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.
WHY TALK ABOUT POKER HAND RANGES?
If you’re a poker player, you might have found yourself short-stacked at least once; seeing your stack shrinking and the chances of winning the tournament dwindle even further.
Finally, you get a quite decent hand, while nobody had entered the pot. How to find out whether it’s your time to shove? Enter poker range charts.
Poker range charts are handy tools that allow poker players to see which poker hand ranges to play in preflop scenarios where the pot is unopened and a player plans to shove or fold. Playing the proper ranges according to preflop charts makes it so your play can’t be taken advantage of, so memorizing these is crucial when it comes to short-stacked play.
WHAT IS A POKER RANGE?
A poker range is a collection of poker hands played by you or your opponent in an exact way. We try to estimate our opponent’s range because guessing exact hole cards is an almost impossible thing to do.
For instance, if the tightest opponent reraises your preflop in hold’em, you can estimate their range to be aces and kings only. On the other hand, if an opponent who hasn’t folded one hand in an hour calls your raise, you can estimate their range to include any two cards in their deck. Most hand ranges will fall somewhere in between.
HOW DO YOU CALCULATE POKER RANGES?
Analyzing ranges can be tricky and only by learning the theory of a poker game and playing lots of hands a player can get better at it. Implementing some proper preflop strategy in your poker play training will help you comprehend what poker hand ranges your opponents play.
The more time you dedicate to playing and watching your opponent’s hands, the more clues about their strategies you’ll be able to get. This will allow you to get more precise estimates of their poker ranges when playing future hands.
Calculating and accurately estimating what ranges your opponents are playing is the hardest part of using poker hand ranges. Simply because we’re not able to get inside the minds of our opponents and understand the way they think. Still, we can use the information to create a close estimate of the hand range they’ll play. Here are a few factors to consider when building a range for your opponent:
WHO YOUR OPPONENT IS
Although everybody is equal at a poker table, a player’s appearance, age, and demeanor can indicate the way they are likely to play. A common rule of thumb is that the older the opponent, the tighter they are based on the stereotype that older people are opposed to taking risks.
Your opponent’s outfit can also tell you how they will play. For example, if they’re at a casino dressed in jeans and a hoodie, they’re likely to be frequent guests of the premises which can mean that they’re experienced players. On the other hand, if your opponent is wearing a business suit or a cocktail dress, it’s likely that they’re new members and may be inexperienced players.
No matter who your opponent is and how they look, the information you’re trying to get is how loose or tight they will play compared to regular poker hand ranges.
YOUR OPPONENT’S POSITION IN PREFLOP
Once you’ve had an idea of what kind of opponent you’re playing against, you can also look at their position to estimate the poker range your opponent plays.
A player’s position will significantly change their range composition, as long as they’re competent players. If they’re raising from an early position, their range is likely to be tighter, however, if they’re raising from a late position, the range is likely to be wider.
It’s crucial to combine all information you get about your opponent to create an overall picture of them. It’s important to use the inferences you’ve made from who your opponent is when considering their preflop range based on their position in order to know your own hand range.
THE ACTION YOUR OPPONENT TAKES
Your opponent’s actions during a hand, whether it’s preflop or postflop, should impact the range you put them on. Starting with preflop, did your opponent raise or limp? Did they call a raise, or did the three-bet? Depending on the actions they take, your opponent will have different ranges. For instance, most players won’t call a raise with AA; they’ll three-bet. So, when considering what your opponent’s range preflop, you can already rule that hand out.
Similarly with preflop range, your opponent’s action will also change the hands they have in their range. Let’s analyze an exemplary game scenario when you raise from the button with A♥8♥ and your opponent calls in the big blind. Now, the flop comes 8♣6♠2♥, your opponent checks, you make a pot-sized bet, and your opponent makes the call. A Q♠ comes on the turn. Does it make it a problematic situation? Well, now let’s look at the actions your opponent has taken. They would call preflop with some Qx hands, however, they also called a pot-sized bet on an 8♣6♠2♥ flop. Their range is much more likely to be consisted of pairs and straight draws, meaning the Q♠ is a safe card for you, although it’s an overcard.
It’s crucial to have a close watch on your opponents to spot whether they’re doing something unexpected based on the profile you’ve created about them. If your assumption of the opponent is that they’re tight, but you notice a showdown where they raised UTG with T5s, make sure to keep that in mind. Your initial assumption was likely incorrect, so you need to adjust it.
Many poker players assume the way an opponent plays and don’t update their profile of a player, even when they’re presented with information that says the opposite of the image they’ve created. Instead, you should always gather necessary details at the poker table and use them to better understand the tendencies of your opponent.
While you will never get a fully accurate picture of your opponent’s range, considering those four points may help you get a decent understanding of the hands your opponent is likely to play.
RANGING YOUR OPPONENT’S PREFLOP AND POSTFLOP
As a poker player, one of the most important skills you can have is putting your opponent on an accurate range of hands. If you’re thinking in terms of ranges you will be able to make the best decision possible against all the possible hands your opponent is likely to have in any giver scenario.
However, it may be difficult to think through all the possibilities during the game. That’s why learning the concept of ranges and practicing whenever you play is essential for improving your performance as a poker player.
Let’s look at how to figure out your opponent’s range so that you’re able to play as accurately as possible from the first betting round to the last.
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 opponent 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.
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 recognize that there is a range of possible hands in play. Recognizing this allows you to better understand your opponent, as well as make 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.
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.
BETTING TYPE: PATTERNS AND FREQUENCY
The actions of your opponents are the most valuable piece of information you can get from them. Whether your opponent checks or bets, it’s the most crucial knowledge you should use when reading your opponent’s hands.
