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STRATEGY: Using Big Data to Find Profitable Opening Ranges

STRATEGY: Using Big Data to Find Profitable Opening Ranges 0001 does in-depth analytics for poker, using a massive hole-card-up database. To learn more about the data, check out the site.

In this no-limit Texas hold'em analysis, we found that the historically best under-the-gun (UTG) opening range for your average micro six-max player is: 66+, ATs+, KQs, and AQ+.

To find this range, we used the following quick-and-dirty methodology:

  • For each of the 169 starting hands, we found all the instances in which a player raised UTG at a six-handed micro game.
  • For a given starting hand, we calculated the average end-of-hand outcome (based on big blinds) for those raisers.
  • We kept any starting hand that, on average, showed a positive end-of-hand outcome.

The results are below. Opening hands are on the left, and average end-of-hand outcomes (in big blinds) are on the right:

HandOutcome HandOutcome
AA10.7 990.6
KK6.6 880.4
QQ3.6 AJs0.2
JJ2.0 770.2
AKs1.7 KQs0.2
TT1.2 AQ0.1
AK0.9 ATs0.1
AQs0.8 660.1

As we’re sure you appreciate, this methodology is both very quick, and very dirty. It has a host of problems, the least of which is its unbalanced recommendation.

That said, it has one thing going for it: it’s empirical. It’s based on real raises that generated real profit across a huge number of real players.

So … Is This Advice Worth Following?

Whether it’s worth consistently following depends on whether your opponents are adjusting to you. You’ll be opening substantially fewer hands than most folks recommend. In theory, your opponents should notice this, and start playing only their stronger hands against your UTG raises.

But that might be more of a theoretical problem than a real one. Maybe six-max micro limits are comprised of players who by and large don’t pay attention, and will consistently pay you off as you raise with the strongest hands.

Ultimately, your lived experience will give you the only answer that matters. But we do know that opening with these hands has, in the past, produced the highest overall returns. It seems like you could do worse than starting with this range, and seeing how it goes...

Any Other Considerations?

As alluded to in the “quick-and-dirty” description, there are plenty of other considerations. Here are the two that we think are worth space:

This range captures hands that were historically profitable for “the average micro 6-maxer.” If you think you’re better than that hypothetical average player, or have shown consistent profitability using this range, you might be ready to start adding hands to it.

A second major consideration is the size of your opening raise. The historically profitable opening range will change as you vary raise sizes from 2x to 3x to 4x. Stay tuned for a future analysis which illuminates what these changes look like.

For more poker strategy, make sure to tune in every week for new episodes of the Strategy with Kristy podcast. Feel free to send in questions, ideas or suggestions for the podcast to Also remember to follow PokerNews on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.

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