Poker Trainer Preflop Ranges
How to choose preflop range
Poker Trainer has two built-in preflop ranges, Standard and Simple. Standard is a very strong range that is close to optimal (GTO – Game Theory Optimal) for cash games. Simple is a range that is constructed to be easier to memorize and to make it easier to play postflop.
The Standard preflop range has more hands included and it has some light 3-betting and 4-betting. This means that there are more hands to memorize, the range patterns are more complex and you will find yourself more often with a weak hand postflop. The Simple preflop range has fewer hands and you will more often have a strong hand postflop.
When to choose Standard range?
If you are willing to put in a lot of hard work and want close to optimal ranges that you do not have to relearn later, you should choose the Standard range. This range will likely make it take longer to get to a good winrate (if you are not already a strong player) since it is harder to play. In the beginning the extra hands that are included in Standard compared to Simple are usually losing hands, until you have become a strong postflop player. In the long run the winrate with the Standard range will be higher – when your postflop game is strong.
When to choose Simple range?
If you are a beginner or if you are not willing to spend a lot of time learning complex ranges that are hard to play, you should choose the Simple range. If you want to start winning in poker at lower levels (up to $100 NL cash games) as quickly as possible, you should choose the Simple range.
What if I play tournaments?
If you play tournaments your ranges should in general include more hands than the cash ranges (due to no rake). We recommend that you either use the Standard range as a starting point and play a few more hands if you are comfortable postflop. If you are more advanced you can use the possibility to create your own ranges to practice with your favorite tournament ranges.
How to use preflop ranges
Playing preflop well is fundamental to winning poker. If you do not get the start right, it is incredibly difficult to make up for that postflop. If you are significantly stronger than your opponents, you can use your skill advantage to play more hands, but until then you should be careful with the hands you pick.
The Standard preflop ranges show you how to play close to optimally. When you are an advanced player, you can deliberately deviate from the optimal range to exploit your opponents’ mistakes. For example, if you are on the button and you know that the players in the blinds fold too often to a raise, you can add more hands to your open raise range to exploit their mistakes. When you do that you are deviating from optimal, which means that if they are more advanced than you think, you would be making a mistake. Even if they are not that advanced, they might pick up on the pattern after a while if you make big adjustments, which might mean you should switch back to playing optimal ranges so they cannot exploit you.
It is challenging to memorize all the ranges. But as long as the mistakes you make are small, it is not really a problem. If you consistently include 66 in your calling range when the last hand in the range was 77, you are making a small mistake. But it will not cost you much. As long as you are roughly right most of the time, you will be fine. It is however important that you follow-up, learn and adjust. If you are playing online it is strongly recommended that you use a poker tracker like Hold’em Manager or Poker Tracker and regularly review your hands. You can check your winrate for all hands in all preflop scenarios. If you are consistently playing and losing with some hands that are not in the Standard range you should stop playing them. If they are in the range, but you are still losing with them, you should either switch to the Simple range or work on improving your postflop game.
How to use preflop ranges
The Standard preflop range is based on a GTO solution from a solver library. This means that the foundation can be mathematically proven to be optimal. Optimal means that if our opponents play optimally, they cannot exploit us if we also play optimally. However, if our opponents are not playing optimally (no human can learn GTO, it is too complex) we are not winning the maximum against them. Adjusting to their mistakes is called exploitative poker and that can be quite significantly more profitable – if you know what you are doing. Part of knowing what you are doing is learning the baseline optimal ranges.
The underlying GTO solution is based on the following input:
- 6 max $50 NL cash game (works well on other limits as well, the differences are small).
- Open raise 2.5 bb, except in SB where it is 3 bb.
In a GTO solution actions are mixed. This means you will do different things with the same hand with a certain frequency. For example you might call with TT 80% of the time and raise 20% of the time. This makes it really hard to learn. Unless you are playing at high levels, like $200 NL and up, it is likely not worth the effort. The Standard range is a pure range (same action is taken with the same hand in the same scenario all the time). The pure range has been constructed to stay as close as possible to the optimal frequencies in the GTO solution. This means that if the GTO solution has 5% calling, the Standard range will be very close to this.
In theory this means that you could be exploited when playing the Standard range, since it is not fully optimal. But since the overall raise /call /fold frequencies will be correct, your opponents need to be aware of exactly which hands you are playing in your range. They will not be able to exploit you by looking at the stats in their HUD (Heads-up Display), since those stats will be in line with GTO. The only time those exploits can happen practically is against very competent opponents that have played a ton of hands against you. That is unlikely to be true before $200 NL. If you also do some exploitative adjustments here and there it will be incredibly hard for opponents to exploit your mixing mistakes (not using the right mixing frequencies).
How the Simple preflop range was constructed
The Simple preflop range uses the Standard range as starting point. It has some hands removed to make it easier to play.The patterns have been simplified and have been made more similar so that they are easier to memorize. When making these simplifications a lot of care has been taken to primarily remove hands that have 0 EV (Expected Value) or very low EV. These hands were included in the optimal range by the GTO solver to make it harder to play against you – they help lift the value of the rest of the range, but they have 0 or very small value by themselves.
The Simple range has been cross-checked against the biggest winners at $10 NL at Pokerstars that are playing a tight and simple game. The ranges played by some of those players are very similar to the Simple range. It has also been cross-checked with the biggest winners at $100 NL at Pokerstars. At this level there are fewer players with such tight and simple ranges, but they do exist.
In general the Simple range will leave some money on the table since it is simple – not optimal. To give you some idea of that, based on the best players at Pokerstars it looks roughly like this:
$10 NL – max winrate with Simple range 10 bb / 100 hands
$10 NL – max winrate with Standard range 15 bb / 100 hands
$100 NL – max winrate with Simple range 5 bb / 100 hands
$100 NL – max winrate with Simple range 10 bb / 100 hands
As you can see, the Simple range is doing fine at $10 NL, but at $100 NL it is starting to become quite limited. At $10 NL there are plenty of highly successful players playing a range similar to the Simple range, but at $100 NL there are few. This means that as you climb the stakes you should probably switch to the Standard range. I recommend using the Standard range for $50 NL and higher. Another option is to continue using the Simple range against Regs (good, regular players) and expand the Simple range a bit against weaker opponents when an expanded range makes sense. If you do this you can use the Standard range as inspiration to find good hands to extend with.
If you are still not sure which range to choose, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for personal advice!