Hand Ranges

WhenIplaylivegames,it’susuallyprettyeasytospottheweakplayers. Theylimpfrequentlyand typically employ odd bet sizing strategies that make little sense. However, some opponents aren’t so obvious about advertising their weak play.

Occasionally, it takes a bit longer to evaluate players who are ostensibly good players. These opponents often seem to understand poker basics, and during general play they seem to know what theyaredoing. Butthen,outofnowhere,theysuddenlysaysomethinglike,“Iputyouonpocket Aces.”

Nothing indicates a lack of understanding about poker more than a statement like this. You can never put someone on one specific hand. While it is true that when you face a re-raise from a very tight player, it’s pretty obvious that they are strong. Even so, you can never know the exact hand an opponentholds. Beingsoabsolutewhenreadingopponentsissimplysomethingyoucannotand should not do.

What you should do is take all the information known at the time and form a range of hands for every player involved in the hand. You can do this both pre-flop and post-flop based on the specific tendencies that you infer about your opponents. This way of thinking allows you to form a profitable strategy against all types of hands and not just the strongest or weakest ones that an opponent could be holding.

Once you begin thinking in ranges, you will open up a new door of basic understanding about poker. The quality of your decisions will be vastly improved as you begin to think about all the possibilities based upon the action and make educated guesses accordingly.

So how do we put an opponent on a range?

In online poker, we have the luxury of using tracking software that tells us precisely how often an opponent bets or raises. In Chapter 17, I will show you how to use these types of programs in your own game. For now, I will introduce you to how specific raising percentages translate into actual hand ranges.

Here are some common range percentages you will frequently encounter and potential hands that make up those ranges:

3%: JJ+, AKs, AKo (a tight 3-betting range)
8%: 88+, AJo+, KQo+ (a common 3-betting range)
14%: 22+, ATs+, KTs+, JTs, QJo+ (a common early position range)

20%: 22+, A2s+, A9o+, KJo+, JTo+, 76s+ (a common cutoff range)
35%: 22+, A2o+, K9o+, Q8s+, J8s+, 98o+, 65s+ (a common button range)

50%: 22+, A2o+, K2s+, K9o+, Q2s+, Q8o+, J7o+, T7o+, 96s+, 97o, 64s+, 65o+, 54s+ (a common aggressive stealing range)

These hand ranges are not absolute, and the particular hands that make up specific percentages will vary among players. What this list does illustrate is the large number of holdings that make up common hand ranges and the relative differences between tight and loose ranges.

Post-flop ranges are more complicated due to the community cards in play. On the flop, we can extrapolate how well our opponent’s pre-flop range connects, but in order to narrow it down into a post-flop range, we need information. We gain clues about a player’s hand by their post-flop actions. If we bet and an opponent calls, we can generally narrow his range a bit. If we bet and opponent raises, we can further narrow that range.

Of course, we always have to remember that our opponent knows we have a range as well and could bluff raise in order to pick up the pot, if he thinks our range does not connect well with the board. Therefore, we must always consider our opponent’s entire range, which invariably includes some bluffs. This is where things get interesting and reads come into play.

For the purposes of this book, I will focus more on how to play your own ranges based on the potential for opponents to have connected to various board textures. Going into detail on all of the nuances of forming post-flop ranges would take dozens of pages and is well beyond the scope of these writings. For now, I want you to understand common pre-flop ranges and remain mindful of how they connect more solidly on particular flop textures. I will go into this in more detail as we progress.

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