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Q&A: Team Studies, Small Pocket Pairs, Adjusting Your Pre-flop Ranges | Episode 150


Sky Matsuhashi

on July 28, 2017

In this episode, I answer three of your questions about studying poker as a team, the strength of small pocket pairs and adjusting your pre-flop ranges.

Download and listen to this episode as you follow along below.


Q1: Group Poker Studies (1:05)

This one comes in from Frank within a much longer email: I would like to map out a great plan of action as far as studying goes for our group.


Studying as a group is a great idea!  If you do this right, you'll improve more than studying on your own.  You can pull your resources and get more studies done.

If you plan this right, you can actually turn this idea into a sensible book or a podcast or a poker blog that belongs to the entire group.

Recommended group studies approach

  1. Choose one topic to study for one week (opening ranges, cbets, 3bets, etc.)
  2. One person finds resources to study, 3 per person (articles, podcasts, videos, chapters in books, etc.). Each piece should be different and from various produces (ex. me, Splitsuit, J. Little, Alex Fitzgerald, etc.)
  3. Each person consumes the content, and creates thorough notes on everything they learned
  4. On the 6th day of the week, each person takes their notes and condenses it down to one page. This one page will have all the most important things that one would need to know about ___ topic.
  5. On the 7th day, you all get together in a Zoom or Skype meeting and share what you learned.
  6. One person out of the group is responsible for taking everyone's one page notes and combining it into a multiple page PDF. There will be lots of similar ideas on everyone's sheets, but this person will combine it all into a logical document to share with everyone in the group.  The goal behind this document would be to create “The Ultimate Guide to _____”.  This then gets distributed back to the group.  They give their input on possible revisions, then the document is finalized and sent back out.

Q2: Small Pocket Pairs (4:15)

This comes in from Mike: I noticed your ranges include small pocket pairs at a much lower percentile range — like the 20% range includes all pocket pairs 22+. But when I use Equilab, 20% only includes pocket pairs from 66+. Also, some other sites like have similar 20% ranges to Equilab 55+. Equilab does not include 22+ until you get almost to 60%. I think playing these low pocket pairs is dangerous unless you are set mining. I wind up throwing them away after they become 3rd or 4th pair on the flop. If you don't hit a set you are usually beat. So, I'm not sure how they could be in the top 20% of hands. Can you please elaborate on you what are thinking here?


Great observation, Mike.

You’re right that small pocket pairs don’t often win unless you hit your set or you’re able to pull off a good underpair bluff or maybe hit a flopped oesd.  For 22-55 in particular, I’ve removed them from my opening range from the early positions and the middle positions.

But, I think small pocket pairs still deserve to be included within a 20% range.  You can see in this screen shot how Flopzilla and Equilab differ in their ranging.

small pocket pairs

I use Flopzilla much more than Equilab.   It feels more in-line with how most online players play.

2 Examples

Equilab has T7s-T3s in its range before 22, but everyone you play with will open or call with 22 before those hands

Equilab has K9o-K3o in its range before 33, but everyone plays 33 before those.

So, even if you may not play small pocket pairs, your opponents will play them before many other hands.  When you’re ranging opponents, they deserve to be put into pre-flop ranges much sooner than many of the weaker suited and off-suit hands.

Also, if you check out MTT push/fold charts, you’ll see that all pocket pairs are included there much sooner than most non-paired hands because they often stand up and win when called all-in pre-flop.

Q3:  Adjusting Your Pre-flop Ranges (9:20)

Question from Per: I need to know which hands to play in different circumstances. I have your chart, but understanding how to make adjustments based on the players in your game would help.


Your opponents are what will determine how you adjust your pre-flop ranges.  Always pay attention to the two to your left and right, as they're the ones you'll get into most battles with.  Know how they play and how they'll likely respond to your open raise or a call or your 3bet.

Here's a way to practice your player profiling:  Play focus sessions of just one table where your goal is to understand each opponent at the table.  Have a piece of paper in hand and write down all you know about each player (by name or seat number) and write down exactly what you can do to exploit them.  These exploits will inform your pre-flop hand decisions.

When it comes to player profiling, the above practice will really help you to understand your opponents.  There's a big difference between a Nit who only calls 5% of hands, a TAG who calls 10%, a LAG who calls 20% and a mega fish who calls 40%.  Analyzing each opponent and doing hand reading practice against various types of opponents will really help to improve your understanding.

Also, check out podcast episodes #123, #282 and #125 where I covered lots of stuff regarding understanding your opponents in the Understanding Opponents MED.

Challenge (11:35)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Play a focus session where you analyze each opponent on the table, starting with the two to your left, the two to your right, then moving around the table until you get them all.  Your goal is to develop your understanding of each of them so you know the best way to exploit and earn chips no matter who you’re up against.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.


Sky Matsuhashi

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