How Much to Raise Pre-Flop in Tourneys

In ring games I raise pot when I open but how much should I open raise in tourneys (2x, 3x, 4x, ect.)? In ring games you can just reload, but in tourneys you have to balance maximizing profit in hands with protecting your stack (even if the tourney allows re-buys it’s for a limited amount of time).

I don’t use a standard sizing at all in regular tournies. Instead, I adjust my sizing depending on where I am relative to the average chip count.

If I’m below the average stack, I use a larger sizing, say 4bb to allin, depending of how far below I happen to be. This is modified by my position, number of players in the pot already, and so on. My goal is to get to a position where I can win or bust out.

If I am ahead of the average stack, I use a smaller sizing, which can be as little as 2bbs. In this mode, I am trying to minimize volatility by playing smaller pots in order to protect my stack.

I also vary my sizing depending on the tournie stage. I use larger sizings in the early game, near the bubble, and when short handed at the final table. I use smaller sizings right after the bubble and at a full final table. These are also modified by the table dynamics.

In an unlimited rebuy tournie, I go full bingo maniac during the rebuy period. Push or fold is the name of that game. Even if I lose, those chips stay at the table, making it much easier to build a big stack. I am aiming for something like 7 or 8x my starting stack. If I get there, I switch to preservation mode, if I don’t, there’s always another tournament starting.


I haven’t played in tournaments much for the last 10 years and more, even though I’m starting to play a little again, and so I haven’t really tried to keep current with theory, but it is my understanding that smaller raising sizes (a min raise or slightly larger than a min raise) has come into vogue. I think this is mostly to protect against all in 3 bets from short stacks with the weaker part of your range, so that you can still fold a reasonable part of your range with minimal losses. I don’t see the need to do this much here:

  • You’ll have a decent amount of the tournament where there are no short stacks at your table of the size that generates this kind of 3 bet
  • Even when you do have stacks this size, you’ll often find yourself against players with extremely narrow 3 betting ranges, even when short stacked

So I mostly keep my raises in line with what I’d use in a cash game, though I will start altering my raise sizes in a number of situations

  • As I become short stacked myself, beginning at around 12 big blinds deep a small fraction of the time, progressing to 8 big blinds deep nearly 100% of the time, normal raises get replaced by jam or fold decisions
  • as there are more short stacks left to act with a demonstrated tendency to 3 bet jam at a high frequency, I’ll start making smaller raises, generally slightly larger than a min raise

I’ve had a lot of success in tourneys with the smaller raises you’re describing - IMO it gives you more room to manuever post flop against people who aren’t as good as you at post-flop play.

However, I made the mistake of making those small raises in ring games (everybody just calls those small raises in ring) - after you played with us in the Duck Pond I switched to making pot sized raises in ring games (I saw that is the size you were using) - so you also use pot sized raises in tourneys on here?

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Yes, most of my raises in tournaments are pot sized, though I do have a few spots where I alter that (beyond what has already been mentioned).

I just like the basic idea of playing for larger pots with my better hands. Generating more folds is not horrible either, but I think the main point is the former. If I’m making smaller raises with a range of hands that will, on average, win me money post flop, then I’d prefer the starting pot to be larger, on average. If I also have a post flop edge against my opponents, then that just makes me all the happier to be playing for a larger pot.

I’d note that we do have a few players ranked higher than me (and a few lower, but close) that mostly seem to prefer pre-flop raises that are less than pot sized in cash games also, and so I think that can work well too.

One player in the top 10 in particular makes raises that are normally only a little larger than min raises. His opening range is also incredibly wide: I’d say on the button he is opening maybe 30% to 40% more hands than me, and in early position maybe 2 to 5 times as many hands, depending on the seat. Here, since he is opening with what I’d describe as a junk range, his range is fundamentally vulnerable to 3 bets, and so reducing the size diminishes his disadvantage both when he folds to 3 bets, and when he decides to call and see how things look on the flop (he does the latter quite often).

I think your point about maneuverability is nice, too. Having a lower SPR post-flop is going to favor the player in position (and that is usually the raiser), and will also favor the player with a skill edge. On the flip side, it will be bad for your unsuited high card holdings like AJo of KQo, but good for your suited, connected cards.


Is your opening range a TAG range or a LAG range (or somewhere in between)? I remember when you played with us you opened 10 8 offsuit on the button and cracked someone’s aces then they rage quit (I don’t know if that hand is within a TAG’s button raising range).

If small raises are mostly getting folds, I would open my range and small bet a lot. Free chips are free chips, and if they insist on over-folding, I will try to accommodate them.


