For more in-depth poker strategy discussion from veteran poker pro and coach Ryan Laplante, be sure to visit his poker training site: LearnProPoker.
If you want to play tournaments well and be successful in them, the first thing you need to do is have a very well-built foundation for your pre-flop game.
This article is going to focus purely on deep stack pre-flop opening ranges, with future articles covering more aspects of the game. This article is going to assume that we are 8 handed and have a big blind ante, or all antes combined equal to 1 big blind in total, and we are 100bb deep.
Pre-flop tournament poker is under a recent revolution. Having access to better and better pre-flop solvers helps a lot with understanding what types of hands work well at various stack depths and what ranges should look like from a theory perspective. While these solvers are powerful tools, and while we have made huge progress in our knowledge of what pre-flop should look like; We still have a long way to go.
Also, the way in which pre-flop Game Theory Optimal ranges have been built is dependent heavily on what options you give the solver, how complex the tree is, and how accurate you make the solve be. I personally am a strong advocate for larger opening sizes in theory situations. While we end up playing slightly fewer hands, we have stronger and easier ranges to play, which is important for deep stack play in real world situations.
The following approach is an easy and structured way to think about pre-flop poker for deep stack.
Deep Stack Opening Ranges (Raise First In Ranges)
When deep stack your opening ranges require strong equity and utility. This means that we open very few off-suit hands until we are in late position, and even then we are fairly careful.
The later position we are, the more apt we are to steal blinds and less likely to get 3-bet; the looser we can open. The deeper effective you are, the more it matters to be able to make nut-quality hands.
If you open too weak of hands verse strong players, you will run into bad reverse-implied odds. They will also start to pick up on the fact that you are opening too loose and will start 3-betting you more often. This is why keeping in line with theory matters a lot when playing vs strong opponents.
At this stack depth if we are opening it should be to 2.5x the big-blind. If someone limps, we should add 2x for the first limper, and 1x per extra limper. To choose the range to do it with, act as though you are playing from 1 position earlier. If you are the small blind, treat it as though you are playing from Mid Position.
It is also incredibly important to never limp, whether as an open limper, or as an over limp (there have been 1 or more other limps already).
The main reason being that the deeper effective you are, the more important it is that we play stronger ranges, and those ranges want to build bigger pots. Also, we don’t want to give people good odds to play speculative hands vs us as well. On top of that, if you have a range that has limps in it and have a split approach, it becomes much tougher to play overall.
So: DON’T LIMP AND DON’T OVER LIMP!
I’m going to show opening ranges for each position and situation. I will also first show a table of each position I will be noting, as well as their names.
In the images, white = fold, brown = raise and yellow = call.
The text notation used for each range is how it is input into range calculators. So you can copy-paste it directly into PokerStove or any other equity calculator or solver, and it will show the range. However the percentage of the range will be off, as it will in-put each at 100% weight. See the images for proper weighting, a partially colored box means you only play it that percent.
For the text notation, here are examples:
A2o+ = Ace – 2 offsuit and all better aces.
K8s+ = King – 8 suited and all better kings.
EP = Early Position/UTG 8 handed. MP = Mid Position. MP2 = Mid Position 2. HJ = High Jack. CO = Cut Off. BTN = Button. SB = Small Blind. BB = Big Blind
100bb Early Position: 22+,AJo+,KQo,A3s+,K8s+,Q9s+,J9s+,T8s+,98s,87s,76s,65s,54s = 14.5% of hands
Mid-Position: 22+,ATo+,KTo+,QJo,A3s+,K6s+,Q9s+,J9s+,T8s+,98s,87s,76s,65s,54s = 18.5% of hands
Mid-Position-2: 22+,ATo+,KTo+,QTo+,JTo, A2s+,K5s+,Q8s+,J8s+,T8s+,97s+,87s,76s,65s,54s = 22.3% of hands
High Jack: 22+,A8o+,KTo+,QTo+,JTo,A2s+,K4s+,Q8s+,Q6s,J8s+,T7s+,97s+,86s+,76s,65s,54s = 27.7% of hands
Cut Off: 22+,A5o+,K9o+,Q9o+,J9o+,T9o, A2s+,K2s+,Q4s+,J6s+,T6s+,96s+,85s+,75s+,65s,54s = 35.9% of hands
Button: 22+,A2o+,K5o+,Q8o+,J8o+,T7o+,97o+, 87o,A2s+,K2s+,Q2s+,J2s+,T3s+,95s+,85s+,74s+,64s+,53s+ = 53.6% of hands
Small Blind: 22+,A2o+,K2o+,Q2o+,J2o+,T3o+,95o+,84o+,74o+,64o+,53o+,A2s+,K2s+,Q2s+,J2s+,T2s+,92s+,82s+,72s+,62s+,52s+,42s+,32s = 86.1% of hands
Playing From the Small Blind
Playing from the small blind is completely unique. We start out of position, and having half of a big-blind out in front of us means we are getting very good odds to either complete, or to call vs an open. Because of these drastically better odds, we get to play a very wide range of hands when folded to and get to call the big-blind at a very high frequency.
Playing from the small blind is the one position where it is extremely important to have a calling range, and at deeper stack it is also very important to make sure you are generally just calling, and you have a very well protected range. This leads to us trapping our strong hands at high frequencies. When we do raise, we should do so to 3.2x the big blind.
While this article was an in-depth look into pre-flop for Deep Stack opening and built for you an easy-to-use fundamental framework, it likely won’t be enough by-itself to enter your game well. Because of that, I strongly recommend picking up RangeTrainerPro and using the pre-flop trainer. Within three minutes you can easily practice 50 or more hands, and it will track your results to make it easy to see where you are struggling. Lots of practice is the best way to be able to properly implement these strategies when actually playing.
Thank you for reading and best of luck at the tables!