Many players wish to emulate stars like Tom Dwan, and work out exactly how he seems to profit from playing such a wide range of hands. Putting pressure on opponents preflop, and through the betting streets with perfect timing isn’t everything, but it is the mark of an excellent player. Online pros can often make playing wide ranges preflop look easy, but when your post-flop play is incredibly accurate, you have a good foundation to widen ranges against opponents who may be making postflop mistakes.
While this article won’t teach you how to play perfectly postflop, we can offer a few guidelines for slowly expanding your opening ranges.
One of the key points that should be mentioned is that playing tighter ensures that you get into less tricky situations, so if you are already a tight player struggling to turn a profit, you shouldn’t try to change that by widening the range of hands you open with. If you feel like your postflop skill level is approaching mastery, then seeing more flops will clearly increase your profit margins. You must be able to recognise good spots however, and have a great ability to read changing dynamics through multiple streets, otherwise you will continually put yourself in difficult situations that you aren’t equipped to find a way out of. You have been warned!
1 . Blind stealing
This chip building ploy is an old but effective one which has become very heavily used over the last decade or more. Essentially, you are exploiting players who fold too much. The maths behind blind stealing are basic.
Your opponent must fold 66% of the time as a minimum if you are opening to 3x the big blind. Bear in mind if you are on the button, both players must collectively fold their hands 66% of the time. Not individually. With a raise to 2x the big blind, your opponents have to fold 57% of the time for your steal to at least break even.
If you do get called or 3 bet, you now have difficult choices ahead. Make sure you give your actions careful thought, otherwise you will be setting fire to the profit you make from the times your opponents do fold.
2 . Play more in position
Position is incredibly important in poker, as I’m sure you’ve heard hundreds of times. Being able to act last through the hand means that you can play many hands profitably. Playing a wide range from the button is very important, and all too often, players fall into the trap of playing too tight on the button.
Good players will play over 75% of hands from the button when no other player has opened. They will 3 bet a wide range against late position opens too. If the blinds are tight, some player even open 100% of buttons. If you are only opening 30%-40% of them, you need to widen that range. As an interesting side point, if the player on your left is playing way too tight on the button, you can adopt a very wide range in the cut-off and as a result, are almost getting the button advantage twice per orbit!
3. Re-raise more preflop in position
This point links in with the one above, because when a late position player opens, and you have position on them, re-raising puts them in a very awkward spot if they don’t have a premium hand. Calling and playing a decent sized pot out of position is a bad path to tread, and folding repeatedly in this situation makes them exploitable. 4 Betting is an option, but it carries plenty of risk with a marginal hand.
If you want to loosen up your game start adding more 3 bets in position. Any player who doesn’t hold a premium hand will not like being 3 bet by someone who has position on them. It puts them on the back foot, and forces them to make a choice when none of their options look great. Against a late position opener, you could 3 bet any suited ace or king, along with your normal range, while in position. You’ll be surprised how many folds you get.
4. Play more hands against weaker players
As you play at a table, you should always be trying to work out which of your opponents make a lot of mistakes, and what those mistakes are. If you know who to exploit, and how to exploit them, you have a serious profit margin to work with. Don’t be hesitant in this regard, be ruthless. Because the nature of poker is to gain from other people’s mistakes. The more pots you can play with those who play badly, the more success you will have. If players limp a lot, keep raising them. If a weak player opens every time it is folded to them in mid to late position, start 3 betting liberally. If you can create a situation where you are playing 90% of your pots against players who seem weaker than you, then that’s very good. If you can also play most of those pots in position, that’s great for you. In that scenario, the strength of your cards barely even matters.
Conclusion: preflop plans and postflop skills
When you decide to play more hands, you invariably find yourself in more testing situations. These situations can be complicated and costly, although that will be partially dependent on the player and on the game format (MTT or Cash Games). Try to plan ahead during hands and foresee difficult situations before they arise. If you find that you are able to open your range without taking a noticeable downswing, then you should certainly stick at it, because you will learn a huge amount by consistently trying to think your way through difficult spots. Eventually, when you master these new situations the money will start to flow.
Article by Craig B.
All these recommendations are valid both in Cash Games and MTTs