What is Floptimal
Floptimal is a study tool for beginners and pros alike! It helps players hone an intuitive sense of poker game theory.
Floptimal organizes computer-generated information on poker strategy into fast, lovely, interactive visualizations. Users can explore preflop gameplay through many angles that exemplify larger concepts, reveal patterns, and expose underlying reasons for computer-recommended play. Throughout a poker tournament, your stack size changes and so do the optimal strategies . Floptimal is providing stack size specific strategies that you can employ to improve your poker game.
The current data set is for 8-handed No Limit Holdem poker tournaments with a Big Blind ante. We look forward to expanding our study tools to other facets of poker in the future.
If you're new to poker, check out our Poker Basics section.
Currently, Floptimal focuses primarily on the preflop. The main exception is the Heatmap grid which can be quite useful in the postflop portion of the game when you are deciphering the likely holdings of your competitors and how favorable the board cards are for each of them.
This section provides detailed instructions on how to use Floptimal. (If you're new to poker, start with the Poker Basics section.)
If you prefer watching a video, check out Jesse Sylvia and David Tuchman's tutorial:
The action bar is what we call the section on the left with the numbers and positions. This is Floptimal's nucleus; it powers the entire page.
The action bar lets you choose your effective stack size, select your position, and most importantly, enter nearly all permutations of betting action. All of the visualizations in Floptimal update in real time as you input this information.
This is an image of the action bar where the inputs are:
- stack size: 20bb effective
- position: BTN
- action: UTG raise, LJ call
Table action is set by selecting "A" for all in, "R" for raise, and "C" for call. The mouse in the image above is hovering over the option for HJ to go all-in.
To remove just one action but keep the rest the same, mouse over the one you want to remove and click it. The little ‘x’ there is a clue/reminder that you can click to cancel.
The colors in the action bar are intentional. Call is always associated with blue, raise is green, and all-in is yellow.
The stack sizes and positions are both clickable and hover-able, enabling you to look at how to play the same strategy across the spectrum of stack sizes and positions given the inputted action.
Here 25bb is selected, but we are hovering over 15bb, so the left two grids have changed accordingly. Notice that both grid titles highlight 15bb with a white background to signal to you that you're hovering over 15bb.
The smaller stack sizes (5–12bbs) are all-in or fold only with the exception of the SB. This is because a strategy that involves adding smaller than all-in raises is played so infrequently with these stack sizes, that the time devoted to learning it would be massive compared to the value gained vs playing a much simpler all-in/fold strategy. The SB still has a limping option which adds a lot more equity to their overall strategy.
The Classic grid (top left) is how poker ranges are traditionally represented. It's a color-coded grid of hands showing how to play each hand given a position, effective stack size, and table action.
We use the action bar on the left to create the desired scenario. The grid reflects all the information we need to know about the range we are looking at.
- Small grey title at the top shows us that +1 has raised to 2bb and HJ has called.
- Big white title at the top shows us that our effective stack size is 25bb and we are looking at the BB's reaction range.
- Footer shows the action frequencies for specific hands and overall. Of all the hands BB can be dealt, he should go all-in with 5% of them, raise 3% of them, call 61% of them, and fold 31% of them. Select JJ on the grid to see that with JJ, he should go all-in 39% of the time and raise 61% of the time.
- Green dot and number in the bottom right: this is the raise sizing for this range. BB should be re-raising to 8.1bb
The hand playability grid allows us to take a specific hand and look at a ton of information at once regarding how to play that hand on different stack sizes, from different positions, and vs different actions. We start by selecting a hand in the Classic grid, in this case, T9s.
If there is no action in the action bar, this grid shows how each position should play T9s if everyone folds to them.
- CO 25 is entirely green. This means that when CO's stack is 25bb effective and action has folded around to him, he raises T9s 100% of the time.
- SB 25 is roughly half green, half blue, meaning half the time SB should limp T9s, and the other half of the time he should raise it.
- HJ 15 is yellow, so he goes all-in with T9s 100% of the time if the action folds to him and he's 15bb effective.
When there is action entered in the action bar, the grid updates to show how each position should play the hand when facing that action.
We can see from the black cells on this grid that the action entered is a +1 raise and a HJ call. Note that +1's opening size increases for deeper stacks. Facing a +1 raise and HJ call, T9s is a clear fold in the CO at every stack depth.
Positions UTG through HJ are all black because they've already acted, and there is no remaining action for them to take. If HJ 3-bets (aka re-raises) instead of calls, we see the +1 column light up again showing how to react to the HJ 3-bet.
