Preflop opening sizes are a fiercely debated topic. Some poker players open the same size from all positions. This is either due to laziness or just not knowing any different. I believe an optimal strategy is one where you change your raise size based on what position your in and who’s left to act behind you. So what exactly is my philosophy? Well you start by opening larger from earlier positions and smaller from later positions. Assuming we are playing at a 6-max table I will open to 4x UTG and 2x-2.5x on the button. There are several exceptions to this rule but I will get to those later.
Below are my default opening sizes in a “perfect game” and my reasoning for such:
The reason for opening to a larger amount from UTG is that our range is stronger. Its as simple as wanting to put more money in the pot preflop with a good hand. We want to reduce our opponents implied odds to crack our strong range and also encourage them to 3bet or fold. We also do not want to play a pots out of position against a late position caller (despite having a strong range) raising larger discourages our opponents from cold calling our raise or at least makes them think twice about calling in position with a speculative hand.
UTG+1 and CO we reduce our raising size because we are getting closer to the button and our range is weakening. As we move closer to the button and reduce our raise size we provide villans less immediate incentive to 3bet us (This is good because as we move closer to the button our range widens and will consequently have to fold to 3bets more often, so raising to say 4x on CO/BTN is just giving dead money to a 3bettor/squeezer)
The button (BTN) is where things get interesting. Here I will advocate either 2.5xing or even min raising the button. The reason for this is because:
1) We are risking less to steal the blinds, IE we are getting a better price on our steal and it will have to be effective less often to be profitable.
2) We are reducing the blinds incentive to 3bet. This is great because we will be opening a HUGE range of hands when its folded to us and we are on the BTN. This means when we are 3bet and have to fold we lose less. Also, because we are raising less, the blinds are likely to 3bet to a smaller amount then our 3-4x raise. This allows us to call 3bets in position with a wideish range with a large pot to stack ratio behind.
3) We increase our opponents incentive to flat. Since we are raising less, they will be getting beter odds to call our minraise/2.5x raise. This is good because they will be calling out of position with a weak hand range. They will also not be used to be playing these weak hands out of position and it will most likely lead to them making postflop mistakes.
Fish in the blinds: If there is a fish in the blinds, there calling range is likely to be the same whether you 2x or 4x because these players are bad by nature. Against these opponents, you want to punish them for there mistake. (IE they are calling too many hands out of position) Against these players I recommend raising as much as you think you can get away with. Raising to 4x on the button with a 60/5 fish in the blinds is standard for me.
Short stackers: If there are several shorstackers at the table I recommend adjusting your raise size to 3x from UTG, UTG+1 and to 2x from the co/button. If you are playing against the type of shortstackers who have similar PFR/VPIP I would recommend rasing 2x from the co/btn/sb when the shorty is in the blinds.
Hopefully by now you will have realised that you should adjust your raise sizing based on players tendencies to either 3bet or call your open. I will often make “off the cuff” ingame adjustments whilst playing. When villans have high 3bet percentages you may want to be opening to a smaller size to reduce their incentive for doing it and consequently allowing you to call with a wider range of hands. You may also want to reduce your preflop raise %. When you have players who will be out of position who have tendencies to call out of position, take advantage of this and raise larger. Remember to consider balancing, in general your raise sizing should be based on your opponents tendencies and your position, not your preflop hand strength. There are exceptions when you want to be unbalanced if you feel it will get you more/less action but thats a topic for another post.
I have thought about open limping and have figured that it should very rarely be used. One situation however, is when you have are on the button, there is a fish in the small blind and a regular who loves to squeeze dead money in the big blind. You don’t want to be opening the button, having the fish call and then the regular 3bet squeezes forcing you to fold and the regular gets to isolate the fish. His play is stupid, but it’s something that I have seen happening alot recently. Your typical tag doesn’t have much of a brain! In this spot I think it’s perfectly fine to limp the button so that you can play a pot with both the fish and the regular.
Opening from the small blind is pretty hardly debated, I have seen very good players ether 3x, 3.5x and 4x the small blind. So who is right? Well, I have been 3.5xing the small blind for a long time and its working out decently for me. When you 3x you give your opponent decent odds to call in position against your raise. If you 4x you give opponents better incentive to 3bet you to take away your dead money. I think against opponents who aren’t 3bet happy 4xing might be better because they will fold there BB more often. But in todays games, most opponents like to 3bet the BB alot vs SB opens, so against these players its better to 3x. Good players will call more against your 3x opens and 3bet more against your 4x opens. Whats my solution? Well I 3.5x because I feel its a happy middleground. If anyone has anymore arguments for/against this feel free to throw them in the comments. Im open to being persuaded.
Want to know what hands you should raise from each position? Check out my article on preflop raising hand ranges.