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How to get the best preflop ranges

I bet you’ve been struggling with the right answers preflop, it’s hard, isn’t it, when you have that pair of JJ and you get 4bet by CO after you 3bet from the SB. Or TT. Or AKo. Do you know how loose player 4bets? Does he ever 4b bluff? Well, the answer is, you don’t really need to know that information.

How come?

Well, it’s pretty simple.

If your opponent doesn’t defend at a good frequency, then you’re going to be making money in the long run no matter what. It’s time to understand a little bit how preflop ranges work.

You have to understand, first of all, that your job, to break even, is to steal the blinds once every six hands / orbit (in 6-max) and once every nine hands (in full ring poker). If you do this and everyone folds and that’s how the action goes, you’re perfectly breakeven. This is how simple poker actually is, at a basic conceptual level.

The first problem arises when someone starts defending either by 3betting or calling. To be perfectly frank, you’re saying “I have the best hand” and the opponent who calls says “I think I might have a good enough hand” and the one who 3bets says clearly “I think you’re wrong, I have the best hand”, or simply “I have the better hand here”. This means that they are contesting your steal and you either can call or 4bet or fold. By calling you’re saying “I think I have a good enough hand”. By 4betting you’re saying “I have an absolutely good hand, and I think mine is better”. By folding you’re saying “You probably have the best hand”.

At this point, you’ve probably realized that poker goes way deep down the rabbit hole with a multitude of 22100 flops, of which 1755 are strategically different. This creates a lot of complexity towards the problem of “just stealing the blinds every 6 rounds”. Of course, poker is variance and you might not get a good hand for 30 hands and then get 10 good hands in a row. That’s where all the money comes pouring in because everyone just starts thinking you’re a maniac and play all hands or just got bored. We know that poker doesn’t play like, I steal this blind you steal the next. There’s a lot of fighting and action going on, people abusing position to take the blinds every time they’re on the BTN or even CO. This produces imperfection and, thus, the need to defend and overdefend sometimes, too.

What if I told you that there’s a set of distinct preflop ranges and a way to play that is infallible, a way to react to your opponents’ moves to which it doesn’t matter if he’s overstealing or understealing? There’s an optimal raise frequency and range for every position and there’s an optimal defense frequency versus all of those and this can be calculated using poker solvers and a Big Hunk Server with loads of sticks of RAM (512GB up to 2TB), and people have done so already and have those ranges in their lap. Doesn’t that make you feel like you’ve been missing out, or even worse, are at a disadvantage?

If your opponents are playing these GTO ranges, there’s nothing you can do but play the same GTO ranges. Let’s take a simple example. You’re in the BB and BTN opens GTO range (Game Theory Optimal – solved ranges). If you overdefend compared to the GTO BB vs BTN defense range, you’re going to have a weaker range postflop and being out of position, are going to make more mistakes – either call too wide or fold too much on any given street and lose money in the long run. If you underdefend, then you’re giving the BTN too many BB/100 hands by just folding more than you should have. Either way, unless BTN is exploitable postflop and makes a lot of mistakes, you’re not going to win unless you use GTO defense ranges.

The same goes in reverse. If you’re going to be opening BTN to steal, you’d better have a GTO opening frequency, cause if you’re underopening, you just hand the BB a lot of BB/100 by just offering him one less opponent to steal his blinds, and if you overopen, you’ll most likely get crushed postflop more often than not by BB’s GTO defense range, getting shown top pairs with better kickers, higher flushes and two pairs, losing bigger pots.

You need to open only the hands which are +EV in GTO from those positions, and only a solver that’s warranted

This simplifies the game massively. Poker used to be such a complex game preflop, and it still is, but this solved GTO ranges shortcut will give you clear vision on the moves that you should be executing to be a winning preflop player, and also knowing your range with clear vision going towards the flop, you’ll get better at executing postflop range-based decisions and both place your opponent in tough situations facing powerful adversity and print money.

Sadly, these ranges can’t be found anywhere, cause if they did, people would already be playing a perfect preflop game. This is not an issue, though. Why? It’s pretty simple, if you own them first, you’re going to get a good edge vs the player pool, the majority not having GTO preflop ranges.

There’s a few suppliers out there, but there’s one who stands out quite a bit. I’ve researched this for myself before buying any sort of ranges, and I decided beforehand what’s important for me:

  1. The ranges not having too many abstractions
  2. The ranges have to have every situation down to the dot
  3. The ranges have to be calculated very thoroughly, close enough to true GTO

Abstractions

The preflop solution to Hold’em is very complex. You’d need several eons of RAM memory and a hell of a supercomputer that would engulf the whole planet’s computing power and several alien starships to solve it, and it would still take a considerable amount of lifetimes to achieve a perfect solution. Luckily, MonkerSolver came with a good approach towards solving preflop Holdem, by reducing the amount of cases in which you test the EV of your hands. For example, let’s say that CO opens and you’re in the SB. You could say by modern standards that everyone has agreed that calling in the SB at this point is pretty bad. This means that you can exclude that situation since you’re not going to do it and nobody is going to do it anyway so you’re not going to have to react to that. This is what an abstraction is. Using only one bet size on any given postflop street is also an abstraction.

In my search I’ve been trying to find the ranges that have had as few abstractions applied as possible. I’ve found the best ranges to be on a site called RangeConverter, where I stumbled upon a plethora of ranges for every poker format. Guy clearly knows what he’s doing and I’ve seen a few videos of him switching between 512GB RAM virtual machine, solving the preflop solutions to a great accuracy.

Situations

This is something that struck me right when I accessed the RangeConverter site, look at all these solved preflop situations! Holy moly, does this site have it all! I was pretty stunned. What I wanted, though, was the preflop game of 6-max solved ranges, let’s not forget what we’re here for. They differ, as you can see there are ranges for 100z, 500z, 200z 6-max and they do differ because of the rake changes. The smaller the rake the more hands you can defend, for example, because the pots won will be larger so you need less overall equity preflop to call.

Now, one more thing I’d love to see in ranges would be every situation explained. For usability reasons, I got the NL500 Zoom 100BB Ranges, and I found everything I needed. Just check this one out:

Image was extracted directly from the range browser on Rangeconverter.com

This is a BTN re-jam range after MP opens 2.5bb, BTN call, SB SQZ to 13.6BB, MP call, and then we, the BTN, sometimes might be having a jam range. Well, here it is! This is very in-depth and to be completely honest I would have never actually thought BTN would have a rejamming range here, but here it is! You can literally find everything in these ranges.

These ranges have served me well in practice up to now, and I’m really happy with my acquisition. Some other features the site offers aside from the range explorer are:

High Accuracy – Over 20 cycles in MonkerSolver
Every situation pretty much covered
Import into your favorite poker software

I already have the ranges imported into PIOSolver and am using them to figure out some situations postflop, and shedding light onto my poker game one day at a time.

RangeConverter.com gets the CrushTheMicros seal of approval for all-stop preflop shop.

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About Tudor Scriminti

Computer Science BSc Graduate, started playing poker online since 2007, professionally since 2012, won $50k playing micro-stakes with over 2.5 million hands experience, coach to over 500 happy students and loves to game on the side when has some free time!

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