In this case, when +1 opens T9s and gets 3-bet by HJ, they call 100% of the time on any stack size from UTG +1. T9s is a fold in the CO, BTN, SB, or BB facing the UTG +1 raise and HJ re-raise.
The VS Grid shows how to react to a raise versus anyone before or after you for a specific hand. This is because after someone raises, your optimal strategy depends on their position, your position, and your stack depth.
The above chart informs you how to play 99 on the button against any single raise before you from any position and stack depth. For example, if effective stacks are 20bb and you have 99 on the BTN, the solver solution is to go all-in if there's any raise before you. This is illustrated by all of the cells being fully yellow in the "BTN vs Raise" section on the left.
Additionally, if you open the hand on the BTN, the VS grid shows you what to do if you get 3-bet (re-raised) by any position behind you. Eg, the "vs SB 20" cell is all yellow because if you have 20bb and the SB 3-bets you, you should go all in.
It should be noted that the "vs 3-bet" section does not account for all-ins. It only shows the strategy for how to react to a normal re-raise. This is why we show nothing for SB and BB 3-bets at 15bb: at that stack size, Floptimal only allows SB and BB to fold, call, or go all in; they cannot re-raise to a smaller size.
There's a position selector at the bottom if you want to see the strategy for 99 from another position. Selecting BB would show you how to respond to raises from any position or stack size in the Big Blind with 99.
This grid also displays "squeeze" strategies. A squeeze spot is when there has been an open raise and another player before you calls. If you put a raise in the action bar, it shows how to react differently depending upon which position before you calls the specified opening raise.
The "vs HJ 25" square shows you the 25 big blind BTN strategy with 99 against a UTG +1 raise and a HJ call.
The Heatmap grid shows you the expected ranges of players given the specific action they took at the selected effective stack size. it is primarily useful for seeing how your hand stacks up against other people's ranges. It's helpful in important tournament spots where you have a cusp decision to make, eg whether to go all in or fold a hand on the bubble facing a raise. It's also useful when studying postflop play, seeing which players' ranges hit the board the best.
There is a tab for each player who has acted. If we toggle between the tabs, we can see the range that HJ opens and CO calls. There is also a tab for the last actor able to close the action with a call, the BB in this case. This is because the action bar does not allow for the action to be closed preflop. If that player doesn't actually call in the situation you are looking at, you can simply ignore that tab.
The color used signifies the action taken. CO calling hands above are blue because that is Floptimal's calling color. If the CO had raised instead, the color would be the raising green. If he had gone all-in, it would be yellow.
Because we are depicting only one action, we use opacity to visually indicate the likelihood of the player holding a hand. Hands fully illuminated are taking the action 100% of the time. Hands that are barely illuminated take the action at very low frequency. Eg, QJs looks very blue. When we click on it, the footer shows that CO should call with QJs in this spot at 95% frequency. QQ is completely black. That's because QQ is a 0% call in this spot, so the cell has 0% blue.
This grid also provides useful stats that break down aspects of the range, e.g., what percent is suited, what percent of is paired, and what percent contains a particular card. In this example, of all the hands that CO calls with, you can expect 47% to be suited and 20% to contain a Jack.
Blueprint by Position shows the earliest positions at which you can start to play a hand for a given stack size. For short stacks, it works out to being a shove/fold chart for the entire stack size. For deeper stacks, it collectively refers to all actions other than folding.
In this 12bb blueprint, the color of the cell for each hand represents the earliest position from which you can go all-in. For example, QTs square is the color red on the chart, which corresponds to it being in the UTG all in range. If a hand is in the UTG all-in range at a short stack, then it is also in the +1, LJ, HJ, CO, BTN, and SB all-in ranges. The only exception for short stacks is the SB. Our SB ranges include limps instead of shove only ranges as the solver prefers mixing limping and shoving even at such a short stack depth. The reasoning is pretty simple -- if you play a shove-only range in the SB, you have to fold all your weakest hands when many of them could otherwise be played as a limp as part of a profitable mixed strategy.
You need only know the earliest position you can go all-in from with a specific hand to be executing a sound shove/fold strategy at a short stack. We can see differences like T9s is shovable from UTG, 98s is shovable from the LJ, while 87s is only shovable from the BTN. This chart illuminates those differences and makes them easy to learn.
As you become more familiar with the colors and which position they represent, the chart becomes very useful in visualizing opens across all positions very quickly and efficiently when there's no action yet. The blueprint will update with the action bar as you input table action.
This chart tells you the earliest position you can play a hand against a LJ raise at 40 bbs. While this chart doesn’t tell you whether to specifically raise or call each hand, the reality is that most hands have a mixed strategy of raising and calling. So one of the biggest improvements is to have an awareness of when you should not be folding preflop.
