It pays to go back to basics, which is why we’re bringing you a series of posts dedicated to the fundamentals. So far, we’ve discussed the foundational math behind pot-odds, and this week we’re going to go over ranges.
If you want to be a winning poker player, your fundamentals need to be rock-solid. After all, before you know the difference between polarized and merged ranges, you need to know what a range is to begin with.
Let’s dig in.
When people start playing poker, they try to guess what two cards their opponents could be holding. They want their ‘read’ to be completely on-the-money, and, if that’s wrong, then they’re lost at sea and without a paddle.
Once we begin to improve, however, we start thinking in ranges. This means that we want to place our opponents on an entire set of possible holdings, all the way from the bottom to the top.
A range, simply put, is all combinations of cards that a player is likely to have based on their betting patterns. For example, if a tight player 3-bets pre-flop from under the gun, then their range is probably something like QQ-AA and AK.
Narrowing Down Ranges
When putting our opponents on ranges, we want to whittle them down, bit by bit, as we get more and more information. This includes both an analysis of their playstyle as well as the action in the hand itself.
If someone opens from the button, for instance, then their range is pretty wide at this point. Many players will play about half of all hands here, so we don’t have a good idea of what our opponent has.
Once we hit the flop, though, then we get more information that we can use to narrow down their range. Are they betting aggressively? Did they check when the flop brought all high cards?
Basically, whenever someone takes a game action (betting, calling, etc.), then we need to ask ourselves: what combos would they do that with in their range?
Remember, we can’t add to a range later in the hand. If we say that our opponent, for instance, doesn’t have 23 in their open raise range, then the flop comes A45, then our opponent’s range doesn’t contain any straights, even if they make a big bet.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of putting your opponents on ranges, you should then try to flip the script and put yourself on a range. What range are you portraying to your opponents? What holdings could you have in this situation?
Since a big part of poker is trying to remain unpredictable, you want to work on developing wide enough ranges that your opponents can’t easily put you on a hand.