Starting hands for full ring no limit hold’em, as percentages

by ~ January 2nd, 2010. Filed under: Philosophy and approach, Poker theory.


I had thought that I had something like this somewhere in my blog already, but apparently not.

I want to look at strength of hands by position, and the percentage of total hands that those starting hands represent. In the version that I was searching for I thought that I had used Phil Gordon’s starting hands chart, but now I might as well just use my own current version.

I play mostly full ring cash games, meaning 9 maximum players. In order to determine table position you have to count how many players are between you and the small blind. Even though the table may hold 9 players, if one or two seats are empty or someone is be sitting out so if you are first to act preflop and there are only 3 players between you and the small blind, then there are only 6 players and the starting hand choices are the same as playing 6 max from under the gun rather than 9 max (full ring) where you would want to be tighter.

For any position earlier than this, my range is very tight right now.

  • 88 up to AA
  • AK
  • Total %: 4.4

and that’s it.

I remember when I first started playing I was opening here with hands as weak as AT0 (it’s such a pretty hand!), or if I was unable to get myself to raise I might open limp AT/KQ/AJ and then likely call raises with it. That’s the way beginners play; not very positionally aware, too loose, too passive. I’ve now swung heavily toward avoiding playing out of position, especially against players who call preflop with a wide range and will call down when they catch any piece of the flop.

In the next three spots, my range is close to my opening range for 6 max in early position:

  • all pairs
  • ATs/AJo and up
  • KQ
  • Total%: 11.0

In the cutoff, the position just before the button:

  • all pairs
  • A9s/AT0 and up
  • JTs, QJs,KJs and up
  • QJo
  • Total%: 14.0

On the button:

  • all pairs
  • A7s and up
  • A80 and up
  • 87s,97s,K9s and up
  • QTo,98o and up
  • Total%: 24.6

This is all assuming that no one has limped or raised in front, and in the case of the late position bottom end of the range, it depends quite a bit on how loose the players behind or in the blinds are. And of course I’m open raising these hands preflop.

When I look at it there’s a fairly wide range between standard hands that I open from the cutoff as opposed the the button, but from the cutoff I will open up the range if all the players behind me are either tight or bad. I just hate widening the cutoff range too much when there’s still someone behind me.

From the small blind I will open raise either the cutoff range against tight players or players who play “fit or fold” on the flop, or the button range against aggressive or loose-aggressive players. And my 3 betting range or isolating range varies quite a bit depending on position and my reads. Plus there’s no reference here as to when and what kind of hands I’ll flat behind raises ’cause that’s a whole topic in and off itself. But I wanted to figure out the percentages so that I could compare this with my opponents’ percentages in the HUD.

What does this tell me? Well, if someone is opening 11% from early position (one of the stats that I use in my HUD, along with steal percentage to give me an idea how positionally aware they are), they’re using a range similar to my 6 max opening range rather than a range as tight as I use.

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