Adjusting Preflop

A critical skill in poker is being able to adjust to your opponents.

You want to do this to maximize your earnings from their mistakes and minimize your own mistakes that they can take advantage of.

If you have information that will  help you predict how your opponents are going to react you should use this to your advantage.


Adjusting opening ranges to table average

In general, if a table is playing tighter than normal, you should play looser. If a table is playing looser than normal you should play tighter. You get a fairly good idea for what average play is by the Preflop Strategy. This is pretty average except on Microstakes which are much looser most of the time.

On top of this you might play looser than normal if you have a high skill edge against your competitors and you might play tighter than normal if your opponents are more skilled than you (but normally select a different table).

Many poker players are overdoing these adjustments. Be careful when you stray from the default strategy since it can make you very exploitable when someone notices this. If there isn’t a huge skill difference or if you are not very sure of what you are doing you should only make small adjustments, for example:

  • If table is very tight play 25 % more hands from all positions.
  • If table is very loose play 25 % fewer hands from all positions.

This may be a reasonable starting point at a cash game table. However, in a tournament people can sometimes become so tight when it is getting close to the money so you can play more or less every hand. These situations will mostly require experience, feel for the table dynamics and knowledge about the bubble factors and how that influences the game.

Adjusting to the game flow

If someone has 3-bet you four times in the last 20 minutes you will be tempted to fight back next time, right? This goes for most people.

Exactly how to adjust to game flow, table dynamics, mental game etc is something that mainly must be learned with experience. One thing to consider though, is that many people are overadjusting and doing it too quickly.

For example, if you are 3-bet twice in a row by an average player who has 3-bet of 5% over several thousand hands and if you have an average image both at the table and over long run at the site. Should you automatically assume that he is full of it and assign him a range of 15%? Or is it more likely that he happened to get good hands twice in a row? Most of the time it is actually the latter. And it can be a more costly mistake to 4-bet light in the wrong situation than to fold a marginal hand.

So general advice is:

  • If your image is normal, assume that opponents are playing their normal game until something has deviated more than 3 times

For example, if someone with a normal image has 3-bet you 3 times, you should still assume he is playing his normal game (unless you have other reasons to think he is out of line). However, the fourth time he does it in a short period of time you can start assigning him a wider range than normal.

But be careful how far you take your adjustments also. Most players don’t start playing completely differently all of a sudden (unless they are drunk or on tilt). And, when someone knows he has been overdoing something, he may well have decided to shift gears, by the time you start adjusting.

This goes both ways of course, pay attention to how your opponents are likely to perceive you. And if you have done something 3 times in a short time span you might consider changing gears if your opponent is likely to catch up on this and do something about it.

Adjusting to the blinds

If you are playing multiple tables of cash games online at low stakes or higher, you usually don’t have to adjust too much to the tables. Most tables will have some decent opponents so the table average will not be that far from normal most of the time. And when it is, it will most of the time only be for a short period.

Here is a guideline to help you get started. As usual it is important to not overdo it.

Small blind

  • If  big blind fold-to-steal < 70% or raise-steal-attempt > 10% decrease opening range to 30 %.
  • If big blind has a fold-to steal of > 90 % increase opening range to 50 %.

You should also keep an eye on if the big blind loves to squeeze or raise limpers and tighten up limps and cold-calls if he does. If he overdo it a lot it is an opportunity to trap with premium hands.

Button

  • If either of the blinds fold-to-steal < 70% or raise-steal-attempt > 10% decrease opening range to 30 %.
  • If either of the blinds have a fold-to-steal between 70- 80 % use normal opening range.
  • If both blinds have fold-to-steal between 80-90 % increase opening range to 40 %.
  • If big blind has a fold-to steal of > 90 % increase opening range to 50 %.

You should also keep an eye on blinds who loves to squeeze or raise limpers and tighten up limps and cold-calls if they do. If they overdo it a lot it is an opportunity to trap with premium hands.

Cut-off

  • If either of the blinds fold-to-steal < 70% or raise-steal-attempt > 10%  or button 3-bets > 10% or cold-call > 10% decrease opening range to 20 %.
  • If both of the blinds have a fold-to-steal between 70- 80 % use normal opening range.
  • If both blinds have fold-to-steal between 80-90 % increase opening range to 30 %.
  • If big blind has a fold-to steal of > 90 % increase opening range to 35 %.

You should also keep an eye on blinds and button who loves to squeeze or raise limpers and tighten up limps and cold-calls if they do. If they overdo it a lot it is an opportunity to trap with premium hands.

Why adjusting in steal position is important

Some people think that it is not worth putting much attention to blind stealing since the blinds are so small. Just use the default opening range and everything will be fine. But that will be a big opportunity lost. Consider this:

A really good winrate is 2 BB / 100 Hands (BB is Big Bets).

That’s 0,02 BB / Hand = 0,04 Big Blinds / Hand

You are on the button or the cut-off 2/6 of the time if you play 6-Max. If you are a zero-sum player, you can reach a 2 BB / 100 level just by increasing your winrate at the button and cut-off by 0,12 Big Blinds / Hand.

Let’s imagine you are always raising 20 % of your hands from the  cut-off and 30 % of your hands from the button no matter who plays the button and the blinds. Let’s also imagine you play with buttons and blinds that are folding too much 25 % of the time. You can increase your winrate to 0,12 Big Blinds / Hand in total average if you can steal successfully 30 % extra the times when you have weak opponents. This is just a complicated way of saying that adjusting your opening ranges on the cut-off and the button can have a significant  impact on your winrate!


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