Preflop poker cheat sheets can be a great tool for beginners to get started building out their game. By definition, a pre-flop poker cheat sheet is a predetermined set of poker hand ranges based on your seat/position at the table.
In simpler terms, it’s what hands you should play based on how far you are away from the button/blinds. These hand ranges are “rules” that exist in a vacuum meaning that it only takes into account what position seat you have and not some other factors that you can add in as your game grows.
What Benefit Do I Get From Using Preflop Cheat Sheets?
- They prevent you from making costly mistakes.
Typically, most new players to the game tend to play WAY too many hands (among many other preflop mistakes.) They have reasons and thoughts and are able to rationalize why they should play all of these hands when it’s just plain, well, bad. Playing too many hands will cause you to become a target for other players and will cost you a lot of money in the long run as you will end up in way too many marginal situations. Poker cheat sheets are good to give you a general guideline of what to play but they are GREAT to give you a guideline about what not to play.
- They give you a general understanding of poker theory.
You will notice that the earlier position that you are in, the tighter they advise you to play and the later position you are in, the looser they advise you to play. This should help to illustrate to you just how important position and being last to act is in the game of poker. If you open loosely in early position, you will find yourself often getting called by players behind you and being forced to play out of position on future streets. This is not a winning strategy but a recipe for a lot of tough situations and decisions.
- You get to leapfrog other newer players.
These range charts are not just something that was randomly made up by some random person on the street. These charts have been carefully constructed by poker professionals with the aid of math, statistical analysis, and their anecdotal supporting evidence for the placements on the chart. In the older days, new players had to just figure this information out themselves, which would take time and would be very costly as they learned their mistakes. Studying these before beginning on your poker journey or as a supplement to a growing journey will help you to leapfrog those that refuse to take the time to learn this information the easy way.
(Note: You can grab our exclusive preflop cheat sheets, developed by top pros Doug Polk & Ryan Fee, by clicking the image below!)
When to Deviate from the Preflop Charts
It’s important to reiterate that these rules on these charts exist in a vacuum. If you follow the charts most of your preflop decisions will be correct, but some won’t because the charts don’t take into account some other game conditions that indicate the need for adjustments. A few things that you will want to begin taking into account and using to adjust these charts are as follows:
- How difficult the opponents on your left are
If you are at a very tough table and are not comfortable playing difficult spots out of position, you are going to want to play a big tighter than the chart might suggest. These tougher players are probably going to play a few more pots and are also more likely to 3-bet, float, and do other higher level things to try and steal pots away from you. The more marginal your hand is, the more challenging it is going to be in these spots.
- How loose or ‘sticky’ the players to your left are
If you are playing in a game where no-one folds to bets pre-flop you have a couple options:
- You can up the size of your pre-flop raise until you get the desired effect
- You can tighten your range a little bit, cutting out the weakest hands the chart suggests you play.
I personally recommend a mix of the two so you aren’t playing against a full table but also don’t have to check and fold a ton of hands because there are 6 million people in the pot.
- The status of the game (if it’s a tournament) and how the players are choosing to react
If it’s the bubble of a tournament and the players to your left have gotten absurdly tight, you are going to want to loosen up your range a lot because they are going to fold way too many hands and you’ll pick up some cheap pots. Jason Lee talks about these situations more in-depth in his article on money bubble play, including how you should adjust your ranges away from these charts in terms of how your opponents are playing and the status of the tournament.
All in all, these poker cheat sheets are great guidelines to get you started on your poker journey or to help plug some leaks if you’re a player that plays too tightly or too loosely. I highly recommend reviewing them no matter how good you think your game is and take a look if there are any big discrepancies. The charts will help protect you from making some big mistakes, indirectly give you some good insight into poker theory, and help give you a jumpstart over your opponents. It’s important as your game grows though to being thinking a little outside of the lines as to adjustments you can make based on players or specific situations. Once you master this, you will be well on your way to being a successful player.
(Note: Doug Polk & Ryan Fee created these preflop cheat sheets, by clicking the image below!)
I’m Matt “Checkmate” Colletta. I’ve been playing poker professionally since about 2004.
As one of the poker pros on UpswingPoker.com, my goal here is to help transform at least one hobbyist poker player into a self made millionaire.