When playing poker, whether on virtual felt or at the casino, we are forced to play with strong opposition. Understanding how to protect ourselves from being exploited is critical in remaining profitable against these players. After reading this article, you will be able to identify situations where you may have a ‘capped range’ and why balance is so important. Additionally, I aim to arm you with strategy that will make you the toughest player at your table!
Having a capped range occurs in any situation where your opponent has strong hands that you cannot beat. Having a capped range opens you up to aggression from strong opponents since they will be able to bluff more by leveraging the value hands that you cannot. There are several factors which will influence a person’s range in a situation, such as preflop raising and postflop betting. For further information on ranges, check out my previous article here. If you find yourself in a spot with capped ranges and your opponent is strong enough to be aware of this you will be punished with aggression. One way to help prevent exploitation is to employ a balanced strategy.
When talking about balance in poker, it refers to taking the same action with both strong and weak hands. For example, on a monotone flop (one single suit), a balanced strategy will involve calling continuation bets with both flushes and medium strength hands. This does not mean flushes aren’t raised, merely that some of the time they will be called. This is part of playing a GTO (Game Theoretically Optimal) approach and is known as adopting a mixed strategy. Although this sounds very complicated, the below example will make the concept less abstract.
The main benefit of playing a balanced strategy is that we prevent running into situations where we have a capped range. If this occurs frequently, our opponents can take advantage and put a lot of pressure on us, and we find ourselves with marginal decisions much more often. So, what is an example of a balanced strategy? First, consider the following situation:
We call a preflop raise (PFR) out of the big blind (BB) vs. the button (BU) with 7h8h. The flop comes Ah Qh 3h and the PFR continuation bets (c-bets) ½ pot.
At first glance, many of you may be thinking ‘What is the decision here, we have a flush! Let’s raise!’. This is where a balanced strategy comes into play. Often we want to raise here because we have a very strong holding and are rarely beaten. However, if we always raise our flushes and only call hands such as one pair then our strategy becomes weak. In playing this strategy, our opponent will be able to make large bets on further streets with bluffs and value hands. It is difficult for many of our hands to withstand pressure and they do not beat our opponent’s value bets. If we play a balanced strategy by sometimes calling hands such as flushes, we can protect the weaker hands in our range. This prevents bluffs becoming very profitable for our opponent and makes value betting thinly less successful.
When defence becomes the attack
If we know how to play balanced, we can prevent out opponents exploiting our strategy. This can also be beneficial in another way; we are aware how best to approach opponents who do not play balanced. If we are sure someone does not play a balanced strategy, we can attack their weakness ourselves. In doing so, it makes us difficult to play against, and win more money than versus a balanced player.
Capped Ranges in Poker: Conclusion
Although there are situations where playing balanced is unnecessary, understanding the merits of doing so is imperative to improving your strategy. Not only does it make you a tough player to beat, but it also provides you with another line of attack in your arsenal. The knowledge of how to exploit unbalanced opponents is what will make you the most profit possible. Since being the most profitable player is the ultimate aim of all poker players, can you afford not to understand the importance of balance?