Tips For Playing From Under The Gun

Playing under the gun is far from ideal but it is often unavoidable

Playing from under the gun is not enviable in the slightest. It is one of the worst positions at the poker table. Only the small blind is worse and some players will debate that until the cows come home to roost.

It is difficult to turn a profit from playing from under the gun but it is possible. Playing from under the gun requires you to have your wits about you. Observation and hand selection are key to success in this position. Keep reading for tips for playing UTG.

What Is Meant By Under The Gun?

To be “under the gun” is a phrase used outside of poker in addition to at the tables. Someone who is said to be under the gun is under immense pressure. This may be taking an important exam or test. Its origins are disputed but it links back to feeling like you have a gun to your head.

Under the gun is the first position to act in games such as Texas Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha. The player to the immediate left of the big blind is under the gun, or UTG as it is often abbreviated.

Sitting in this seat means you’re first to act during the preflop betting round. It also means you’re likely to be out of position after the flop unless the blinds come along for the ride.

Acting first means you don’t have the benefit of seeing what your opponents do. Conversely, being on the button grants you the benefit of watching your opponents’ actions before deciding on your own.

Adding to the misery of playing under the gun opponents almost instantly get a read on you. It is a real miserable position and one many poker players struggle to play from.

Tips For UTG Play

Playing from under the gun puts you at a significant disadvantage so you need to help yourself out. You do this by being aggressive whenever you decide to open from this position. Don’t even think about limping in from under the gun. Your hand is strong enough to raise if it is playable from this position.

You rely heavily on your cards when UTG. Where on the button you can raise and three-bet with much wider range of hands because of your positional advantage, playing from UTG requires you to narrow your range significantly.

It is worth noting that as soon as you raise from under the gun your opponents will be wary. Making a raise from this position conveys extreme strength, particularly at a nine-handed table. Your opponents know you have a strong hand, unless you play like a maniac. Likewise, an opponent raising from this position is likely to hold a premium hand also.

Playable Hands From UTG

The majority of the time, at a typical table, playing tight is the best move when under the gun. By tight I mean very tight. Remember that you reply primarily on your cards’ strength when out of position.

A range of the 10% of starting hands is optimal at a nine-handed table. This equates to 44+, JTs+ KJs+, KQo+, AJo+, AJs+. You probably want to ditch the smaller pairs under sevens and the suited connectors before KQs in all honesty.

It is possible to play more hands from under the gun at a six-handed table because there are fewer players left to act after you. A range of 15-17% of hands here is similar to a nine-handed range, The exceptions being all pairs are playable and you can add JTo+ QTo+, QTs+, KTs+ and A9s+

These are very narrow ranges, which makes you easier to read but also makes your post-flop decisions easier too.

While your room for manoeuvre is limited in this position, you can be flexible. For example, at a table where your opponents are playing overly tight, you can open your range more. Likewise, feel free to open lighter if your opponents tend to call preflop before giving up easily. This is where observation and note-taking is key.

Being under the gun isn’t ideal but it is unavoidable. Be observant, choose your starting hands carefully and being under the gun won’t be all that bad…eventually.

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.


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