If you are fairly new to studying poker, you are likely aware of the existence of preflop poker charts, but are less clear on why and how you should use them. In this article, we provide a description of why such charts are important, how you can use them to vastly improve you poker game, and describe “GTO” poker charts that you can obtain from Red Chip Poker.
Note that if you are already familiar with using such charts, you can safely skip the introductory material and head straight to the description of Red Chip charts in the section headed “Live Poker GTO Preflop Charts.”
Every hand of poker you play, you face the same first decision. Should I play this hand, or throw it away? At the most fundamental level, this is what preflop poker charts tell you. As such, they form the foundation of how you play any hand.
Over the decades in which the teaching of poker has developed, various methods of presenting this information have been attempted. Early texts by Sklanksy and Malmuth, for example, placed hands in named groups, with instructions for how they should be played from different positions at the table.
More recently, a consensus has been reached on the best way to present which hands should be played preflop. Indeed, the approach can also be extended to postflop play. Nearly all poker training sources now present poker ranges on a 13×13 matrix, or a “grid” if you prefer. This same visual representation is also used by many different poker tools and software packages. Let’s take a look at a simple one.
How To Read Poker Charts
The chart below is taken from our PRO training material and is also available on the Red Chip GTO Ranges app. For those of you new to such a visualization, let’s break down the salient features.
Every possible pair of hole cards is shown on this chart. The diagonal running from top left to bottom right contains all the possible pairs, starting with the strongest of AA and extending down to 22. To the left of this diagonal are all the possible offsuit hands. The cell marked “ATo,” for example, can be thought of as a sort of shorthand. It is read: “Ace-Ten offsuit.” If you hold the hole cards A♦T♥, you have one of the possible “combos” of ATo. Similarly, to the right of the diagonal are the suited combos. If you held A♦T♦ and wanted to know how to play it, you would consult the ATs cell (Ace-Ten suited).
This particular chart tells us what to do if we are first to act (under the gun) in a 6-max online game. If our hand appears as one of the cells in red, we open raise with it. If it is instead one of the gray cells, we fold. Simple, right?
In detail, when such charts are presented as part of poker training material, good sources will include additional information, such as how much we should raise when we have a playable hand. Further, similar charts can be used for a plethora of more sophisticated situations. For example, a chart might tell us what to do if there has been a raise and a caller in front of us. Do we 3-bet (reraise), call, or fold? A color key will provide the clarifying information when multiple options are possible.
How To Use Preflop Charts
If you are new to poker, and have been struggling with knowing which hands to play, you may be thinking poker just got a whole lot easier. And you would be right! But in detail, how are preflop poker charts used? Such charts are available on our site and our app, for example, where you literally have this information in your pocket or on your computer screen.
Should we use preflop poker charts in real time, consulting them to decide if we should raise or fold? We caution against this for a couple of reasons.
In a live card room, this will invariably contravene house rules and get you tossed out. The situation is slightly murkier online, where most major sites allow the use of “static” charts. These are charts such as the one shown above, which is calculated for a certain stack depth and table position.
Thus while it appears currently within poker sites’ ToS to have these charts open while you play, it does not follow that it is a particularly good idea. For one thing, most online players develop the skill of playing multiple tables at once. If you need to consult a chart every time you make a preflop action, you will both slow down the game, and invariably find yourself timing out.
Perhaps more importantly, any poker chart is best viewed as a baseline. As you become a more sophisticated player, you will make situational deviations from that baseline to exploit your opponents. Besides, poker is not simply a preflop game, and preflop ranges should dovetail with a well-constructed postflop strategy.
How To Memorize Preflop Poker Charts
On the other end of the spectrum is the possibility of attempting to memorize preflop charts. If you have an exceptional memory, that is an immediate option. For many of you, however, we suggest a more practical and enjoyable approach is to combine some memorization with using the charts in your post-session review. Not only will this encourage you to develop good study habits, which most coaches believe are centered on such post-session review, you will naturally absorb the ranges through this process in an organic way.