It’s important to keep in mind that the way preflop hands are played differently from one another, not all hands play the same in the postflop range. Therefore, whenever your opponent makes an action, for example, checking, they’re splitting their range so that you’re able to reject all the hands your opponent would bet with. Now, how to determine which hands your opponent uses in each of their ranges? That’s why you need to examine your opponent’s patterns to work out the way they play certain types of hands.
Although no players are the same, when playing poker you may often find that certain players have the same style of playing. Here are some common styles you’ll observe at a poker table and what to look out for:
THE ABC PLAYER
An ABC player looks to play a straightforward strategy that doesn’t involve any complicated patterns. This means that when they have a good hand, they’ll make a bet, and when they don’t, they won’t do it. As the player will be less aggressive on average and will only bet with a sufficient amount of equity, the strategy may get easily exploited. If you spot someone playing passively whenever they happen to get a weak hand, you know you’re dealing with an ABC player.
Bluffers are incredibly aggressive in both preflop and postflop ranges and usually take any opportunity to bluff. While their aggressive strategy will often lead to many pots won without a showdown, it’s difficult to be this aggressive without over-bluffing and making yourself vulnerable to exploitation. It can sometimes take a long time to spot a bluffer, especially when they have a good hand. Still, in most cases, a bluffer will bet when the opportunity arises, so look out for players who are more aggressive than average.
THE THINKING PLAYER
The hardest type of player to play with is the thinking player. They play a reasonable preflop range, value bets at the right frequencies, and use a good amount of bluffs to balance their range. A thinking player may often go unnoticed which makes them difficult to spot at the table. As they generally do things right they simply blend in the background, unlike players who make big mistakes that stick out in people’s minds. Therefore, if you spot a player who doesn’t attract too much attention and quietly goes about their strategy, you’ve most likely found a thinking player.
POST HAND ANALYSIS
One of the hardest things to do in poker is trying to figure out the staring ranges of your opponents, simply because we can never know what your opponents have in their minds. However, by looking at the hands they play, especially the ones that go to showdown, you can get close to that. Those small hands can give you an idea of how your opponent thinks, so you should use as much information from them as possible.
Imagine a situation in which a hand reaches a showdown and you can see your opponent’s cards. This is a perfect moment for you to use this valuable information in order to figure out their strategy. Here are some important elements you should consider when you see your opponent’s hand at a showdown:
• Preflop range. Given the preflop position of your opponent, think about whether this is the hand you would expect to see in their range. In case your opponent happens to play looser than expected, that tendency may occur in other areas of their strategy.
• Preflop action. Knowing whether your opponent plays in a standard way or tends to mix things up in their strategy is useful when determining their range postflop. For example, you can think about whether their preflop action was congruent with the hand they showed up with.
• Postflop action. Consider the action on every postflop street and determine whether it’s logical for their hand. For instance, if you raised preflop and made a cbet on the flop, did they have a reasonable hand to call with? If you notice your opponent floating too wide or playing draws aggressively most of the time, you get an insight into what their range might be.
POKER RANGE TIPS
Before building your own preflop ranges, check out some valuable tips on what to consider:
• Don’t play low-pocket pairs when short-stacked. Low-pocket pairs are great for making a set and winning a big pot. However, they are difficult to play when you don’t make a set and you’ll either have to fold or call down with the hopes of your opponent to be bluffing.
• Play more suited hands than offsuit hands. While the actual equity increase is small, you will likely flop more equity with suited hands rather than offsuit hands. When building your range, make sure there are more suited hands as they will allow you to barrel and win the pot without a showdown.
• Don’t overvalue low-suited connector hands. Low-suited connectors allow you to make some incognito hands and win a massive pot against a player’s overpair, and that’s why every poker player likes to play them. However, these hands lose a lot of their value from early positions as there’s an increased risk you’ll be up against an opponent with the higher end of them. Also, you don’t make strong hands too often, so you’ll either need to bluff to find your way out of the trouble or end up check-folding.
• Play tighter from an early position. Many players tend to overestimate the number of hands they can play from an early position. When you’re playing from an early position and you’re unsure whether you should raise a hand or not, you probably shouldn’t do that.
• Keep the balance. Be mindful of balance when creating your own ranges. Don’t be too heavily skewed toward bluffs or values. If you’re constantly bluffing, your opponent can always make the call when they have a pair. On the other hand, if you’re not bluffing, they’ll only call when they have a strong hand.
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 in learning how to effectively construct ranges, the better your long-term results will be.
Sign up for a free account with Natural8 and understand hand ranges better by practicing with all the available freerolls in our poker software.
POKER HAND RANGES FAQs
What is a poker range?
A poker range is a set of hands that would play in the exact same way. For example, when you raise a preflop, you will do the same with AA, KK, QQ, JJ, as well as other hands. These hands would be considered your range.
What ranges should you play preflop?
You should determine your preflop ranges by your overall style of playing, your position at the table, as well as your opponents at the table. Although there are general guidelines like playing tight from early positions, you should adjust your ranges depending on the game you’re playing in.
How do you know what your opponent’s range is?
You can try and determine your opponent’s range by combining their overall style of playing, the position they played their hand from preflop, and any previous valuable information you get about them.
How do you read a poker range chart?
A poker range chart has a set of pocket pairs running from the top left to the bottom right diagonal – with AA in the top left and 22 in the bottom right. The suited hands are above the diagonal line in the top left, while the offsuit hands are below the diagonal line in the bottom right. Each square is labeled with a hand that corresponds with them.
How do you use poker ranges when playing?
Using poker hand ranges is all about assigning your opponent a range of hands based on their actions and other important information and with that information you determine what hands they’re likely to get.