Poker ranges are essential in any competitive game of poker. Without the ability to effectively use hand ranges, players in the modern game will find themselves at a severe disadvantage.

An Introduction to Poker Ranges

These days, it’s impossible to partake in a poker game without hearing the term “range”. But what exactly is a poker range? Put simply, a range is the most realistic selection of hands that a player could be holding at any given time.

We all use this concept intuitively to a degree, possibly without even realising, when trying to figure out what an opponent might be holding. But in this article, we’ll help you to understand hand ranges at a deeper level and take your game up a notch.

Players enjoying a home game at a makeshift poker table
Properly understanding poker ranges will help raise your game to the next level

Preflop Ranges

Ranges can be used in many different situations, the two most common examples being preflop and postflop. So it makes sense to start with these situations.

Preflop ranges come into play when a player has no knowledge of their opponent’s tendencies or strategies. When no information is available on an opponent, the player should assume that their opponents will be playing perfectly.

This means that their opponents will be playing any two cards in their ranges or any two cards that are two cards away from their ranges. The player should also assume that their opponents will be playing any flushes or straights that include their hands.

If you are the player, how can you construct an idea of your opponents’ hand ranges?

Betting is a good place to start. If your opponent is playing around 15% of hands from the Under-the-Gun position, we can assume that their range includes the top 15% of all starting hands. This would include pocket pairs A-A through to 7-7, suited Aces down to about A-7, suited Kings down to K-9, and offsuit holdings down to around A-T and Q-J.

To help you construct hand ranges, you can get hold of various pieces of software, such as Equilab.

Postflop Ranges

After the flop, you will now have a much better idea of what your opponent is holding. This means that their postflop ranges will be more specific than before. The type and texture of the board will determine how tight or loose a player’s range should be.

Instead of trying to put your opponent on a single holding, it’s important to recognise that there is a range of possible hands in play. Recognising this allows you to better understand your opponent, as well as making a better decision based on your own perceived range.

If you think your opponent has made a particular play in order to formulate your own range, you must always assume that they played perfectly. If you miss out on the fact that your opponent may have had a draw, you will be giving them more credit than they deserve. Your own range should always be tight enough to make the opponent fold at least 50% of their hands.

Estimating Ranges

It’s important to remember that the type of the board will determine how loose or tight a range will be. The more coordinated a board becomes, the looser a player’s range should be. If the board is only coordinated in one way, then players will want to tighten their ranges. The more uncoordinated a board becomes, the tighter a player’s range should become.

The type of flop also determines how large and tight a player’s range should be. For example, an under-coordinated flop (any three unpaired cards) will tighten a player’s preflop ranges and loosen their postflop ranges. A coordinated board will have the opposite effect.

Ranges for Heads Up Play

Ranges can also be used in heads-up situations. Observing your opponent raising with one hand but calling with another allows you to construct a range. For instance, raising pocket tens and calling with K-Q offsuit. In this case, the player’s range is any pocket pair, A-K, or Q-J.

When facing an opponent with a range of this size, the player should assume that there are only 9 other hands in his opponent’s range. This means that it will be easier to make correct calls by playing the pot odds.

You should also bet on any flops containing a possible straight or flush draw to punish the opponent for not betting the turn and river, as well as for bluffing with weak draws at the showdown.

Poker Hand Ranges: Conclusion

Understanding how to effectively use hand ranges is an essential tool in modern poker. Consider acquiring software, such as Equilab, to help practice constructing ranges. But whatever you do, practice makes perfect. The more time you invest learning how to effectively construct ranges, the better your long-term results will be.

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