Playing under the gun in low-stakes cash games

CardRunners pro Pawel ‘Verneer’ Nazarewicz explains how to play profitably when you’re under the gun in low stakes six-max cash games

The aim of this article is to look at hands I played in six-max cash games and try to understand not just what I am doing but also why. It’s really important to understand why you should do certain things and why you should not do other things. This will help you generalise situations that you come across in the future.

It’s also very important to know what ABC poker is at the lower stakes, and when we should deviate from it. For example, in general we are not going to be opening K-T offsuit from under the gun – it’s bad fundamentally – but there are going to be some situations too in which you should open K-T offsuit from under the gun! You want to understand when to make exceptions from the general rules, because that can end up  making you a lot of money.

Facts about UTG play

You will face a three-bet around 20% of the time
This figure is going to be less at the very micro-stakes and it goes up as you move up in stakes. At $100NL you’ll be three-bet around 18-20% whereas at $2NL it will be much lower than that.

You are perceived to have your strongest raising range
Most players play relatively tight UTG and you should as well. Solid regulars know that you will have a strong raising range, so the implication of these two facts is that your four-bets will get a lot of respect.

You will be out of position postflop and heads-up the majority of the time
This means that you need hands that you can double-barrel often. This can either be for value or because they pick up turn equity. You need hands that you can continue with strongly on the turn for it to be profitable to open them.

What hands should I raise with UTG?

You should be opening around 16-17% of hands, which is a reasonably ABC opening range. We can also add or subtract from this range and make adjustments. The key thing that I would focus on is how aggressive your table is. If the table is aggressive, you want to open tighter but three-bet wider.

And another key factor is who is in the blinds. If you have weak players in the blinds then you want to be opening wider. Be aware of who is in which positions always. If you have tight players in middle position, cutoff and button then you can open a lot more UTG as they are less likely to three-bet you. Also, if you have very loose players in the blinds you can even open hands like K-J because they will call with worse.

Here is what my UTG opening range looks like:

  • All pocket pairs: 22-AA
  • Offsuit strong Broadway hands: A-K, A-Q, A-J, K-Q
  • Suited strong Broadway hands: A-K, A-Q, A-J, A-T, K-Q, K-J, K-T, Q-J
  • Weaker suited connectors: 8-7, 9-8, T-9, J-T
  • Suited non-Broadway Aces: A2-A9

Pocket Pairs

How often will you have a favourable flop? (I’d define that as hitting an overpair or a set.)

  • AA-QQ are great for this! Roughly half the time or better you will have an overpair or a set.
  • 77-22 should be played mostly for set value. If you hit a set there are a bunch of different ways to play it but we feel good about our hand and sets are pretty easy to play whether you’re in position or out of position.
  • JJ-88 are tricky to play!

Playing big pairs UTG

Queens win big 

$100NL six-max cash game
Hero: Q-Q♣

Preflop: Hero raises to $3 UTG.
The SB and BB call.

Flop: 2♣-9-7
There is a straight and flush draw out there. The SB leads out for $6. The BB calls. At this point I’m not giving them too much credit and I’m happy to get it all-in. I make it $19 to commit myself against the shorter stacked player. Both players call, making the pot $66.

Turn: 5♣

The turn completes the 8-6 straight draw but other than that I don’t think it’s too much help to either person, unless they have 7-5. The first player checks and the BB fires $50. At this point it’s either shove or fold for me and the donk bet makes me think I am good. Against a player you don’t know too much about it’s probably good to be stacking off here. I put it all-in and get a call. I was up against 7-6.

River: 3♣

The river bricks off and I pick up a pretty substantial $225 pot.

Scary river

$100NL six-max cash game
Hero: Q♣-Q♠

Preflop: Hero raises to $3 UTG. The button calls. He is playing tight-passive so far.

Flop: 5-3♣-J
We flop an overpair on a relatively draw-heavy board. I bet $5 into the $7.50 pot and get called.

Turn: 4

The turn doesn’t really change anything but if he has an Ace-high flush draw then he picks up some additional equity with it. I bet again, this time $12 into the $17.50 pot. With hindsight I think I should actually bet a bit bigger to charge the draws. He calls again.

River: A♠

The river is an Ace, which is a pretty bad card. A-J just got there, if he has an Ace-high flush draw then he just picked up top pair and he’s not going to fold, and if he has something like a gutshot with an Ace he now has top pair as well.

I don’t think there is much value in betting because if he has a hand like 9-9, T-T or K-J then he probably won’t call a value bet. I doubt he’ll bet them either.

This is a spot where I can check-fold. I think the hands that have showdown value against me are just going to check behind. He would definitely value bet A-J and might bet an Ace-high flush draw. I don’t expect him to bluff in this spot often though. He checks behind and ends up having pocket Tens.

Playing small pairs UTG

Three threes

$100NL six-max cash game
Hero: 3♠-3♣

Preflop: I raise 3-3 to $3 and both blinds call.

Flop: 7♣-9-3

One of the things I really like about small pocket pairs is that when you hit a set you’re likely to hit bottom set. That means your opponents have more chance of having middle or top pair, and they are much more likely to proceed with those. We get a lead of $5 from the SB and a call from the BB. I raise straight away to $17 and I expect to get called a lot. The original player ends up shoving with A-9, I call and win a $124 pot. There are some spots where slowplaying your set would be better but on this flop texture – with some straight draws there – I think it makes sense to pump the money in as soon as possible.

Versus Twos, you lose

$100NL six-max cash game
Hero: 2-2♠

Preflop: I raise 2-2 to $3 and the button, a good solid player, calls.

Flop: J-8-Q

This is a pretty connected flop and one I’ll check-fold quite frequently with a lot of my hands. On this flop I’ll also be check-folding or check-raising when I have a set or a very strong hand. It’s a spot where I don’t expect to have a lot of fold equity though. When someone just calls on the button I think they can have 9-9, T-T, 8-8, or A-J or A-Q – all of those hands are going to call at least once here. Because I don’t have a lot of potential I am planning just to check-fold. But it goes check/check.

Turn: 2♣

Obviously this is a wonderful turn card for me and now I am going to bet $5 into $7.50. He calls.

River: A♣

I fire a substantial $13 into $17.50 and he calls with A-5. I’m surprised he didn’t bet the flop with that hand but he allowed me to get there.

Seventh heaven

$100NL six-max cash game
Hero: 7-7

Preflop: I raise to $3 and get three callers.

Flop: 6-3♠-3♣

This is a pretty dry flop where I have an overpair. I likely have the best hand but people could have 8-8 or 9-9 or whatever. In this spot I’ll often be one and done, just because it’s such a dry flop, but I also don’t want to check it because I need to protect my hand.

I bet $7 into $12.50 and end up getting three folds. In a spot like this it is the best case scenario. I would be out of position against two of the players if they continue. I would have shut down on a lot of turns and rivers.

This article is an extract from Building A Bankroll 2014 by Pawel ‘Verneer’ Nazarewicz. To watch the full video, and thousands more, go to Cardrunners today!

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