While there is an abundance of strategy material that has been perpetuated throughout the poker community, the online version continues to evolve and without maintaining some form of study, you can often find yourself falling behind the latest trends.
This first article in this series will focus on early game strategy for online MTTs, in the $1 to $33 range. For the most part, you should be playing a tight, straightforward game early in MTTs. You don’t want to be opening a wide range of hands from early position, or running big bluffs that will result in you spewing off a lot of valuable chips. While there are no absolutes in poker, in many cases you will see similar situations arise a lot of the time. So what hands should we be opening from early (EP), middle (MP), and late positions (LP)?
Early position: UTG, UTG+1; With so many players still to act, you really want to be opening a pretty tight range (AJo+, 22+ and KQo+). You can’t really get into too much trouble with this range, and weaker players will often call you with hands that you dominate like weak aces and kings.
Middle position: MP1, MP2; We still have at least five players to act behind us so we don’t want to be opening up our range all that much. Your range here should include all the hands from EP, and you can throw in ATo and KJs.
Late position: HJ, CO, BTN: From late position we can start to open our range a little more, although we still don’t want to be opening right up early in a tournament. Your range should include A9s+, ATo+, 22+, KTs+, KJo+, QJs and some suited connectors. Obviously these ranges are just a guideline and you can add/remove hands depending on how experienced and comfortable you are post flop. By sticking to a broadly defined range as discussed, you will find yourself spewing off chips less, and running deeper more often.
Three-betting: Your three-betting range for the most part in low stakes MTTs should only include nut hands (QQ+). I’m more than happy to smooth call and see a flop with hands like TT, JJ and AQ. If someone opens from EP I will probably flat call with AK in position and go from there, however, if faced with a raise from LP I would definitely three-bet my AK.
Stacks are so deep in the early game that if we three-bet a hand like TT, and the flop comes A-J-5 then we don’t really know where we stand. In addition, weaker players at low stakes will call three bets with hands they shouldn’t early in MTTs, and won’t fold if they connect with the flop. Obviously when stacks become shallower our three-betting range changes drastically - a concept we will visit in later articles.
Position: Most low-stakes players simply don’t understand how important position is. The range of hands we can call in position, as opposed to out of position (OOP), is much wider. Early in a tournament if we open a hand from MP1 for example and get three-bet by the button, the range of hands we can call with is TT+, AQ+.
The range of hands we can call with out of the small blind, or from the big blind facing an EP raise, should be fairly small. Knowing that I’ll be out of position for the rest of the hand, I’ll call with 22+, AJo+. If I have noticed that the villain is playing loosely I’ll also include KQ.
You can open your BB calling range up slightly facing a LP raise, but taking into account you will be OOP for the remainder of the hand I would only add in hands like KQ, QJs and probably AT. If I was going to call with these kinds of hands I would play the hand conservatively, and try not to make too many marginal calls post flop.
We really only want to be picking up the chips we can, without taking too many risks. The more chips we can accumulate early, means the longer we can play optimal poker before we are in push/fold mode, and this will equate to more deep runs. Just remember to think about your hand ranges, and play tight, straightforward poker early in your MTTs.
- Brett Donnelley