It’s cumbersome to have to comb through dozens of ranges to get an idea of the strategy. The blueprint gives us a birds-eye view of how we should respond to a LJ raise at 40bbs.
There are some cells filled with multiple colors because the solver solution has these hands folding at some frequency at some of the positions. Consider 55 which is about ~60% dark blue and ~40% light blue. That indicates that this hand should be played roughly 60% of the time in the HJ, but can be played 100% of the time in the CO since the light blue fills up the rest of the cell. This is because later positions can typically play a wider range than earlier positions.
Sometimes, changing the action or stack size makes all the grids go blank. This is usually because a different stack size has ranges for this action, but the currently selected stack size doesn't.
Our ranges don't allow for open jams (going all-in as the first action) at any stack size above 15bb. This is why the Hand Playability grid on the right is blank for all stack sizes except 15bb.
Pro-tip: When the Classic grid goes blank, look to the hand grid on the right for rows that have color, even if it's fold grey. Those are the stack sizes for which there's data.
Sometimes, none of the stack sizes have data for the action you've entered.
The Hand Playability grid in this image has no rows lit up with color. That's because LJ overcalls currently aren't enabled at any stack size.
If BB is the selected position and you clear all actions, the Classic grid goes blank. This is because everybody has folded so the BB wins automatically, which is called a "walk."
The black cells are basically "super folds." They are hands that were 100% fold for this position's prior round of action, and they continue to be a 100% fold now.
Here we have a HJ opening range and HJ's reaction if he gets 3-bet (re-raised) by the CO. Hands that HJ would 100% fold when he opened have the black cell color in his reaction range. Out of sight, out of mind.
Occasionally you'll see cells that are a swirl of colors and a dotted underline with no recommended action frequencies. One of them is a mix of the non-folding action colors. The other is a mix of the 'call' blue and 'fold' grey.
- Don't fold. If you see a cell that's a gradient mix of the action colors (blue, green, yellow) with no fold grey in it, these are hands that you should not fold. However, the solver did not actually solve for what actions you should take with them, so it's up to you to decide how you want to play them.
- Cusp: play or fold. If you see a cell that's a gradient mix of blue and grey, these are hands where it cannot be extrapolated from the solver data about whether to play them or not. Usually they are right on the cusp of known folds and known non-folds, so we like to think of them as "yolo" hands. You can safely fold them, but if you're feeling like playing a little looser, these are hands you may want to play.
The rainbow-ish colors in the Blueprint grid each represent a different position. They do not indicate anything about what action should be taken.
We use a few poker solvers, primarily MonkerSolver, to generate data for Floptimal. We design the game trees from scratch, i.e., we define the actions that each position may take and what bet sizings they may use on every street. This is so that when the solvers play out all the hands on all streets (to determine their EV, to ultimately formulate the preflop strategy), we define the way that those hands can play out to ensure that it's as realistic as possible.
We define preflop bet sizes that strike a balance between realistic and optimal. By realistic, we mean that these are sizes you're likely to face in the wild, against population. By optimal, we mean that we separately ran a bunch of simulations with a bunch of different bet sizes to determine what bet sizings performed best. So the bet sizes shown on Floptimal serve as both recommendations as well as pertinent information for consuming the presented ranges and adjusting to them in real-life situations.
For example, let's say you're looking at a Floptimal range that's a reaction to a 3-bet. If Floptimal lists the 3-bet size as 6bb but you're facing a raise that's 7bb, you should play tighter than what the range shows. If, however, you're facing a smaller 3-bet size, then you're getting priced in to play a little bit looser.
The Floptimal team generated most of the data available on Floptimal. All of the short stacks (5bb - 12bb) were run for a very long time on the highest quality settings available to us. The larger stacks are significantly more complicated. We run them with the best settings available to us, but all ranges can always be improved upon. So we run simulations 24/7 to continually replace our existing ranges with higher quality ones.
Occasionally, you'll run into a range that looks wonky — raises and folds spattered haphazardly all over the hand grid. These are deep tree spots that take solvers much longer to iterate on and solve. We have made the conscious decision not to remove these unsolved spots from our data so that users can see the quality limitations of any given data set.
