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NLHE Foundations #05: Putting Opponents on Pre-Flop Ranges (Part 2)

NLHE Foundations #05: Putting Opponents on Pre-Flop Ranges (Part 2)


This is the fifth part of the NLHE Foundations Series. This series is designed to give a clear set of topics to study and methods for studying that will bring players up to the intermediate levels in no-limit hold’em. People who are signed up in the main thread for this series will also get exclusive content via PMs.

If you’re reading this, and you want in, make sure that you post in that thread even if you think it’s too late to do so. This is an ongoing thing, and I’ve designed it so you can study it at your own pace, but if you sign up, then I can make sure that you get started off in the right order and that you do the exercises correctly.

Hand Reading Starts Pre-Flop

In the previous part of this series, we looked at using a HUD to break down our opponent’s stealing range. The point of looking at the stealing range first is that this is where the majority of players play the majority of hands, and getting a better feel for those ranges is the “low-hanging fruit” of facing pre-flop raises.

I also want to get you guys used to the idea of studying specific opponents because this helps you to develop a general understanding of what different types of opponents are doing in the more general sense. In this lesson, we’re going to do more of the same, but we’re going to look at 3-betting and flat calling ranges instead.

When Your Opponent Faces a Raise

So much of online poker strategy centers around what to do when you’re the aggressor pre-flop in a hand. If you think about the set of topics that new players focus on initially, continuation betting and 3-betting pre-flop are two of the main ones. This all comes from the perspective of favoring aggression over passivity, and though there are times to be passive, right now we’re going to look at what happens when you raise pre-flop and your opponent decides not to fold.

Here, we’re going to look at the principles of pre-flop hand reading against 3-bets. This is going to tie in to reading against people who flat call your raises, but we’re going to get to that in our next part of the series.

The 3-Betting Game

We could get into a lot of the game theory and range balancing issues with 3-betting, but that’s not what this part of the series is about. Instead, we just want to look at what a player is 3-betting with.

What’s really important to realize here is that your opponents usually will not have the same 3-betting ranges from each position. What’s more is that they will not usually have the same 3-betting ranges when they’re facing players who have opened in different positions. This is what makes putting your opponents on 3-betting ranges so tricky.

When you combine how tricky this is with how much money is on the line in 3-bet pots, it’s easy to see how much money there is in learning to read these ranges well.

Below we’re going to look at a handful of factors and situations that can affect your opponent’s 3-betting ranges.

Various Factors

If you’re the person raising pre-flop, and your opponent is the one 3-betting, then the two main things to consider to figure out how your opponent plays is your position and his position.

  • Your Position: The earlier your position, the less your opponent will 3-bet because your opening range will be tighter. The later your position, the more you’ll be 3-bet, and the more vulnerable you’ll be to 3-bet bluffs in general.
  • Villain’s Position: The later your opponent’s position, the more likely your opponent will be to 3-bet. This is because there’s less of a chance that your opponent will run into a cold 4-bet. However, some opponents do not like to 3-bet as much from the blinds as the CO/BU because of post-flop position.

Some other factors come into play to a degree, but if you focus on these two parts of the equation, then you’ll become much more accurate fairly quickly.

Your Homework

Unfortunately, you can’t really get a feel for this stuff without putting the work in. With that having been said, here’s what we’re going to do for homework for this task. Since it’ll probably be a week or two before I get around to writing part 6, this homework will be a bit more involved.

For this homework, I want you to use HEM or PT4 (see the previous part of this series for free trials for both), and pick out an opponent that you see a lot and have a lot of hands on. Each of these sections of the homework will be centered around studying this one opponent. Do not post that player’s screen name for any reason.

You can repeat this multiple times for other regulars in your games, and I encourage you to do so since this is what will build your feel for how these ranges work.

Gathering Data

For the first section of your homework, I want you to filter for every hand where your opponent 3-bet that went to showdown. Type out a quick list with one hand on each line with the hand that was 3-bet, the position of the 3-bettor, and the position of the person who put in the pre-flop raise. Feel free to use EP/MP/LP(CO and BU)/Blinds as your position names since we don’t want to be too specific with this.

For example, if an opponent 3-bet with AK from LP against an EP open, you would type something like this on an empty line:

“AK, LP vs EP”

The point of this part of the homework is to get your data all in one place. Post this along with your homework so people can see what data you’re working with.

Developing Ranges

Include this list of hands and the pre-flop stats (VPIP/PFR/ATS/3-bet/etc) for your opponent and try to break down your best estimates for his or her general ranges for the following six general situations:

  1. MP vs EP
  2. LP vs EP
  3. Blinds vs EP
  4. LP vs MP
  5. Blinds vs MP
  6. Blinds vs LP

Once you do this, you need to comment on the other people who are posting this information and get a discussion going. It’s this discussion and thinking about other peoples work on this homework that will make you an absolute beast at putting people on 3-betting ranges.

Post your homework for this lesson in this thread.

Jesse Eddleman is a gambling writer with over ten years of experience in the industry, and he has written for and many other top online portals. You can learn more about him at

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