Hands To Play UTG In Live Poker

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You are playing in a live $1/$2 poker game. You are first to act UTG and look down at your hand. Do you know which hands you’ll play from UTG? Which hands will you fold? Are you going to open-limp at all?

Let’s discuss crafting an UTG range that makes you profit, while figuring out when to play tighter AND looser – including the key variables that most players overlook.

Today we are answering a question sent in by Chase. Chase says,

“I regularly play in $1/$2 live 9-handed cash games. I open raise 17.6% of my range UTG, including all my pairs, all suited aces, and A9o+. (I fold everything else). Should I tighten up from this position?”

So let’s talk about what goes into choosing a preflop range, why I think this particular range is too loose in your average live $1/$2 game, and how you can improve your range selection in future sessions. Keep in mind that this is focused on RAISING since I don’t advise the average player to do much open limping at the tables.

Let’s start by plugging this range into Flopzilla:

Preflop Raising Range

Overall, this preflop range looks a little wide to me as a default. But in certain dynamics, I can be on board. For instance:

  • If you could use UTG as a steal position because the table is full of super-tighter players that over-fold (either preflop or postflop)
  • There is a fish in the blinds that you will likely get heads up to yourself
  • There are deeper stacks + you are likely to go heads up + there aren’t many 3bets happening at this table

But in the dynamics where this raising range is +EV, could we also add hands like KTs, J9s, and suited connectors to add extra board coverage? Could we expand further and add suited gappers into the mix as well?

With all of that said, should Chase tighten up from UTG? I think yes. This is a little too wide in your typical $1/$2 live game and there are a couple of reasons for that.

First, in the average $1/$2 live game, there is a lot of preflop continuance and not a lot of preflop folding: meaning there is a higher risk of multiway pots. Playing in multiway pots, and considering that live games tend to have a higher open-raise size than online does, you suddenly have an even smaller SPR when going postflop. Especially for non-default hands like A9o and A3s, we want a deeper SPR, where we can play out the draw to its entirety, rather than putting ourselves in spots where we are forced to commit in sub-par situations postflop.

Due to that, if this is that kind of $1/$2 game where you are going to get a lot of preflop callers, I will probably scrape some of these weaker hands out from early position. Hands like KJ can even sometimes be a little too ambitious from UTG.

Second, is that while live $1/$2 games rarely have aggressive 3bet dynamics, they do tend to have a lot of multiway pots. When playing in this type of game specifically, I recommend tightening up and getting your opening range closer to 10% of hands. Yes, this is rather tight, but when you are given the information of the dynamic, you have to adapt your range, whether that means expanding or contracting.


One final point is that your postflop edges can be a large factor when it comes to crafting an exact preflop range. If the likely postflop scenario (HU vs. MW pot or likely SPR) is beneficial for you, then adding more hands into your preflop range makes more sense. However, if you are still working to develop a postflop strategy – being a bit tighter preflop to make your postflop life easier makes sense at the moment. Bear in mind that this is a bandaid solution, not a permanent one, but it’s worth keeping in mind when trying to use any coach’s range chart/suggestions.

If you are still working on your postflop game, I suggest checking out CORE from Red Chip Poker. The complete A-Z course shows you my entire poker strategy foundation through bite-size lessons, quizzes, and in-depth hand breakdowns. Remember, once you are stronger postflop – the rest of your game can really open up!

SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 500+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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