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Poker Hand Selection

Poker Hand Selection

Optimally constructing ranges enables us to play more hands, find more spots, and win more chips. Once you start thinking about the game on a higher level, you’ll start seeing the big picture. A huge part of that is thinking in terms of ranges, both for what hands you should play and what hands your opponents might have in a given spot.

Not all hands are created equal, and different hands have various properties that make them more suitable for certain applications. By planning ahead and building a solid baseline, we’ll know how to play hands in the best possible way.

There are only 1326 combinations of hands in Texas Hold’em. How hard could it be?

Breaking Down Range Construction

Essentially, we’ll start by choosing which hands to take various strategic actions with at different points in the game. For instance, if we have the betting lead, then we have six possible ranges that we can put our hands into:

1. Bet/fold

2. Bet/call

3. Bet/raise

4. Check/fold

5. Check/call

6. Check/raise

So, before you even decide to bet or check, take a moment to think one step ahead. If your opponent decides to bet after you, what will you do? The answer to this question will mostly be determined by what range the hand you’re holding falls into.

This gives us a great way to balance our ranges so that it’s harder to play against us and so that we have the right ratios of bluffing vs. value hands. If we do this properly, then we’re almost impossible to beat.

Properties of Hands

One great way to think about hands is by their properties. If you’re holding a hand, ask yourself these questions.

● Can I make a straight?

● Can I make a flush?

● Can I make a set or a boat?

● Can I make top pair, top kicker?

● Can I make the nuts? How about the second nuts?

● Can I make a marginal hand?

The answers to these questions inform the properties of our hand and let us categorize them into ranges. For instance, the best hands have many of these properties. AKs can make flushes, straights, top pair, and the nuts. That’s why it’s such a great hand.

The stronger the hand, the higher we put it into our range. These are the hands that we’ll play most often and that we’ll look to get value from. Weaker hands are better for bluffing, but remember there’s never any shame in folding when you’re beat.


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