A Case for Wide Opening Ranges

I’m not particularly LAGgy on the LAG (Loose Aggressive) spectrum, and mostly consider myself a TAG (Tight Aggressive) player, mostly only raising pre-flop with hands that I feel will have good equity and good equity realization given my position and the number of players left to act. But there have been a number of players on this site and elsewhere that open with much, much wider ranges with a lot of success.

Ranges proposed by a solver are based on perfect play from all parties, while we play poker in a setting where no one is playing perfectly (and maybe, at a given table, no one is even playing well). What kind of factors probably support the profitability of wider opening ranges?

  • Low 3 bet frequencies: Myself I have never played in an environment with such low 3 betting frequencies, and the relatively low risk of facing a 3 bet after a raise is a giant factor enabling wider opening ranges.
  • Limp folding: Having a lot of players that will frequently limp and then fold to a raise can be enough by itself for a raise with any two cards to be profitable.
  • Weak flatting ranges: Players that will limp call wide are almost as good, as they are often playing hands to don’t fair well out of position even against a wide opening range.
  • Large implied odds: The ability to buy in for 200 big blinds on most cash game tables at the site, and the frequency with which opponents will pay off with their stacks when you hit a big hand means more speculative hands have the implied odds they need to be profitable. Notice also how the first bullet above also supports this, as if you face more 3 bets, even if you continue you are going post flop with a lower SPR (stack to pot ratio), diminishing your implied odds.
  • Post flop edge: This is the most nebulous, and many players will think they have this without actually having it, but it is clear none the less that some players play better post flop than most of their peers. Not all players have an equal grasp of post flop fundamentals: hand reading skills; extracting max value; employing a reasonably balanced strategy; understanding pot odds, implied odds, and how they compare to your odds of hitting a hand; bet sizing; assessing range advantage; protecting checking ranges; when to polarize; how play changes with more players; how to effectively exploit a variety of post flop mistakes… These things make a difference, and a player with an edge in many of these areas should be able to make a profit with a more hands.

A Case for Tight Opening Ranges

  • Most publicly published pre-flop solves assume quite small opening raise sizes. Fairly small increases in the opening sizes can have pretty dramatic effects in the width of the ranges that can make that open at equilibrium. A recent publicly available solve assumed 100bb stacks and a 3bb raise size, and yet from the highjack it mostly folds pocket pairs under 88, and opens almost no small suited connectors from that seat (the only hands it opened 100% were 88+, AT+, KJ+, A3s+, K9s+, QTs+ and JTs, and so these were actually the only +EV hands – mixed strategy hands will always be zero EV). Many players also do not contract their calling ranges appropriately when facing larger raise sizes, often making larger opens attractive.
  • Are you patient, not needing to be involved in a huge number of hands, and also preferring to avoid a lot of volatility? Playing a more premium selection of hands from each seat can fit in well with this approach.
  • Are you at a really aggressive table, with lots of 3 bets and 4 bets pre-flop, and frequent multi-barrel bluffs post flop? You might find that tightening your opening ranges on tables like this can be quite effective.
  • Do you like to buy in short stacked, or are there often many small stacked opponents at the tables you like to play at? Typical post-flop SPR will be a lot lower here, and small suited connectors and pairs lose almost all value without good implied odds, and you are better served by playing high card hands.