Auto-Fold Ranges

I downloaded a spreadsheet from poker guru Tommy Angelo’s website for developing “auto-fold ranges.” He defines an auto-fold range as the starting hands you intend to fold in a given spot, no matter who else is at the table or how they are playing. Or how you are playing. As in ‘always’ means ALWAYS.

If the spot arises and you have one of these hands, you intend to fold. Always.

Being human, we recognize the difficulty presented by word ‘intend,’ which has all the force and effect of a New Year’s Resolution.

Nevertheless, let’s see what happened. I started with the pre-flop situation of being under-the-gun and followed the instructions. My range will be narrow, hopefully tighter than most, and I don’t have to consider any potential action before it is my turn.

Here is my first draft, followed by an explanation of the color scheme:

Red means… auto-fold. Think of red lights and stop signs. I intend to fold these hands. Really… I will. Always. The easiest hands in this chart are those containing a deuce. When I’m UTG and peek at my cards, if the first one is a deuce, I don’t need to look at the second card (and frequently don’t), because I know I’m going to fold. I won’t get involved UTG with A2s, nor with 22. Every other hand containing a deuce is worse.

Some of the other hands speak to me like Tantalus, the Greek God of Temptation. “Just this once…” I can hear their voices. Can I truly resist the urge when I’m losing or tired or pissed off or facing exploitable villains? Will I stay disciplined after seeing other players win large pots, as inevitably they will, after entering pots with cards in my auto-fold range?

Green means… it-depends. The best of these I’ll always play, obviously. In describing how to use the auto-fold ranges, Angelo simply categorizes every hand that isn’t an auto-fold as “it depends.” Further sub-groupings and deciding when to fold the weakest of these at a really tough table or whether to call or raise (and how much) are topics for another day. By defining the auto-fold hands, you’ve conserved bandwidth for the it-depends hands.

Yellow means… well, I wasn’t sure at first what yellow means, and that alone is reason for caution.

Most of hands in the red section are no-brainers. I started at the bottom right corner of the chart and made the total garbage hands red. Junk –> always fold UTG.

Then I moved my attention to the top left corner with its beautiful AA, KK and AK hands. These are definitely NOT auto-folds, so I made them green. Easy game.

Back and forth I went, adding a few more reds and a few more greens. Approaching the center, it became harder and harder to commit to always folding, especially some of the suited connectors and 1-gappers. Who doesn’t love these hands? Who doesn’t know that out-of-position this is playing with fire? Who doesn’t like playing with fire?

Therefore, yellow means… there is more work to do. If JTs is not an auto-fold, why should T9s be an auto-fold? If I allow T9s to remain in the it-depends range, what about 98s? 87s? Somewhere a line must be drawn. Gaaaaah!

I’ve only just begun to rinse and repeat these charts for other spots – middle and late positions, facing calls or raises or re-raises. Each new auto-fold chart starts with the no-brainers in the bottom right and top left, adding a few reds and a couple greens, working my way towards the center. I hope I can eliminate all of the yellow squares, but I’m not yet sure.

You might say it depends…

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7 Comments

  1. I’m curious as to the reason for making a rigid guideline. I’m just thinking out loud, but by playing this style wouldn’t you be broadcasting your strategy to the thinking players in your game? And if there are no players at the table where their skill level doesn’t concern you, wouldn’t you want to widen your range a little. As I like over the yellow range I suppose it’s not at all a tight range. My biggest concern would be taking the suited A/wheel hands out. It limits the nut flush from your range where if you get involved with a tougher player who has an idea of your suited Aces then they can make it difficult when the flush comes in knowing the probability of you having the nuts are slim. But that is just my initial thought…and I havent played competitively in a while so the games may have changed immensely. Enjoy your blogs…helps keep me in touch with the game.

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  2. Thanks for the kind words at the end. 😉

    The guidelines are only rigid for the auto-fold range. Keep in mind the chart shown here is only for when I’m under-the-gun. Everything that isn’t auto-fold is “it depends,” and if you want to give yourself the option of adding A/wheel suited hands for games that are playing as a limp-fest, you can do that. I choose not to, at least in the first draft, because my experience has been that A) most of the time I’ll have to raise or call someone else’s raise in order to see a flop, B) most “good” flops will be draws which are much tougher to play out-of-position than in-position, and C) most draws will miss.

    The real point, however, is the exercise of trying to draw a line between hands you might play UTG and hands you intend never to play forces a kind of thinking that we usually avoid but profitable to do.

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  3. Fair. All valid reasons as to not want to play trashy hands utg. Hope you know I’m not critiquing, just looking for discussion. (With the understanding it’s a 1st draft) the yellow, it depends range, is what I’d want to switch out. There seem to be a lot of suited 1 and 2 gappers. From my count you have 28 combos of suited hands with only 4 being nut flushes. So 24 to 4…6 to 1 I think. I think if you add the suited A/wheels by replacing 4 of weakest suited 2 gappers you’d now have the same 28 suited combos but with the ratio being 20 to 8. Now its 2.5 to 1 for you to have the nut flush. I think that would make it tougher for a thinking player to put you in a bad spot by raising when the flush comes in, knowing there is a greater likelyhood of you holding the nuts. Having said all of that, I completely agree that playing utg is a tough spot and most do play tighter from there. When I played it was pairs, suited A/straighters, suited broadway, and suited connectors. I left the 1+ suited gappers and almost all offsuit alone because of the tough spots you could find yourself in. Thanks for the response and hope you didnt mind my thoughts.

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    1. Steven, I very much appreciate your sharing your thoughts here. And you make some good points, which will get me to re-visit the auto-fold range charts. Just keep in mind that the opposite of Auto-Fold is NOT Auto-Play. It’s ‘It Depends.’ When UTG, many of the non-nut flush combos are still going to be folds unless the whole table is very passive and many hands go to the flop without a pre-flop raise.

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  4. Sure thing. Don’t know why this post got me to a talkative mood. Guess I’ve just been missing the game. Used to play in some of the same games with you and really enjoy the blogs as it keeps me in touch in a way. I’m going to have to check out some of Tommy Angelo stuff seeing as you reference his work quite a bit. I have only seen a few of his card player articles. If you haven’t checked out any of Ed Miller’s work I would reccomend him. His work breaks down 1/2 and 2/5 games very well. He has some things specifically for higher stakes but the lower stake stuff I found to be very beneficial.

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    1. Haha, me and my wife were talking about that just this last week. My family is very active right now, busy ages for my kids. I do miss it something bad though. It’s tough for me to play every now and then though. When I play, I want to stay till the last hand. I like playing when it’s 9 handed all the way thru to heads up. Never bothered me to play short handed. I just loved to play. Problem is I never developed the discipline to get up and leave at a certain time…only left when I was broke for the night or a situation came up that made me uncomfortable (which was very very rare). And because of that, the schedule didn’t mesh with the life I was leading. Poker is a night gig….that leads to early morning. I’ve told all the guys that had me on the list I’d be back 1 day…just don’t know when. Until that time comes I’ll just continue to read your blogs and live vicariously thru those.

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