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Low card hands and the lower half of all pocket pairs can be tricky to play post-flop unless you flop a lot of equity; meaning things like two pair, a set, a straight or a strong draw. When I say tricky I mean that whatever equity you might have with a weak pair, it will be difficult to realise that equity by getting to showdown. Most often you need to fold your hand due to this fact.

High pocket pairs, and Broadway hands on the other hand; flop stronger pairs which allows them a better ability to realise the equity even when they flop nothing but a pair. So more often, flops will be good for these type of hands than low card hands.

With a stack of about 11-18 big blinds, you have few enough chips that the option of open shoving all in pre-flop becomes viable. By doing this you can fold out some hands that would have called a 2 big blind open or even some hands that would have three-bet you all in.

Considering the the two hand categories mentioned above, it’s quite obvious which one benefits the most from folding out some marginal hands; the low card hands and pocket pairs.

How to play from early position

With effective stacks of 18-15 big blind, the type of hands you are best of open-shoving are mid-pocket pairs such as 88-TT. and AJ-AQ. These hands can be difficult to play on a quite a few boards so maximising your fold equity and at the same time avoiding a potential difficult decision by shoving pre-flop makes a lot of sense.

In case you have very three-bet happy players behind you, just open raising these hands becomes a lot more attractive as you can get a lot of weak aces and low pocket pairs to come over the top.
The strong pocket pairs, meaning JJ-AA and AK should be played the same way.

Lower pocket pairs like 44-77 are best to raise to 2 big blind with a stack in the region of 15-18 big blinds. Although you need to call off a shove sometimes, most often you can get away from the hand either pre-flop or on the flop when you can be fairly certain that you are beat.

The same goes for suited aces and Broadway hands such as QJs, with the additional benefit that if you do get called you can connect on a lot of flops..

With effective stacks of 11-14 big blinds you are pretty much playing the same way as with 10 big blinds, where you either shove all in or fold. In this case you can confidently shove all pocket pairs from JJ down to 44. AK and some strong Broadway hands such as KQs are also good hands to shove all in with.
The same logic applies when you play from middle position, but you can start widening your ranges slightly.

The reason why you do not want to have much of an open-fold range in this spot is that you don’t want to lose your ability to three-bet shove with fold equity, which you will lose when you get lower than 10 big blinds.

How to play from late position

From late position, meaning the cut off, button and small blind your opening ranges becomes significantly wider. Because of this your opponents will three-bet you a lot wider as well, which you should consider when picking your ranges for open raising and shoving.

You can pretty much play the same way here with 11 big blinds as with 18 big blinds. Your range for opening to 2 big blinds here will be fairly polarised between hands you can fold to a 3-bet and hands you want to call a shove with. Since your opponents will shove fairly wide you can open AK-AT, AA-88 and be happy to call off a shove.
Your bluff range for opening here should be pretty wide as well meaning pretty much any suited hand, any hand with and A,K or Q and a lot of connected cards such as 98 offsuit.

The hands you are shoving here will be lower pocket pairs (22-77) and hands such as KQs-KJs, QJs and low suited aces. Although some of these hands flop really well, the amount of hands you force to fold pre-flop allowing you to win what’s already in the pot is even more valuable.

Keep in mind these are general advice and other factors such as money jumps or bubble strategy can alter your opening ranges to some extent.

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