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StrategySit & Go

Preflop Strategy (1): Open Raising Charts

Before reading this lesson you should have read through:

Now that you are aware of the theory standing behind preflop game, you are ready to start open raising a bit looser than just "ABC".

In this lesson, you will find suggested ranges to open from different positions on varying stack depths.

You will also find an accompanying set of disclaimers explaining when to use the charts, but also when to treat them more as a general guideline. You will learn when to adjust and step away from the ranges provided and learn the reasoning behind the design of the charts.

Upsides and downsides of using charts

It is often argued that using any kind of charts with ranges leads to a static strategy, which is not the optimal one. This is, of course, true, but only when charts are being used too rigidly. It is important to know that using charts in a wise, elastic way, can bring many advantages. First of all, it makes your game more structured by giving you a solid starting point. Even in the most uncommon situations it is always good to have something to refer to. It may also give you a good understanding of the ranges you play with and helps you to construct them logically and systematically. Having default ranges may also protect you from an exploitative way of thinking and from changing your ranges without a clear, defined reason.

The charts provided below will tell you the default ranges for open raising from a given position with a given effective stack. You can use these as a foundation and adapt them whenever necessary. Before using the charts, have a look at the explanations provided in the next paragraphs.

Assumptions and how to read the charts

It is assumed that all players to act before you have folded, and that the stacks are such that open pushing is not an option with the hand you have been dealt. We will deal with open pushing ranges separately.

It is also assumed that the players left to act behind you are average or unknown players. The later the position, the more you should adjust these ranges. If the players behind you tend to play very tight, you should open more hands than shown. For example, against extremely tight players in the blinds, it might be optimal to at least minraise with any two cards from the button and small blind.

Additionally, it is assumed that the risk premium associated with the payout structure is negligible in this phase of the tournament. You should play differently in high risk premium circumstances, but this is explained in a separate lesson.

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), cut off (CO), button (BU), and small blind (SB). When the table is shorthanded, you should eliminate positions one by one starting with early positions. For example, on an 8-handed table you have two early position seats and two middle position seats.

Opening ranges are split into three groups: with blue hands, you should open with any stack satisfying the above assumptions. With yellow hands, you should open with effective stacks of over 20 big blinds with the antes in play, and over 40 big blinds pre-ante. With red hands, you should open with effective stacks of over 25 big blinds and only when the antes are in play.
no rp
Note that "yellow" spots will be rare in some types of SNGs, and "red" spots will be virtually non-existent in some games. In particular, if you are a single table SNG player (for example 9-man SNG), you should just open blue hands, and sometimes yellow ones, you can forget about the red, as the conditions will never be satisfied. If you are a multi-table SNG player (for example 180-man SNG), you will have plenty of "yellow" spots and some "red" spots too, depending on the structure, so you need to learn the extended ranges as well.

One reason behind such thresholds is that hands which rely partly on implied odds are less playable with lower stacks sizes. The reason for a large differenced between pre-ante and post-ante thresholds is twofold. Firstly, with antes in play, there is more to be won with a steal. Using Dan Harrington's M coefficient, you can see that 20 big blinds with antes corresponds to approximately 30–35 big blinds pre-ante. Secondly, open raise sizes are larger pre-ante, which is consistent with playing tighter ranges.

Remember – the thresholds and the ranges are not carved in stone. You can, and should play with them when you see a good reason, such as a specific stack setup or player tendencies. As for when to adjust, typical examples would include tighter play in a single table SNGs because of higher risk-premium and wider in a multi table SNG (for practical reasons, the charts assume the risk premium is negligible). Another example would be to open tighter against a table of good regulars, and wider against a table of weak players (again, for practical reasons the charts assume all players are average/unknown).

Next steps

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Comments (5)

#1 abenum111, 08 Mar 15 20:52

Nice article

#2 omega21, 24 Apr 15 18:04

right, this artickle has some great adjusments to what was represented in basic charts! good stuff.

#3 sedinbsng, 04 Apr 16 17:43


#4 slippyjim, 10 Jul 16 16:56

do the colour schemes still apply on pokerstars where the antes are in play from level 1 now?

#5 Vip3rNZ, 18 Sep 16 23:09

they are only in play from level 1 in mtt sngs, not stts