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Starting Hands Revealed
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UTG villain ranges
Exploiting Under the Gun Raisers -- A Range-Based Analysis
Any decent player will keep a pretty tight range when Under the Gun (UTG). UTG is one of the worst seats at the table in terms of position, so a solid regular will be playing largely for value in this seat.
You'll want to play some hands against an UTG player from the cutoff and button seats, mainly because you'll have position. You can control the action, and potentially outplay villain postflop. But only if you know what you're doing.
Let's take a look at how we can exploit an opponent UTG. We'll analyze what range we should expect a decent player to have when he raises preflop from UTG, how we can tailor our range for maximum value against his, and some things we'll need to look out for postflop.
Typical Preflop Raising Range Under the Gun
Even a bad player will be at his tightest from early position. So we must take it as a given that when someone raises UTG, he's raising because he perceives his hand to be valuable.
If you're up against a decent TAG, a good rule of thumb is that villain will raise between 10-12% of his hands from UTG in 6-max. This translates roughly to the following range:
We can break this down into hand combinations to get a clearer picture:
So an UTG raiser's range consists of roughly 35% pocket pairs, 26% suited top-pair type hands, and 39% offsuit top-pair type hands. Knowing these numbers will help immensely when deciding how to act on the flop.
Your Range vs. an UTG Raiser
Given the above analysis, what should you be playing against an UTG raiser?
Obviously, you want to avoid any hands that are easily dominated. You shouldn't be going all-out with hands like AJ or QJ given that villain is likely to show up with AQ, AK, QK, or a pocket pair that nulls any pair you might make.
So you'll want to keep your value range extremely tight. Definitely 3bet with hands like QQ, KK, and AA; also don't be afraid to pump some value into AK, especially suited. But don't overdo it with your marginal hands.
Now, to really exploit an UTG raiser, you want to add another dimension of hands into the mix: . Stuff like suited connectors and high suited gappers. For example, 78s plays well against an UTG raiser's range, as does something like T8s.
The reason for this is twofold.
First, your hand is largely outside of your opponent's range -- if your opponent misses a board, you're likely to catch a piece of it. Second, your hand will be disguised when you do hit. So the implied odds you're looking at are potentially huge. An UTG raiser is playing premium stuff, and won't want to fold a lot of the time -- so you'll get at least a couple streets of value when you draw to a flush, a straight, or even low-card trips.
Playing Back Postflop
The good thing about an UTG raiser's range is that it hits relatively few flops. You've seen this given how few combinations of hands are in a typical villain's range. So when we know there's a high likelihood of an opponent's having missed the board, we can take down some pots with no contest.
Consider the following hand, in which you've got Th9h:
Board: 7h Jh 3d
Villain bets $12. What do you do?
Raise! You've got about 52% equity in the pot, so you're happy to get it in right here. But it's not terrible to take it down right now. There is basically no downside to pumping in the value here; although our hand is technically a semibluff, it's a very strong one. So we win either way.
Now let's change up the example a little bit to illustrate what is meant by villain's range missing this flop. Pretend that you don't even look at your cards preflop -- you could be holding any two -- and you need to decide what to do in this situation. Should you fight back against villain's c-bet?
To figure this out, we need to look at what in our opponent's range could possibly have hit this board. At a glance, we see that:
77, JJ, AJs, AJo, KJs, and QJs
are the only hands that hit. In addition to these hands, let's assume that villain calls at least to the turn with any other pocket pair. Given this, villain's call/raise range looks like this:
So 66 combos in villain's range will continue. Remember that his entire range consists of 156 hands. Thus villain will call or raise 66/156 = ~42% of the time.
Now assume that if villain doesn't have any one of these hands, he folds to a 2.5x raise, and we take down a $31 pot. If he does have one of these hands, he either raises or calls, and we give up the hand. We can thus calculate the profitability of raising with any two cards:
EVraise = (Probability of Fold)(Pot) - (Probability of Call/Raise)(Our Bet)
EVraise = (1-.42)(31) - (.42)(30)
So without even considering our own hand, we see that raising on this dry board nets us $5.38 every time against UTG's range.
Obviously tendencies towards folding, calling, and raising will differ from opponent to opponent. But the above example should illustrate something powerful: playing back at an UTG raiser can be extremely profitable on boards that tend to miss his tight range.
Understanding this type of hand ranges concepts will make it easier to beat your opponents.
This is where some of the best players play online poker, like Vanessa Rousso, Jonathan Duhamel, and many others.
And the best players know how to exploit UTG villain ranges.
If you sign up at pokerstars, you can watch Vanessa Rousso playing there. Her username is 'LadyMaverick'. And you can even play with her, so check it out.