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Preflop Strategy (2): Open Pushing Charts
Before reading this lesson, you should have read through:
After reading the previous lesson, you should already know which hands and in what circumstances you may open with a small raise. You've also learned what the upsides and downsides of using charts are. However, as you have learned from the "Playing Preflop (1): Open Raising" lesson, sometimes stacks are too shallow to enable postflop play, or your opponents' tendencies make raising small impractical. Your only reasonable choice becomes to push or fold.
In this lesson, you will find suggested default ranges with which to open push from different positions with varying stack depths.
You will also find an accompanying set of explanations, outlining when to use the charts, and when to treat them as a general guideline. You will learn when to adjust and step away from the ranges provided. You will also be shown the reasoning behind designing the charts the way they are.
Assumptions and how to read the charts
It is assumed that all players to act before you have folded, and that the circumstances are such that open raising small is not an option. Open raising ranges are a subject of the previous lesson.
It is also assumed that the players left to act behind you are average or unknown opponents. The later the position, the more you should adjust these ranges. If players behind you tend to play very tight, you should push with more hands than is shown. In particular, against extremely tight players in the blinds, it might be optimal to push with any two cards from the button and small blind when you are short stacked.
It is assumed that the risk premium associated with the payout structure is negligible in this phase of the tournament. This assumption is quite strong, but on the other hand it is justifiable and holds most of the time, as pushing ranges – although not totally indifferent to risk premium – are, unlike calling ranges, relatively stable with regard to it. Unless the situation is extreme, the ranges don't change much. As a result, the charts as provided are calculated based on chip equity.
There are five separate charts: for early position (UTG, UTG+1, and UTG+2 on a 9-handed table), middle position (MP1 and MP2 on a 9-handed table), the cut off, button, and small blind. When the table is shorthanded, you should eliminate positions one by one starting with the early positions. That is to say, for example, on an 8-handed table you have two early position seats and two middle position seats.
It is assumed that antes are already in play, as this tends to be the case in the push-or-fold phase. In case there are no antes, you should divide the thresholds by a factor of 1.75.
Hands are classified into several differently coloured groups. Most of them are blue hands, which you may push with when under 14 big blinds effective (8 bb pre-ante). Under 12 big blinds (7 bb pre-ante), you should expand your range by adding the yellow hands. Then add the red hands when under 10 big blinds (6bbs pre-ante). Under 8 big blinds (5bbs pre-ante), you can add all the orange hands. Under 6 big blinds (4bb pre-ante), the green hands become pushes as well. The last group of hands are the gray hands, with which you should push when under 5 big blinds (3bb pre-ante).
The charts do not cover even smaller stacks. This is by design because, with smaller stacks, it is all too dependent on reads regarding fold equity, which may or may not be there. This would change the result tremendously.
The charts do not cover stacks larger than 14 big blinds (again, 8 bb pre-ante). This too is by design. Over 14 big blinds you should not use a push-or-fold strategy, but rather minraise most of your range and push just some small part of it in certain situations. Refer to the lesson "Playing Preflop: Open Raising" for more details.
Remember – the ranges are not carved in stone. You can - and should - adjust them when you see a good reason to, such as a specific stack setup or set of player tendencies. For example, with a very strong hand like aces or kings, on a stack between 10 and 14 big blinds, it is almost always better to open raise small instead of open pushing, yet these hands have been marked in the charts too, as they are of course a part of a profitable pushing range as well.
Open pushing charts
Early position open pushing chart
Open push with stack under 14 bb (8 bb pre-ante)
Open push with stack under 12 bb (7 bb pre-ante)
Open push with stack under 10 bb (6 bb pre-ante)
Open push with stack under 8 bb (5 bb pre-ante)
Open push with stack under 6 bb (4 bb pre-ante)
Open push with stack under 5 bb (3 bb pre-ante)
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