The 3-bet sizing in Floptimal's ranges for 50bb and above are smaller than optimal. As we regenerate ranges for these stack sizes, we will be using (and recommend you to use) the following sizings:
Raise sizing is an important concept to understand in poker because different sizings warrant different responses. For example, let's break down the difference between facing an opening raise to 2bbs vs an opening raise to 3bbs. When someone raises to 2bb, players who are not in the blinds have the opportunity to call 2bb to win a total pot of 6.5bb which is 30.7% pot odds. When someone raises to 3bb, players can call 3bb to win a total pot of 8.5bb which is 35.2% pot odds. The benefit of raising bigger preflop is your opponents get worse odds to call. When players are getting worse odds to call, fewer hands are profitable to play. The benefit of raising smaller preflop is that you are risking less money to enter the pot with a raise, which is beneficial should you face a 3-bet and need to fold.
Solvers prefer using smaller sizes at shorter stacks because more re-raising occurs at these stack depths. It's simply most efficient to risk the minimum (2bb) on opening raise sizes. At deeper stack depths, slightly larger sizings are recommended by the solver because there is not as much all-in re-raising, so reducing your opponents' preflop pot odds is more beneficial.
This is why we believe the 3-bet sizings for our 50bb+ sims are too small. The re-raise size offers the original raiser very good pot odds to continue and to therefore not fold as often as you should facing the more common larger sizings. The main adjustment you should make when using any ranges, not just Floptimal's, is to pay attention to the 3-bet sizing used by those ranges. If the sizing used by your opponents when playing matches the sizing used by the ranges, you can follow the ranges as-is. If they use a bigger 3-bet sizing than what the sims use, you should play fewer hands, which means folding hands on the margin.
The strategies presented in our data are purely recommendations. It's far more important to understand the underlying reasons behind solvers' strategy choices than to simply memorize them and carry them out.
Game theoretical ("GTO") ranges are typically solved in a vacuum, computer vs computer, using only the limited bet sizes and strategies you've specified. These solvers aren't training against real people and real game play. This is why it's important to learn the overarching concepts so that you can adjust the presented strategies for your real-world scenarios.
Some of the factors that may warrant deviations include:
1) You are encountering different preflop bet sizings compared to the sizes we used in the sims. When you encounter larger bet sizes than our sims, you generally want to play tighter than we are recommending. The opposite is true for smaller bet sizes.
2) You are playing against a player who is substantially looser or tighter than our ranges suggest. Information gleaned from pots at showdown or substantial data from your poker database can warrant adjustments from our strategy.
3) ICM (Independent Chip Model) implications. When you are on the money bubble or in-the-money, adjustments from Floptimal's strategies are warranted. At final tables, generally you should be playing tighter than we suggest, although there are situations like when you are the big stack where you should be playing looser. We plan to release ICM ranges in the future to address the adjustments that should be made in various situations.
There's also a ton of variance in poker. No matter how perfectly you execute any given strategy, results are never guaranteed. The quality of the data we present to you is very important to us and we are constantly working to improve it. (Floptimal disclaimer.)
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Floptimal is developed to work best in the following browsers on desktop:
We show a warning when we detect that you are using an unsupported browser or an outdated version of a supported one because some functionality may not work correctly.
Note that while we are optimized for desktop usage, Floptimal still works on mobile web, and it is in our short-term plans to launch a delightful mobile experience.
Sometimes you can't select an action, like in this example with the disabled "C" for call. This is because, in some circumstances, we decided not to allow the solver to take that action.
Some common reasons for removing these actions are because the solver rarely uses those actions when they are included, or those actions rarely occur in human play. So we take the opportunity to remove these spots in order to reduce the size of the game tree, which in turn lets us run the simulations at much higher quality settings. The resulting strategy often has very similar expected value (EV) to the more complete tree.
A good example of this is open limping in any position besides the button. In every position besides the button, we have found that the value of an overall strategy that involves raising or folding only is extremely similar to a strategy that also throws some limps in the mix.
As you click around in Floptimal, the URL updates to capture the action, position, and stack size you're currently viewing. This means you can copy-paste the URL to share a range spot with others. You can also hit the back button to look at a spot you were previously looking at.
The Heatmap grid always shows a tab for the last actor able to close the action with a call. Eg, if you input a LJ raise, you'll immediately see a tab for "BB call" despite the fact that you didn't put in a BB call in the action bar. This is because the action bar does not allow for the action to be closed preflop because then we would have no data to show you on the rest of the page since you cannot react to closed action.
However, a big benefit of the Heatmap grid is being able to see how ranges stack up against one another and how well each player's range hits the board when studying postflop play. For example, if you raised from LJ, the BB called, and the flop comes Q22 with a flush draw, you may want to know what percent of BB's holdings has a Q or a 2 in it, or if the BB's hand is more likely to be suited than LJ's.
If you don't care to see the closing player's holdings, you can simply ignore that tab.
We round the frequencies, so sometimes they add up to 99% or 101%. Don't worry; we still believe in math.
