How to Learn and Remember Preflop Ranges

learn and memorize opening ranges

4 minutes

Last Updated: May 29, 2024

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Knowing your preflop ranges is one of the most important fundamentals of poker strategy. This is one of the essential building blocks that you can’t skip over.

You make preflop decisions every single hand, and if you make a mistake before the flop, you’re likelier to make further mistakes on future streets.

The fact of the matter is that no one enjoys studying preflop. It’s boring, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

Even after all these years, I still try to dedicate an hour a week to studying preflop game, in addition to all the other hours I devote to poker.

Having said all this, preflop can be very intimidating. There are so many different charts for different spots and scenarios. So, in this article, I’ll talk about how I approach learning and memorizing these different preflop ranges and offer you some advice that you can use.

memorizing preflop ranges
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Make Things Simpler

The main reason why I like the way I think about preflop ranges is that it really helps me with the postflop play, and I’ll talk about this more in the final section of this lesson.

To start with, though, let’s look at the opening range on the button when playing 40 big blinds deep. I know that the edges of my range contain suited 5s, off-suit 8s, with mixed off-suit 7s, and suited 4s. That makes it easier to remember than thinking in terms of the “50% opening range.”

how to remember preflop ranges

By memorizing things this way, even if you miss some of the most borderline hands, you’ll still hit about 90% of your opening range in this specific spot.

The trick is to get the bottom of your range right. In this particular scenario, most people don’t raise with hands like 95s.

If we move everything one position and look at our cutoff opening range, borderline hands will be off-suit 9s and suited 6s. Once again, this makes it much easier to remember things than trying to figure out what a 40% range looks like.

As we move further away from the bottom, the range gets a little bit tighter, so from the hijack, we’re opening suited 7s and off-suit Ts.

There is a fairly simple pattern you can follow here, and it makes it much easier to memorize these opening ranges. With this approach, you’re almost guaranteed to properly expand your RFI range from different positions with poker hands that are profitable yet missed by many players.

Going Beyond Opening Ranges

This memorization method works not only for your RFI ranges, but also for other spots, such as figuring out what hands to defend with against a button raise in the big blind.

Right off the top of my head, I know that in a 40BB scenario, I’m defending all suited hands, off-suit 6s, and then we’re defending more off-suit kings and queens in general, as these are higher cards.

Once again, we move the initial raiser to the cutoff, and our range here is all suited cards and off-suit 7s. You can make a guess at it before even looking at any charts, and you’ll realize that charts agree.

So, you can see that this simple and easy-to-follow logic helps you tremendously with constructing your preflop ranges without having to memorize tens or hundreds of charts one by one.

There is something to be said about the raise size, of course. As a general rule, when the bet size gets a bit bigger, it is off-suit hands that start to fall off from our range. Suited hands aren’t nearly as sensitive to raise size increases.

How Preflop Knowledge Influences Your Postflop Play

As mentioned in the introduction, mastering preflop fundamentals will help you tremendously with your play after the flop.

When deciding whether to c-bet on a particular board, for example, you’ll be able to make better decisions knowing how many hands that correlate with the board texture you have in your opening range.

To illustrate this, here’s a simple hand. We open from the button with Q10, the big blind defends, and we see the flop of K66. Although the initial instinct could be that we want to c-bet here almost 100%, the GTO number is closer to 50%.

how to memorize preflop ranges
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As discussed earlier, we don’t have any off-suit 6s in our preflop raising range. Since we don’t have very good 6 x coverage, this is actually a flop that we’ll check with a fairly high frequency.

If we change the board to K88, we’re c-betting over 80%. The reason is that the bottom of the opening range on the button contains off-suit 8s, so we have a much better coverage of this board.

You can see how this logic can help you with decisions after the flop even without studying posflop strategy. It simply makes sense to bet more frequently on boards that we cover better and take a more passive approach when that’s not the case.

Hopefully, these tips will help you approach the preflop game in a different way and make studying it much more interesting and engaging. Instead of just trying to cram the information, you’ll be using sound logic to memorize different spots, making the task much more realistic!

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