Under the gun (UTG) refers to the position occupied by players seated immediately to the left of the large blind. You have the initiative preflop. The small and big blinds are in position to act before you after the flop, while the rest of your opponents are in position to act after you.
Playing under the gun is stressful, but it’s not the worst spot to be in. An optimal UTG approach will prioritize value plays and shun speculative bluffs. Keep your opening range small and only play postflop with strong hands.
Streamlining your preflop hand selection is essential to maintaining a profit under pressure.
Preflop Under Fire Situation
Under pressure, you should play a narrow preflop range. Only stick around post-flop with hands you know have value in them. The following is an example of a strong preflop range:
Broadway cards of 22 or more suits (such AKs, QJs, and KQs)
A score of 89 or higher (only applies to games with fewer players).
You can safely add suitable connections of 89 or higher in your UTG range, although doing so excessively is not advised. To win a pot with 89s from the button, you may not need to see the flip, but under the gun, you almost always should. Under the gun, you are out of position and cannot see your opponents’ actions, limiting your ability to get bluffy and take shots at the pot.
It’s important to remember that determining your position when holding top pair type hands from UTG can be tricky. Take the example of raising with ATo from under the gun. The blinds will lower for the person using the button.
A 4-4-5 rainbow appears on the flop. You bet heavily on the flip, and the button makes a check. You’re ahead in the pot and the turn brings a King, so you decide to check. As soon as you press the button to check, it will automatically gamble the entire pot. Is he betting because he has a good hand, or because you checked?
The answer to such question is elusive. You lose to the vast majority of your opponent’s range, which includes any aces with better kickers (AK, AQ, AJ are all likely holds). A clever opponent will know that you’re raising with the best of your range preflop if you’re in the worst position at the table, so you can anticipate a strong range from them as well.
You probably don’t want to get rid of your best pair of shoes. As a result, you have to decide whether to fold your pair or stay in the game with what is likely the second-best hand.
The foregoing instance shows how vital it is to limit your effective radius. Since you are not in a strategic position, you cannot accurately assess the status of your opponents before taking any action. A hand’s advantage under pressure comes down to the quality of your cards. Don’t get careless till late in the game.
Playing Aggressively When Pressured
Playing aggressively with high-ranking hands is a must if you want to win under pressure. You should bet early and often when you have strong cards and expect to dominate the pot before the flop.
Let’s look at a typical situation. Under the gun, a player gets dealt QQ and chooses to limp in rather than open raise. For example, if I have QQ and someone else has QQ, I should slowplay to give them both an opportunity to put money in the pot. That’s an admirable goal, but there’s a problem: your reasoning is flawed.
Preflop, QQ is a prohibitive favorite over nearly every other starting hand. You should put in your chips when your hand is a prohibitive favorite. The players in front of you will call an open raise if they have a good hand; after all, they believe they have the nuts too. You’re basically saying, “I hate money, I don’t want to build the pot to as large an amount as I can,” if you don’t raise your QQ preflop. I will accept mediocrity.
Making a play that results in a lower anticipated value is a poor decision in poker, as the goal is to maximize our winnings. When you’re in a tough spot, it’s usually better to raise than to call.
When holding small pocket pairs, aggression should be restrained. The value of a hand like 22 or 33 stands on its own. If the flop doesn’t improve your hand, you should fold both of them. If you are UTG and with a little pocket pair, you should slow down on the pot-building pre-flop.
But if you only have a few dollars in your pocket, I wouldn’t suggest open-limping. You can only get away with such strategy in really passive games. Raise with it (shorthanded games only) or fold if you’re in a normal game. The only way to win the pot with open limping is to actually strike something.
Maintain Adaptability Under Pressure
Always keep in mind that your strategy should adapt to the current game situation. You can win several pots with weak hands and no position if you relax, for example, when playing against tight players who only enter pots when they have a powerful hand.
But if you’re up against the loose-aggressive variety, you’ll have to go for broke. If you try to enter with weak limps, the loose-aggressive players will destroy you. To compete with these players, you must either go all in or sit on the sidelines.