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Ryan Laplante: Deep Stack Preflop Poker Tournament Basics

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There are many different kinds of preflop mistakes that people make when playing in tournaments. I could probably spend more than a few articles discussing the most common mistakes, but rather than focusing on the errors, I am going to write a short series on how you should fundamentally play preflop tournament poker. First, we focus on deep stack play, which is how you will start most tournaments. Later, we’ll tackle mid- and short-stack situations, discussing each in depth from various positions at the table.

Preflop tournament poker has undergone a fairly recent revolution. Having access to preflop solvers helps a lot with understanding what types of hands work well at various stack depths, and what ranges should look like from a theory perspective.

While these solvers are powerful tools, and we have made huge progress in our knowledge of what preflop should look like, we still have a long way to go. That being said, the following approach is an easy and structured way to think about preflop poker for deep stack play.

Opening Ranges

When deep stacked, sitting at an eight- or nine-handed table, your opening ranges require extremely high playability. This means that we open very few offsuit hands, and even fold some of our smallest pairs from early position. The later position we are in, the less likely to get three-bet, so we can be looser with our opens to steal blinds.

At this stack depth, if we are opening it should be to 2.5x the big-blind. If someone limps, we should add 2x for the first limper, and 1x per extra limper. We should never open limp ourselves!

I’m going to show two opening ranges for each position and situation, the first will be what theory suggests to open, and the second will be my advice to most players reading this article. As you can see, I advocate playing less hands. Remember that the deeper effective you are, the more it matters to be able to make nut-quality hands. If you open too weak of hands versus strong players you will run into bad reverse-implied odds.

Early Position

100bb Theory: 2-2+, A-J offsuit+, K-Q offsuit, 8-7 suited, 9-8 suited, 10-8 suited+, J-9 suited+, Q-9 suited+, K-9 suited+, A-3 suited+ = 14.7% of hands

My Suggestion: 6-6+, A-J offsuit+, 10-9 suited, J-10 suited, Q-J suited+, K-10 suited+, A-4 suited+ = 11.6% of hands

Middle/Late Position

100bb Theory: 2-2+, A-10 offsuit+, K-10 offsuit+, Q-J offsuit, J-10 offsuit, 7-6 suited, 8-7 suited, 9-8 suited, 10-8 suited+, J-8 suited+, Q-9 suited+, K-6 suited+, A-2 suited+ = 22% of hands

My Suggestion: 4-4+, A-10 offsuit+, K-J offsuit+, 9-8 suited, 10-9 suited, J-9 suited+, Q-10 suited+, K-8 suited+, A-2 suited+ = 16.4% of hands


100bb Theory: 2-2+, A-2 offsuit+, K-5 offsuit+, Q-8 offsuit+, J-8 offsuit+, 10-8 offsuit+, 9-8 offsuit, 5-3 suited+, 6-4 suited+, 7-4 suited+, 8-5 suited+, 9-5 suited+, 10-3 suited+, J-2 suited+, Q-2 suited+, K-2 suited+, A-2 suited+ = 53.8% of hands

My Suggestion: 2-2+, A-2 offsuit+, K-8 offsuit+, Q-9 offsuit+, J-9 offsuit+, 10-8 offsuit+, 6-4 suited+, 7-5 suited+, 8-5 suited+, 9-6 suited+, 10-6 suited+, J-5 suited+, Q-4 suited+, K-2 suited+, A-2 suited+ = 43% of hands

Facing An Open

When facing an open it matters even more to have strong playability in our ranges than in our own opens. Our value hands need to be very strong, and our bluffs need to be pushing a lot of equity.

From a theory perspective there is a lot of mixing in terms of whether a hand is a call or a three-bet. This is the case because in order for a hand to be strong enough to be used as a three-bet for value or a bluff, it should also have enough playability to be used as a call.

Let’s look at this situation:

A player in early position opens with 100 big blinds behind, we are in the hijack also sitting on 100 big blinds. We are going to assume our opponent uses the GTO range of 14.7 percent of hands posted above.

Versus this range we get to play 12 percent of hands in total, with 5.9 percent being calls and 6.1 percent being three-bets. Almost every hand in this range can be played as either a call, or as a three-bet. The sizing we will three-bet to here is 3.2x the open, or to 8 big blinds.

Our Highest Frequency Three-Bets: Q-Q+, A-Q offsuit+, A-Q suited+

Three-Bets at 50%+ Frequency: 10-10 and J-J, A-J suited – A-9 suited, A-5 suited, A-4 suited, K-10 suited+, Q-J suited

Three-Bets at 25–50% Frequency: 6-6 thru 9-9, K-Q offsuit, K-9 suited, Q-10 suited, J-10 suited, 10-9 suited

Because of how strong our total range is here to play, that means that almost every hand in this range is strong enough to use as either a call or a three-bet. In order to have good board coverage as well as enough bluffs, we have a lot of hands that are 25 percent to 75 percent frequency three-bets. This means that it is important to have both board coverage and playability when building our ranges as calls and as three-bets.

Playing From The Blinds

In tournament poker it is especially important to defend your blind and the posted ante. This is solely because we often are getting good odds on a call while also closing out the action. It has nothing to do with the idea that it is “our” chips in the pot.

When facing an early position open to 2.5x, we should be playing from the small blind with 16.5 percent of hands, calling 11 percent and three-betting 5.5 percent. For the big blind we should be playing the following ranges.

Big Blind

2-2+, A-8 offsuit+, K-10 offsuit+, Q-10 offsuit+, J-10 offsuit, 10-9 offsuit, 8-7 offsuit, 7-6 offsuit, 6-5 offsuit, 5-4 offsuit, 3-2 suited, 4-2 suited+, 5-2 suited+, 6-3 suited+, 7-4 suited+, 8-5 suited+, 9-5 suited+, 10-3 suited+, J-2 suited+, Q-2 suited+, K-2 suited+, A-2 suited+.

Our three-bet sizing should be to 10.25 big blinds or 4.1x their open size. The hands we choose at highest frequency are below.

Bluffs: A-10 suited, A-5 suited, A-4 suited, K-J suited +, Q-J suited, J-10 suited, 10-9 suited, 8-7 suited, 7-6 suited, 5-4 suited.

Value: Q-Q+, A-K.

While these ranges are intended to help you build a fundamental framework for deep stack poker, it truly only scratches the surface in terms of how to fully play and utilize this information in real-world scenarios. The above information is just a starting point, it is up to you to use your own playing experience and knowledge to build further on this foundation in order to maximize your edge. ♠

Ryan Laplante is a WSOP bracelet winner. He has more than $5 million in tournament cashes and eight WSOP final tables. He is the co-founder of, an easy to use GTO based training site. 

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