For some more ideas on how to remember preflop ranges from such charts, please check out this video:
GTO Poker Charts
So where do these charts come from? Who decides if a hand should be raised preflop or thrown in the muck?
For much of the history of poker, the answer to that question boiled down to trial and error. Experienced players had a rough idea of which hands were profitable and which were not, but different authors could still end up with significantly different recommendations.
Over the last decade, that situation has completely changed thanks to the revolution triggered by poker solvers. We now have “Game Theory Optimal” (GTO) solutions to poker, which include the ranges that are described by preflop poker charts. A discussion of how these solvers work is beyond the scope of the present article, but an excellent treatment is provided in the book “GTO Poker Gems.”
What is important to recognize is that there is a solution to the game of poker, and to that extent, we now have an unimpeachable source for “correct” preflop ranges. And one of the features of such ranges is that they frequently require mixed actions for the same hand.
Mixed Hands In GTO Charts
The image below is taken from the Red Chip Poker GTO Ranges app. It describes the GTO opening range when we are first to act (under the gun or “UTG”) at an eight-handed table.
You will notice that some of the cells are filled in completely, whereas others are only partially colored red. Hands like AA and A5s, for example, are fully-filled cells. This means we should open raise with them 100% of the time. When the cell is only partially filled, we should sometimes raise and sometimes fold it. For example, 99 should be raised roughly half the time and folded the rest from this position. JTs, on the other hand, should be opened about one third of the time and folded the rest.
It turns out that a common feature of GTO solutions is that they involve a lot of mixing. And this mixing covers the gamut from close to half-and-half mixes, to combos where the recommendation is to take one action 99% of the time. In practice, expecting humans to remember full GTO mixed solutions is asking too much. Consequently, many GTO poker charts are presented with some simplification and elimination of mixes.
For more on this idea on mixed strategies, please check out this video on the topic:
Live Poker GTO Preflop Charts
If you play live poker, particularly at smaller stakes, you’ve likely noticed opponents playing some pretty strange ranges. Moreover, contrary to the advice of nearly all poker literature, you will see players entering the pot by simply calling the big blind (limping). Sometimes more than half the table will come along by calling the big blind.
Open limping is not a feature of GTO preflop play. Further when someone enters the pot by raising before us, we should rarely call that raise. If we play our hand, it should generally be via 3-betting (reraising). This is why opening charts presented in our material do not include open limps, and why some of them default to a simplified 3-bet-or-fold strategy when facing a raise.
In some cases, preflop action can get complex. Maybe there is a raise, a couple of calls, and then a 3-bet. What should the player who raised originally do when the action gets back to them? Each of these decision points corresponds to a specific range. But let’s start off as simple as we can and look at the open-raising ranges for live cash games.
Live Cash-Game Open-Raising Charts
If we again consider a live, eight-handed table, the most fundamental charts that we need to know are the open-raising ranges from the seven possible positions. In other words, when nobody has entered the pot in front of us, we need to know the open-raise range from each of the seven positions. (We do not need to know such a range from the big blind, because if nobody has entered the pot, we win uncontested.)
You can use the circular buttons below the middle image below to click through the charts for all the positions. This is a useful exercise, since it demonstrates how our opening range expands as we move to later positions.
In the video below, SplitSuit explains in more detail how these charts were derived. He also reviews the seven opening ranges shown above that every player must know: the seven charts when nobody else has entered the pot and we have the decision to raise or fold.
Live Cash-Game 3-Betting Charts
When someone has open raised in front of us, we have the decision to 3-bet (reraise), call or fold. That already increases the number of charts significantly. For example, if UTG is the open raiser, the seven remaining players at the table all face this decision, with the ranges for each position being different. But that is not the end of the story. It’s also possible that an open raise will be called before the action reaches us. That again changes the ranges for our three possible decisions.
