live preflop ranges

2 Winning Ways to Adjust Your Preflop Strategy in Low Stakes Live Poker

If you’re an online player diving into the world of live poker, one of the first things you notice is that the rake is absurdly high compared to what you’re used to. This is especially true at the lowest-stakes games ($1/$2 through $2/$5).

As you climb the stakes, rake becomes less of a factor. But in order to make the climb to those bigger games as fast as possible, it is imperative that you adjust your strategy to account for the high rake you’ll encounter along your climb. 

With that in mind, in this installment of Upswing’s low stakes live poker tips series, I’ll be covering two adjustments you need to be making to your preflop game to account for rake. 

Let’s get started.

Note: You can check out the previous articles for this series here:

Adjustment #1: Tighten Your Preflop Ranges (Especially Your Calling Ranges)

Check out the two solver-generated preflop ranges below (taken from the upcoming Smash Live Cash course).

Take a look at the following Hijack opening ranges in a 200bb deep game. On the left are the ranges for a non-raked game (players pay timed rake that doesn’t come directly from the pot). On the right is the same range for a traditionally raked game.

Rake Ranges

You can see that in the raked games, the solver tightens up by cutting out the bottom end of its range. This is because this range of hands ceases to be profitable to play when accounting for all the money that is going to be raked.

In addition to tightening up opening ranges, the solver also recommends a tighter Big Blind defense strategy when playing in highly-raked games.

Rake Ranges 2

You can see from this Big Blind defense chart that the tightening up in raked games is even more profound. The solver is cutting out a ton of the worst hands when there is a steep rake in play. 

No one likes to fold, but correctly tightening your range in highly-raked environments will wind up saving you small amounts each session that over time have a significant compounding effect.

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Adjustment #2: Try to Win More Pots Before the Flop

The second key adjustment for high-raked games is to try to win more hands preflop. This is because most live poker rooms only take money from the pot once the flop is dealt.

This generally translates to having a higher 3-bet percentage when possible.

When it comes to 3-betting in live games, it’s important to note that 3-betting more doesn’t necessarily imply 3-bet bluffing more. In most live poker games, the player pool tends to call 3-bets too wide.

Therefore, rather than 3-bet bluff, you can leverage how loose they are by 3-betting a more merged range that includes suited broadways and strong Ace-x combinations

Implementing this strategy will allow you to take down more pots preflop, which means you’ll avoid paying rake in these pots.

A Quick Note on Timed Rake

Timed-rake means that you pay a certain amount for each hour or half hour you are at a table and no money is taken out of the pot afterward. This rake structure is popular in higher limit games and in social gaming clubs that charge an hourly club access fee like the ones that dominate the poker scene in Texas (such as The Lodge Card Club).

It’s almost always a good idea to play timed-rake games over traditionally raked games when possible. They are typically a much better deal for players than traditional games where money is taken out of every pot.

Aside from saving you money, timed games come with the added benefit of allowing you to play more hands. This is because no money is being taken out of the pot, so the charts you should play resemble the ones from the left in the earlier examples. 

On top of that, in time games there is no longer any value to chopping the blinds preflop. This is important because the blinds are arguably the most complex positions to play from.

Therefore, forcing weaker players to have to play out of the blinds is especially valuable in live poker. 

Wrapping Up

Thanks again for keeping up with the Upswing strategy blog.

As always any questions, comments, or suggestions for future strategy articles are appreciated in the comments.

Good luck at the tables!

Note: Ready to join 5,000+ players currently upgrading their No Limit Hold’em skills? Crush your competition with the expert strategies you will learn inside the Upswing Lab training course. Learn more now!


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About the Author
Jake Godshall

Jake Godshall

Former high stakes HUSNG player, now a mid stakes cash game player.

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