I consider myself a TAG, and T8 off is part of the bottom of my range from the button. Other weak hands I’ll open from that seat at least some of the time: 22, A4, K8, Q9, J9, 98, Q2s, J4s, T6s, 96s, 85s, 75s, 64s, 53s. I’d consider this the wide end of TAG, with most TAG players probably user somewhat tighter ranges. Others might feel I’m moving into LAG territory opening hands like these, but I think it is more just the LAGgy end of TAG play.

If you’re at a table full of extreme calling stations who will call pretty much any pre-flop raise except all-in (even in that case at least one usually calls) what adjustments would you make if any?

Yesterday I was at a table like that in a Freeroll and I picked up pocket 10’s in the BB - everyone at the table limped in already and I figured if I raise pot they’ll all just call anyways so I moved all in and got called by pocket 3’s and someone who limped in with AK - AK flopped a king and I got felted along with the other guy.

Whenever I’m at a table with players with unusually high calling frequencies, I immediately start incrementally increasing my raise size to try and find the point of elasticity. Essentially, I’ll keep increasing the size of my raises as long as people will continue to regularly call those raises with trash hands. I’m not, however, looking to raise my bet size all the way to the point where they are actually making mostly correct call/fold decisions.

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As you’re increasing the size of your raises are you also tightening your opening range?

Generally I’m not tightening my ranges very much, if at all, though from a theory perspective you should, especially as your raises grow significantly in size.

If I’m targeting a single player at the table, then I should tighten my ranges if I want to increase my open sizing significantly. Essentially, if there are other players left to act that will respond to my sizing with an appropriate range, then I face more pressure to size my range correctly relative to the bet sizing also, even if my hoped for target is not likely to be making any adjustments at all.

But typically, especially at lower stakes, I don’t think many people show much elasticity in response to bet sizing, which removes most of the need to contract my raising range when I increase my raise size. I did this quite frequently through low and middle stakes, and still at a relatively high frequency at high stakes. On elite stakes, it is more the exception than the rule, and if I am altering my raise sizes, I often feel the need to expand or contract my ranges to match.

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What if you’re at a table where their 3 bet shove range is wide? What would you do in response?

3 betting ranges should be wide facing a normal opening range, and so for me, that just feels like normal play, and I don’t need to make any adjustments. But while I haven’t played in a lot of tournaments here, the ones I have played in have seen most players with very tight opening ranges, and much wider limping ranges. This then means that you have to tighten your 3 bettting range when the initial raising range is much stronger.

But back to your question: yes, I make smaller raises when there are short stacks under 20 bb left to act that will 3 bet jam relatively wide, allowing me to fold the bottom of my range with minimal losses, and call with the stronger part of the range.

Have you ever heard of the tourney “World of Antes”? In that tourney the blinds never go up but there are antes from the start and antes increase every level. How would that structure affect your strategy if at all?

No, that’s a new format for me. I suspect I’d approach it the same: I’m always comparing the starting forced chips in the pot to my remaining chips, and that ratio drives what hands I play and what hands I don’t (with a different set of hands from each seat). Normally you’re concerned about being blinded to death in tournaments, but here that obligation ends up getting spread out across every seat.

Hmmm, even as I type this, I do think this would probably drive me to widen my ranges slightly from non-blind positions, and to probably tighten ranges a bit from the blinds. But overall, I think hand selection is still primarily being driven by how many hands (or trips around the table) I have before my investment capital has been undermined to a critical level.

Another question - when you’re short stacked - how wide of a range would you jam? Is AQo a jam UTG with only 5 BB’s left?

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What hands you jam will change rapidly based on position, stack depth, and how the table plays, but in general, I would jam allin with AQo under the gun even 10BB deep, and as I get shorter stacked and better position, I’ll eventually be jamming with 100% of my range (72 off, wow, that looks good; allin).

Here, you are in the worst seat possible for going all in, but you are also about to lose almost 20% of your investment capital (stack) on the next hand just from the big blind, so that eventually even doubling up will only return you to your current, desperate level.

Again, I don’t play tournaments much, and so don’t have a really precise idea of the shove/fold ranges for short stacked play at different seats, but I suspect AJo is also a shove here, and perhaps ATo.

A couple of people from that table called me a “bingo player” for jamming AKs a few hands before that one (I was also short stacked in that hand) - so funny coming from people that will call a raise with QTo when they only have a few BB’s left then stack off when they flop a 10 :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: - the other guy from the table talking smack jammed QJo later in the tourney and got stacked (yet I’m a donk for jamming AKs LOL)

In low stakes tourneys you’ll encounter lots of whiners when the stacks get shallow and you have to jam! They can’t see cheap flops anymore!