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Preflop Hand Ranges in NL Hold'em

Pre flop hand ranges in Texas Hold’em are the framework for any hand that is played. Without a proper understanding of which hands should be played pre flop, no player will be able to effectively play post flop. Imagine players who were blindly calling raises, or even making raises, without even knowing which cards they were holding.

Needless to say, this is far from an optimal strategy. Actual pre flop hand ranges are very situational and are always changing. The hands that you play at a loose table will be quite different than the hands you would play at a super tight table. This is an example of some very basic table dynamics that should be considered whenever you are trying to identify a solid pre flop hand range. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and hand ranges are much more intricate than this.

Table Dynamics

There are a handful of primary variables that should be analyzed whenever determining which hands should and should not be played. Some of these dynamics are completely obvious, while others will be much tougher to notice. Great poker players will tweak their ranges down to the smallest detail, be it position, history, or someone’s mood.

A lot of poker players like to try and set up pre flop hand ranges as if they are doing math, but it is much more of a science. Adjustments to any number of table dynamics will play a large role in whether or not you are playing with solid hand ranges.

The looseness or tightness of a table should be the first factor that you look at whenever trying to figure out which hands to play pre flop. For the most part, determining whether a table is tight or loose is quite easy. You don’t need hours of experience or past history to tell just how a game tends to be playing. It is worth noting that sometimes a table will be neither tight or loose, in which case you should still be adjusting your hand ranges accordingly.

If a table is playing very loose, your goal as a winning player should be to tighten up a little bit. This might seem like odd advice since your opponents will be playing many more hands than they should be. If you really think about it, though, playing tight at a loose table only makes sense. Pretend that you are driving a car on a road with all kinds of reckless drivers. You wouldn’t start driving like a maniac just because everyone else is doing it.

In fact, anyone with common sense would instead drive more controlled and with a higher level of awareness and concentration. It works the exact same way when you are at a poker table with a number of reckless players. If you start to loosen up you will be playing right into their hands. Loose tables are the easiest way to win a lot of fast money in poker. Don’t waste your time trying to exploit players who couldn’t find the fold button on the screen if they had a gun to their hand. Let them donate their money by waiting around for a strong hand.

Tight tables work in the exact opposite way of loose tables. Instead of tightening up, you should be widening your pre flop ranges. Start to play some hands that you would otherwise be throwing away. You should be doing this because tight players will generally allow you to walk all over them. Most of the money to be made in a tight game comes from solid pre flop play.

Pick apart the players who fold everything but aces and kings by raising and re raising and forcing folds. If you do get some resistance, though, be prepared to let go of your hand. When a tight player starts to fight back, it usually means they have something very strong.


Position is one of the most important factors in almost any regard when it comes to poker strategy. As a general rule of thumb for pre flop hand ranges, early position players should play tight, middle position players should be a bit looser, and late position players should be the loosest.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should be 5 betting all in pre flop with 8-6 when you are the last to act, but it does mean that you should be going after easy pots. A lot of players are afraid of playing pots out of position, even when they have a decent hand. To exploit this weakness you should be making the occasional re raise pre flop with random pocket pairs or hands that you would usually flat call or make an open raise with.

Just as late position gives you an opportunity to pick up uncontested pots with relative ease, early position will make your life difficult. When you have a weaker hand in early or even middle position, don’t even waste your time. Players who play wide ranges of hands from earlier positions often find themselves looking for the re buy button.

Never underestimate the value of winning a number of small pots by opening up in later position - you might just find that it serves as a large portion of your total earnings. Small-ball poker may not be fun but it sure is profitable.

Examples of Preflop Play

Now I'll explain some real-life examples of how I would play certain hands from certain positions:

Early Position

Early position will require that you are focusing on a stronger range of hands. In a 6-Max or full ring game, plan on raising with any pocket pair and big face cards. This is not a time to limp in (ever) or to raise with random suited connectors. Minimize the risk involved with playing out of position by sticking to solid hands.

Middle Position

Middle position allows for some more flexibility than early position, but you should still be extremely wary of suited connectors and other more speculative hands. In MP you can open with marginal aces like A9, AT, and AJ, but don’t make a habit of raising with any ace. Pocket pairs are still always worthy of a raise.

If someone has made an open raise in front of you, consider making a flat call with pairs and bigger hands like KQ, AJ, and AQ. Your three betting range should be along the lines of TT or JJ+ and AK.

Late Position

Late position is the time where you can do a little bit of free lancing. Take chances and try to experiment with hands that you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to play. If you think someone is being a little too aggressive pre flop, go ahead and make a light three bet and see what happens.

Always aim for max value in late position when you have a big hand and look to force out the stragglers who are hoping to outdraw you with little risk. Late position is always be the most profitable position on the table.

More NL Hold'em Strategy
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