When hearing professionals talk about poker, they often refer to their ‘range’ in a situation. They use this as some explanation for their decision. To the recreational player, this can be very confusing. Within this article, I address what is meant by range, the importance of ranges and how this influences decision making, and betting.
What is a Range?
Literally speaking, a range is a combination of all possible hands that a player can have at any one time. This sounds simple, but you must consider that all preflop actions will influence holdings postflop. Furthermore, other factors such as the postflop board texture and betting action will affect the ranges of players.
When looking to optimize decision making in poker, specifically in considering bluffs and value bets, you must consider ranges. This is because when value betting, you must be called by a worse hand more than 50% of the time to profit. Conversely, when bluffing, our opponents must have enough hands in their range that will fold to a bet for it make money. To illustrate this more clearly, we will consider what factors will influence the construction of a player’s range.
Accurately identifying ranges preflop will aid our postflop decision making. The most significant factor when determining ranges comes down to the player type you are playing. For example, someone who is very tight will not raise hands such as T9s from early position. These players are also more likely to call an open with hands like AQo and JJ rather than reraise (3-Bet). Aggressive players are certainly going to raise early position with T9s and will most likely 3-Bet JJ and AQo. This information is valuable postflop as it allows you to either include or exclude those holdings from your opponent’s range.
Using Correct Logic Paths when Considering Ranges
One of the most common leaks new players have is attempting to put their opponent on one particular hand to aid decisions. This process can be helpful since it is easy to see the best decision with your holding vs. one hand. Unfortunately, this does not constitute good poker. You should be considering what to do with your holding vs. all your opponents’ possible hands. The optimized decision you take vs. one hand can be very different than when considering an entire range.
The difference in logic is illustrated by: “I think my opponent has AK” and “since my opponent didn’t 3-bet me preflop its unlikely he has AA, KK, QQ or AK so I can exclude these from his range.” The former is an example of flawed logic and is only making deductions based on ‘feeling.’ The latter involves using logic based upon decision nodes within the hand to remove different hands that your opponent holds.
Board Texture, Bluffing, and Range Advantages
The significance of range definition is apparent when deciding whether or not to bluff catch, value bet or bluff. Furthermore, it is important to understand how the community cards influence the range of yourself and your opponent. Certain board textures benefit certain ranges better than others.
Suppose you’re playing a $1/2 home game, and you raise to $6, the Button calls, and all other players fold. The flop comes Ah 7c 3s. Let’s consider both ranges. When the button calls, he is unlikely to have strong Ax combos in his range, such as AK and AQs. This is because he’d have 3-Bet them preflop. His range is likely to look something like the image below:
Both players have the combinations of three of a kind in their range with 77 and 33. The preflop raiser (PFR), however, will have AA that the caller will not. Furthermore, if we consider your opponent’s range it contains mostly suited connectors and broadway type hands. These holdings are somewhat disconnected with this texture. This information allows you, as the PFR, to value bet the knowing it is tough for you to be defeated. It also allows you to bluff aggressively knowing that the range of your opponent is weaker than your own and struggles to handle multi-street aggression. This is called a ‘range advantage’ since you have strong hands in your range that cannot be in your opponent’s.
Other textures are known to be more ‘neutral’ for both players i.e. no range advantage to posessed by either player. When bluffing these textures as the PFR, it is advisable to be careful since your opponent can have very strong hands to bluff catch. A good example of a neutral texture is one such as 789 since both the PFR and caller will have all combinations of straights and three of a kind in their range.
Poker Ranges Conclusion
Understanding ranges and how they interact with different board textures is imperative when improving as a poker player. Knowing which textures are best to bluff and whether or not your opponent’s range can stand aggression allows you to take advantage of them postflop. Since postflop is where the most money is made playing poker, knowing how best to analyse ranges will allow you to crush the games the best you can. Hopefully, this article has taught you how to think logically about ranges and how to apply this in the games you play. Good luck at the tables!