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How to Create Custom Opening Ranges in Poker

Publish: 2017-09-25 11:45:58

A solid preflop poker strategy always starts with opening the right hands in the right positions. We want to maximize our value with our good hands and put ourselves in the most advantageous positions after the flop as well.

Now it is fine to memorize a bunch of preflop starting hand charts if you are just starting out. This gives a beginner level poker player in particular a great foundation to work from.

However, if you really want to take your game to the next level, then it is necessary that you start creating some custom opening ranges based on who is actually seated at the poker table.

And one of the best (and most profitable) places to begin is with blind stealing.

Stealing the Blinds Like a Pro

One of the most effective and immediate ways to improve your winrate in poker is to start stealing the blinds more efficiently.

Just to make sure that we are on the same page here, when I talk about stealing the blinds I am referring to a situation where it has been folded to you in either the cutoff or the button.

Since there are so few people left to act behind you at this point, you can often make a simple raise and just take down the pot uncontested.

Many people discount the value of stealing the blinds these days. This is an absolutely huge mistake.

In today’s micro stakes games where a really good winrate is often considered to be 5bb/100 or 10bb/100 at the very most, the value of stealing the blinds more often simply cannot be overstated.

Let’s use a bit of simple math to help illustrate this:

Every time you successfully steal the blinds in poker you win 1.5bb (big blinds).This is the total value of the small blind and the big blind.

Therefore, if somebody who is currently a small winner (say 3bb/100) was able to find just two more spots every 100 hands to take down the blinds, they would effectively double their poker winnings, overnight.

Yes you read that right, double their poker winnings.

The other thing to remember is that you don’t even need to risk that much in order to try and steal the blinds. I recommend raising it to 2.5x the big blind when you are in a steal seat. Some people go even lower these days to 2.2x or even just a mini-raise.

For example:

You are playing NL10 online where the small blind is 5c and the big blind is 10c. 2.5x the big blind would be 25c. 2.2x would be 22c and a mini-raise would be 20c.

When you are risking such small amounts, you simply don’t need to take down the pot all that often in order to turn a profit.

And of course even when you do get called you still get to play the entire hand in position after the flop. Due to the incredible power of position in poker this automatically makes you a large favorite to win the hand regardless of the cards.

So let’s start by creating some custom blind stealing ranges based around the various player types that you will encounter in small stakes poker games these days.

Robbing the Tight Players

The most important thing to consider when attempting to steal the blinds is who is actually seated in them. No other factor (including what your hand is) really even comes close.

Some player types will let you steal their blinds all day long while other player types will fight you tooth and nail for every pot and re-raise you frequently.

The Nit and TAGfish player types are the ones who consistently give up their blinds the easiest. These are the two tight player types that you will see most often at the lower stakes poker tables these days.

They will often be playing around 10% of their hands in a full ring game or 15% at a 6-handed table. They also play weak. What I mean by that is they don’t like to get involved without a big hand.

So some of these players will fold their blinds as much as 80% or 90% of the time. If you are using a HUD, the stat that you want to look at here will be Fold to Steal.

If you play online, these are often the types of players who will be playing too many tables at once as well. This means that they are often strapped for time.

Therefore if they have a marginal hand, they will usually just let it go. We want to be taking advantage of this as much as possible by stealing their blinds.

And lastly, since they give up so often it is very easy to play against them when they do finally call us or fight back with a 3Bet. It is very likely to be a strong hand.

Nits and TAGfish typically don’t re-raise very often. They will usually have a 3Bet% of somewhere between 1 and 5 (6max or full ring).

This range is almost exclusively for value. In fact it is almost all premium hands! So this means that we can very easily get away from our hand when they finally do decide to fight back.

So it is a very simple approach versus these player types. If I notice that there are two players in the blinds that are either Nits or TAGfish, then I am going to be open raising with a huge range of hands.

I will often be raising with as much as half the deck in these situations. That is, 50% of all hands dealt to me.

Here is a rough idea of what the top 50% of hands looks like:

Earlier I mentioned that you could realistically double your winrate by picking up the blinds just two more times every 100 hands. Well this is one of the absolute easiest ways to do that.

You should be open raising with an absolutely massive range like this in late position if you notice a few Nits or TAGfish in the blinds. And since these players are so common these days, especially at the lower limits, this situation comes up a lot.

You can even expand your range a little bit in other positions to take advantage of this as well. In other words, you don’t necessarily need to be in late position. You don’t want to go too crazy with this though.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Example Hand

Hero is in early position with:

(8d) (7d)

The small blind is a Nit and the big blind is a TAGfish

Hero should RAISE

This hand is typically a standard preflop fold in either 6max or full ring due to our poor position at the poker table. However in this particular situation it is absolutely fine (and profitable) to raise with it.

The reason why is because there are two weak/tight bad regs in the blinds. The likelihood of them folding their hands and surrendering the pot to us is high.

However it is important to note that there are many other players left to act between us and the blinds. And some of them might be loose and/or aggressive.

Therefore, we don’t want to get too out of line in a spot like this. A 50% open range for example would be suicidal from early position.

So while I want to take advantage of the two fold machines in the blinds, I also have to be realistic about my position at the table here.

I want to add a few more high quality hands that play well after the flop such as suited connectors and maybe a few suited aces as well. We still need to be folding all of the junk like K7, J8, 96 and so on though.

Example Hand

Hero is in the cutoff with:

(Kh) (7s)

The small blind is a Nit and the big blind is a Nit

Hero should RAISE

Let’s look at a hand from late position this time, the cutoff to be exact.

Once again this is a hand that I would often fold in this situation in either 6max or full ring. However, the likelihood that these two players just hand over their blinds to me is too good of an opportunity to pass up.

In order to get ahead in poker you are sometimes going to have to play some “trashy” hands like this in the right spots. You don’t need to wait for the nuts in order to take advantage of a couple Nits who are trying to give away their money.

And the main difference between this hand and the last one is that we are in late position this time. Since there are far fewer players left to beat, junky hands like this can become profitable to play.

Final Thoughts

Stealing the blinds more effectively at the lower stakes poker tables is one of the biggest keys to your success in today’s games.

As I discussed above, you can potentially double your winrate by successfully taking down the blinds just a few more times every time you play. I don’t know of any other strategy that is this easy to implement and creates such immediate and massive results.

This particular strategy and the examples above were taken from a sample chapter in my brand new poker book: The Micro Stakes Playbook.

If you want to learn how to steal the blinds more effectively against the other players like the tough regs and the fish, along with my entire strategy for crushing the micros, make sure to go pick up your copy of the book today.

I will be back next time with another sample chapter from the book. You will learn how to start floating the flop way more often against the weak regs and then taking away the pot on the turn. So stay tuned for that!

Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams is a poker pro and a multiple time poker author. You can learn more micro stakes poker strategy at his blog:

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