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OTB #039: The Secret to Learning Preflop Ranges

Updated: May 29


The best tip I ever heard for memorising preflop ranges...


Don't!


In 8-max online MTTs, there are 7 raise first in ranges to learn for each stack size.


And then you have all the other preflop ranges for facing an open, facing a 3-bet, facing a 4-bet etc., and from all the different positions.


And that's even before you've considered how the ranges change on the bubble, on a final table or in a PKO.


Unless you have an incredible memory, you can't memorise all of these spots.


And neither should you try.


Today I want to show you the method I use to to learn preflop strategies.


Let's dive in...


Studying vs training


When it comes to learning preflop strategies, you need to think about it in two ways.


  1. Study the range and bucket groups of hands together to make it easier to understand what's going on.

  2. Put your new learning in to practice by setting up a preflop training drill.


It's not just about trying to memorise a strategy.


It's about implementing a systematic approach to improving your ability to understand what's going on and apply it in game.


How to study preflop ranges


Let's say you've identified two big leaks when you're in the Big Blind facing a Button open:


  • You fold too much

  • You don't 3-bet enough


We'll start with 30bb. Here's the preflop range:



In this spot you want to be able to group your range into 4 buckets:


  • Call (yellow)

  • 3-bet for value (brown, but at the top)

  • 3-bet as a bluff (brown, but at the bottom)

  • 3-bet jam (red)


Everything else you'll just fold.


At some stack sizes there won't be any jamming so you can reduce the groupings down to 3.


You're looking for very clear patterns.


Let's break down this range:


30bb BB vs BTN minraise - calling range



The calling range is made up of a lot of hands. If you're folding too much then you're probably missing the defends with the weaker suited hands or the garbage offsuit hands.


30bb BB vs BTN minraise - 3-bet for value range



These are hands that will call if you face a 4-bet jam.


JTs and T9s, and maybe 55 and 66, stand out here, but once you've 3-bet there's enough in the middle and you're getting a good enough price for these hands to call facing a 4-bet jam.


If you're not 3-betting enough you're either not going wide enough for value or you're not bluffing enough.

30bb BB vs BTN minraise - 3-bet as a bluff range



There's a clear bias here towards offsuit Ax and hands that unblock your opponent's raise/folds.


Notice how the 3-betting range overall is polarised: the value portion is based around TT+, ATs+ and AKo and the bluffs are at the bottom.


At this stage in the learning process you're really just trying to develop an understanding of the kinds of hands that you can 3-bet bluff in this spot. To take it once step further, try to think about why.


30bb BB vs BTN minraise - 3-bet jamming range



Here there's a clear pattern of pairs 22-99 and ATo-AQo.


AQo is clearly jamming for value as it can get worse hands to call. A5o, on the other hand, is a "bluff" and gets better hands to fold, while simultaneously unblocking the BTN's raise folds, having ok equity against the calling range and blocking the BTN's most obvious calls (i.e. big Ax hands).


Setting up training drills


There are lots of options here from DTO and GTO Wizard to Poker Trainer and Range Trainer Pro.


The key is to keep the drill focused and specific.


In my signature program 'Train & Play Like The Pros', I get my students to use an app called 'Preflop Dojo' where you can choose specific situations and scenarios to train.


For example, you can choose "vs Open", then choose your stack size (30bb), the position of the opener (BU) and your position (BB) and then drill this specific spot.


The great thing about using software like this to drill these spots is that it will give you feedback on where you're going wrong.


Preflop Dojo highlights the mistake for you in red on the 13x13 grid:



Once you feel confident at 30bb, you can add other stack sizes to the drill, but remember to study them first.


Adding different stack sizes to the drill will force you to pause in each spot in a similar way to when you play, rather than acting an autopilot.


Remember your goal is to fix the leak of folding too much and not 3-betting enough in the Big Blind facing a Button open. Don't make the mistake of adding BB vs CO opens or changing the spot completely and training HJ vs BTN 3-bets.


Summary


Studying and training are two different approaches to learning.


Study the preflop situation to gain knowledge and understanding first, and then train the spot to put your new found learning into practice.


That's it for today.


See you next week.


 

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