How can we possibly remember the huge number of different ranges that arise in the different positions and possible actions? In detail, it simply is not viable. However, what we can do is look at representative situations to get an idea both of how often we should be 3-betting versus calling and folding, and equally importantly the construction (shape) of the relevant ranges.
In the next video, SplitSuit walks you through the process and highlights some key themes. The five 3-bet ranges that all live players should know that are featured in the video are also shown in the following image.
Download These Live Cash-Game Charts
All of these live cash-game charts and many more can be accessed directly from the Red Chip Poker GTO Ranges app. You can download the app from either the App Store or Google Play by following this link. For more information about the contents and pricing of the app, please visit our FAQ page. More in-depth technical details about the app and how the ranges were developed can be found through this link.
6-Max GTO Preflop Charts
While eight- and nine-handed cash games are the norm in live play, online the majority of cash games play 6-handed. Here at Red Chip Poker, we have therefore developed a collection of such 6-max charts. Like the live ranges, the 6-max charts assume 100bb stack depth.
Specifically, we have produced two sets of 6-max charts. In both cases, we demanded that action facing a raise is either 3-bet or fold, with the notable exception of the big blind where calling is a permissible and important option. But why two sets of charts?
GTO ranges are by definition unexploitable, but in a given game texture they need not be the most profitable ranges. The herding mentality in poker means that many players make consistent and predictable errors. These errors include poor opening ranges, as well as other tendencies such as calling open raises too frequently preflop. Consequently, in addition to our GTO ranges, we also provide 6-max exploitative ranges. In softer games in particular, you may find these more applicable and profitable than the GTO ranges.
6-Max Cash-Game Open-Raising Charts
In our full-ring charts presented above, we included mixed solutions. Such full solutions give a fascinating insight into how ranges vary with position and how they are constructed. For our 6-max charts, we chose an approach that makes them immediately applicable at the tables. Specifically, we took the raw data and modified it to remove the mixes. If, for example, the GTO solution recommended raising 80% with a hand and folding it 20% of the time, it appears in our ranges as always opened. We did this in such a way that the overall frequencies of actions from each position conform to the raw GTO solutions. Not only is this simplification much easier to remember, it gives up very little profit compared to the raw, mixed ranges.
Like the live open-raising charts presented above, you can click through the slide show of the five 6-max ranges using the circular buttons at the bottom of the central image.
6-Max Cash Game 3-Betting Charts
When someone has open-raised ahead of us, we are faced with a different decision. In general, we have the options to fold, call, or raise. One useful simplification to avoid ranges getting overly complex is to restrict our options to 3-betting or folding, except from the big blind where a calling range is necessary.
Not only does our position matter for our 3-bet range, so does the position of the initial raiser. As an illustrative example, we present the 3-betting charts for all the remaining positions when UTG open raises. Note that the player in the BB has the option to call, and does so with quite a lot of hands. As before you can click through the ranges using the circular buttons.
Download These 6-Max Charts
The complete 6-max ranges described above are all available on the Red Chip Poker GTO Ranges app. You can download the app from either the App Store or Google Play by following this link. For more information about the contents and pricing of the app, please visit our FAQ page. More in-depth technical details about the app and how the ranges were developed can be found through this link.
Tournament GTO Preflop Charts
While tournament and cash-game poker follow the same rules, there are some key differences that mean cash-game charts cannot be directly applied to multi-table tournament (MTT) play. Most notably, stack depth in tournaments tends to decrease as the blinds increase, so that the 100bb default of cash games no longer applies. Similarly, a tournament hand is not raked, but the preflop pot is usually increased by the addition of antes.
While the extra dead money in the preflop pot tends to widen a GTO open-raising range, other factors mitigate this trend, as well as changing the shape of the ranges. In addition to the generally lower stack depth, the chips in play have no immediate cash value. In a tournament, one is playing for a share of the prize pool. In the later stages of a tournament in particular, this factor can have a profound impact on our preflop ranges.