The best way to strategically think about the amount of chips in front of you is to divide your chip count by the size of the big blind, and then to think of your stack in terms of big blinds. For example, if the big blind is 10, and you have 500 chips, you have 50 “big blinds” or “BBs”.
"BBs" is a unit in the game of poker. The structure of the game dictates that two people in the game are forced to put out bets before the hand starts. These bets are called the small blind and big blind. The blinds rotate clockwise after each hand so that everyone at the table must pay the blinds equally.
Floptimal provides strategies that vary based on the “effective stack size” of big blinds that you have at the table. Effective stack size is how much of your stack would be at stake if you entered a pot. If you have 40bbs but everyone else has 20bbs, it’s best to use a 20bb preflop strategy. But if you have 40bbs and everyone has more, it’s best to use a 40bb strategy.
In poker, everyone gets dealt two cards, then there's a round of betting action, then the dealer puts three community cards on the board. Those first three community cards to hit the board are called the "flop," and all the betting action that happens before that is referred to as the "preflop." Arguably, the most important decisions happen in this portion of the game. This is where the best players set themselves up to win big pots and fold hands that are unlikely to net them profit long term.
Each player at a poker table has a different name based on where they are seated relative to the two players paying the blinds. These names are called their “position” and correspond to the order in which they act when a new hand is dealt.
The people who pay the small blind and the big blind are called the small blind (SB) and big blind (BB), respectively. The person seated directly to the left of the BB is first to act and referred to as “under the gun” or “UTG”. Next to act is “under the gun plus one,” which we abbreviate to “+1”. Then lojack (LJ), hijack (HJ), cutoff (CO), and button (BTN). These distinct position names are used by poker players because it makes it easy to communicate accurately about what action occurred in the hand.
The blinds rotate after each hand, which means everyone’s positions rotate after each hand. Optimal poker strategy changes based on your position at the table. You play more hands in the later positions (CO, BU) than you do in the early positions (UTG, +1). The advantage of being in later positions is having the additional information of what actions players have taken before you, including whether or not they’ve folded their hands.
Ranges are a term in poker describing the set of hands a player may have. They are most often represented in a grid like this, which shows all hand combinations:
This is an example of a range that represents what hands you should play if you're on the button (BTN) with a 30bb stack and everyone before you folds. If a cell is all the way filled in, that means you should play the hand 100% of the time. If a cell is only half filled in, that means you should play the hand half the time and fold the hand half the time. When everyone folds to you, it's referred to as an "opening" range because you're opening/starting the action. If somebody has raised, all subsequent ranges are referred to as "reaction" because everybody is now reacting to somebody else's play.
Players may also enter the pot by merely calling the big blind that's already in the pot (as opposed to raising, which is the more standard opening action). This is called "limping." Floptimal only allows limps from the SB (at all stack sizes) and from the BTN (at 15bb and 20bb). That's why the 30bb BTN Opening range above is all green for raise. If it included a limping range, there would be some blue sprinkled in.
In poker hands vary in strength and in properties. Hands that are suited or connected increase the chances of making a flush or a straight. Depending on the situation, the optimal range of hands you should play changes based primarily on these aspects:
- The action. If there are 5 re-raises in front of you when you are the button, you should likely only proceed with AA. If everyone folds before the action is on you on the button, you can play the strongest 50% of your possible hands.
- Your position. In general, you play fewer hands from early position and more hands from later position.
- Your stack size. Some hands have more strength at deeper stack sizes, and others are stronger at shorter stack sizes.
Even though Floptimal ranges are optimized for tournament play, you can still use it for guidance in cash play with some adjustments. There are two key differences in tournaments.
- Antes. Tournaments require additional payment of an ante on top of the blinds. To pay the ante, either the Big Blind pays an extra blind, or all players pay a fraction of a big blind every round, adding up to roughly 1bb. This means there's more dead money in the pot worth battling for.
- Stack depths. In cash games, the blinds stay the same and the typical buy-in amount is 100 big blinds or more. In tournaments, the blinds increase regularly and the average stack depth measured in big blinds will frequently be smaller compared to a 100bb cash game.
The combined impact of these differences is that tournaments require players to play more hands, and the varying stack depths that arise in tournaments require more adjustments to your preflop strategy than a cash game would.
In limit poker, the bet sizes preflop and postflop are fixed. These are big structural changes to how the game functions and thus limit poker has different optimal preflop solutions. We do not recommend using our ranges for limit games. We also do not recommend playing limit poker, it's just not nearly as fun.
Now that you've read all the poker basics, pop back up to the Tutorial section to learn how to use Floptimal to start your poker journey.