UTG on 6-max table is still only MP on full ring table

EP ranges were covered in a single article due to simplicity of working with a tight, balanced and strong range, but I will need to cover MP and LP ranges in several articles due to the increased diversity of ranges and complexity of subject matter.

Difference between full ring and 6-max

There is a slight nuance that I haven’t seen mentioned in discussions on opening ranges in full ring vs. 6-max tables. It concerns card removal effect in full ring.

The fact that several players have seen and folded 2 cards each means that the average strength of remaining cards in deck is slightly higher in full ring than in 6-max. If we consider that at least 6 cards are gone from the deck (on average mostly medium-low in nominal value), this means that it is slightly more profitable to open the action in 6-max with exactly the same range than in full ring.

People are often slightly more wide and aggressive in 6-max (while having weaker ranges), so it is common to have somewhat better comparable positional EV in 6-max, assuming we are playing strong and balanced ranges (so we can handle aggression).

Opening ranges

MP is an easier position to open from due to the simple fact that there are less people behind (therefore less chance of a premium holding). This justifies slightly wider opening ranges, but not too wide since LP players can also 3-bet acordingly (= we can’t go wild because after a while opponents will start attacking us from position).

Regulars employ quite a few different range sizes and compositions from MP (depending on their overall style). Normal ranges are from 10% (basically the same as EP range from the previous article or a small variation on it) up to 17% (this might be a bit too wide due to vulnerability to 3bets from CO / BTN, but there are players who defend very well).

Here are a few different possibilities:

a.) 10% balanced range

Balanced full ring MP range, 10% of hands.

Balanced full ring MP range, 10% of hands.

I have covered this range in a previous article (“Early Position Ranges”). It is a tight, solid and balanced range which is easily defended from aggression. However it is probably a bit too narrow for MP (excludes a few % of EV – positive hands) in a vacuum.

It might be usable if we plan to employ a very wide LP range and our opponents do not use positional RFI (“raise first in”, or opening the action with a raise) stat in their HUDs. This way we appear “normal” while taking advantage of LP positional advantages.

b.) 12% balanced range (AJo, KQo added to 10% range)

Balanced full ring MP range, 12% of hands.

Balanced full ring MP range, 12% of hands.

This range is a bit more top – heavy, which has the following effects:

  • Opponents have legitimate 3-betting hands slightly less often due to card removal effect ( = we face 3-bets less often).
  • We should pot control a bit more due to domination issues vs people who do not 3-bet AQ and AK. Theoretically this requires slightly less continuation betting with good hands to balance, but we can actually play straightforward ABC style if we switch our range compositions regularly.

c.) 12.5% balanced range (small pocket pairs added to the 10% range)

Balanced full ring MP range, 12.5% of hands.

Balanced full ring MP range, 12.5% of hands.

This range adds speculative hands with weak equity (small pocket pairs).

It is useful against players who like to attack small boards (we should XC, XR shove with our sets) and small pockets can often profitably call 3-bets when in position. Out of position it is probably better to fold them but some players like to call them and then try to outplay the opponent post flop. Typical lines are XC, XC, XC if they hit a set against aggressive opponents (XC, XR is also an option) or XC, X, B to take the pot if opponent shows weakness.

The problem with small pocket pairs is that they are vulnerable to coolers (set over set) and that they really can’t do much if they miss. Barreling off with an underpair to the board is often spewy, so it helps to have a solid XC (or B + XC) range – this way we can play them more passively without inviting people to automatically attack all our checks and blow us off our equity post flop.

d.) 12% “nuts – chasing” range (equity is almost the same as the balanced range)

"Nuts - chasing" MP range, 12% of hands.

“Nuts – chasing” MP range, 12% of hands.

This is a highly unorthodox range that is my personal invention. I use it (sparingly!) against regulars who pay attention to their HUD and are willing to fight for pots ( = will pay off). Paradoxically, it might be best against people who adjust quickly (they use “session” stats in their HUDs and not overall stats!).

The logic behind this range is the following:

  • Range looks normal from the outside. Opponents with “session” HUDs will not expect so many Ax suited hands, because including them into a normal range would inflate it and be easily noticed after a while. Even showing down one (maybe even two) such hand does not guarantee that we changed our normal range so drastically.
  • AKo and AQo are powerful hands which allow for flexible post flop play when they hit (both barreling and pot controlling, depending on the exact opponent).
  • JTs makes maximum number of straights and all of them are the nuts.
  • 65s is the hand with best equity against AA, makes the maximum number of straights and provides us with medium – low board coverage.
  • Ax suited and pocket pairs are the nut – chasers. We will barrel or XR our nut flush draws and our sets, depending on opponent tendencies.
  • Ax suited pay off more when they hit 2 pairs because normally we do not use medium-low Ax suited in a 12% range (people will discount those combos).

e.) 12% balanced range (variation)

Balanced full ring MP range (variation), 12% hands.

Balanced full ring MP range (variation), 12% hands.

This range drops some equity from weaker suited Broadways in exchange for more hugh card value, 3bet protection (blockers) and speculative hands (small pocket pairs). There is increased danger of set – over – set cooler situations but it also allows for some nice profits. This style is well suited for players who don’t mind taking risks and can handle the variance.

It is possible to include ATs instead of KQo if we want to. Size of the range is slightly reduced, we lose KK and QQ blockers and ATs can be dominated, but it has nut flush potential.

f.) 15% balanced range (though Ace – heavy due to addition of speculative Ax suited hands)

Balanced full ring MP range, 15% of hands.

Balanced full ring MP range, 15% of hands.

This range has it all:

  • Strong in raw equity
  • Lot of speculative value
  • Fairly easy to play
  • No big inherent weaknesses, good board coverage
  • Allows for balanced post flop play

However, since it is slightly larger than other mentioned ranges, it also has proportionally less blockers to standard 3-betting ranges. We need to have a plan on defending it against aggression.

As you can see, wider MP ranges allow for much more variation and creativity while maintaining solid range equity and board coverage. We can actually freely swap between these ranges from day to day (or even session to session), which may give us an advantage against regular players who would make the effort to discover our static range. All these ranges together come out to around 17% of hands, so if we decide to play a 12% range on any day there is an uncertainty on what exactly we might have.

Swapping ranges also allows us to adjust to different table styles while still maintaining control (it is hard to improvise on the fly and still avoid “rocky” or “spewy” behaviour).

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