The impact of the tournament prize structure on our ranges can be quantified through the Independent Chip Model (ICM). If you would like to learn more about this concept, you may enjoy this episode of the Red Chip Poker podcast.
20bb MTT Open Raising Charts
To illustrate what some of these tournament charts look like, here are the MTT open-raise ranges from the Red Chip Poker app assuming a stack depth of 20bb. The calculations further assumed an open-raise size of 2.2bb, and that any 3-bets are all-in. Note that unlike some of the cash-game ranges, we explicitly included the ability for players to call opens, rather than jam or fold.
As before, you can click through the images to see how opening ranges expand as we move to later position.
20bb MTT 3-Betting Charts
The stack depth of 20bb sets up perfectly for preflop 3-bet jams. Indeed, a general heuristic used by tournament players is that up to 10x the open when in position and 12x the open out of position makes an efficient 3-bet jam. However, as is so often the case, digging deeper into these GTO solutions reveals a more complex picture.
You may wonder, for example, why the premiums AA and KK are not included in the 3-bet jam ranges shown in the image below. The simple answer is that the solver concludes a higher EV can be generated by calling with these hands preflop. Indeed, the 3-bet charts below should be used in conjunction with calling charts featured on the app to get the complete picture.
Should you follow such counter-intuitive advice of flatting with premiums? The answer to that question requires looking in more depth at the precise tournament situation and the tendencies of your opponents. Further, we know from other studies that allowing non-all-in 3-bets, even at this shallow depth, means some of these premium preflop calls get moved to the small 3-bet bucket. Suffice it to say that at 20bb, you will not be committing a significant error simply by 3-bet jamming the premiums, but other options are possible.
Download These Tournament Charts
The 20bb MTT preflop ranges are currently available on the Red Chip Poker GTO Ranges app, along with similar ranges for 40bb and 60bb stack depth. You can download the app from either the App Store or Google Play by following this link. For more information about the contents and pricing of the app, please visit our FAQ page. More in-depth technical details about the app and how the ranges were developed can be found through this link.
Push/Fold GTO Preflop Charts
Once we drop much below 20bb stack depths in tournaments, we enter the “push-fold” realm. In other words, we are now playing so shallow that our only viable option if we play a hand is to push all our chips into the middle. Thus in addition to these shove ranges, MTT players also need to know the ranges with which to call a shove from an opponent.
There is good news and bad news when developing ranges for such shallow stacks. The good news is that, since the action has been limited to a single, preflop street, calculating these ranges is much easier, at least in principle. Rather than using a behemoth number-cruncher like MonkerSolver, we can use tools such as HoldemResources Calculator (HRC). The ranges below were calculated using this tool.
10bb Push/Fold Charts
One important advantage of using HRC for creating push-fold ranges is that it is fast, and allows a simple incorporation of the “ICM effects” mentioned above. Specifically, one can input the pay-out structure of a specific tournament, and the tool calculates ranges that maximize your cash EV rather than chip EV. This is, after all, the number you ultimately care about, since your goal is to win the most money.
As an illustrative example, we show below the open-shove ranges for every position at a 9-handed tournament table. The ranges assume 10bb equal stacks, and use the “moderate ICM” model that you can find in our CORE material. Specifically, the model is identical to a standard 50/30/20 pay-out structure used in sit-n-goes. In MTTs it is applicable to situations when the money bubble will burst when around half the current players remaining in the tournament have busted out.
Download These Push/Fold Charts
In addition to the 10bb push-fold charts discussed above, our CORE program includes similar charts for 5bb, 7bb and 15bb stacks. In each case we present results for no, moderate and high ICM situations. We plan on adding all this information to the Rec Chip Poker GTO ranges app, but you can access these ranges now by enrolling in out $5/week CORE program through this link. The program includes a complete tournament course created by WSOP bracelet-winner Chris “Fox” Wallace.