All about Ranges

What are Poker Ranges?

The strategy for playing Texas Hold’em poker is heavily reliant on understanding the concept of poker ranges. A player’s hand range refers to the possible combinations of cards they could hold at any given moment. By knowing your opponent’s hand range, you can play out all the possible outcomes of their hand. This is a crucial tool that helps you make the best decisions at the poker table.

There are two parts to the strategy for ranges. Firstly, you want to narrow down your opponent’s possible hand combinations to a specific range. Secondly, you need to determine how and when to play your own cards. This can involve making educated guesses about your opponent’s play style based on how they bet or call, and which cards they tend to play in specific situations.

Visualizing and noting down a player’s hand range can help you make informed decisions at the table. You can represent a range visually as a grid or note it down as a sequence of cards. For example, if a player enters a pot with only the top 50% of possible starting hands, their range could be notated as follows: 22+ A2s+ K2s+ Q2s+ J5s+ T7s+ 98s A2o+ K2o+ Q5o+ J8o+ T9o.

It’s important to understand that a player’s hand range is not an exact representation of their hand, but rather a range of possible hands. By analyzing your opponent’s range and playing accordingly, you can increase your chances of winning at the poker table.

Poker Ranges Grid

Calculating Poker Ranges

Before the flop, a player’s hand range is determined by their two hole cards. These cards can consist of:

  • One of 13 possible pairs
  • One of 78 possible suited hands
  • One of 78 possible unsuited hands

This leads to the following combinations of hand cards:

Hand CardsPossible Combinations
Pair6
No pair16
No pair, suited4
No pair, unsuited12

The Poker ABCs explain that pairs have fewer combinations compared to other types of hands. For instance, if your opponent’s range includes 44 and 87, the probability of 87 being in their hand is higher due to the higher number of possible combinations. Likewise, the probability of getting suited cards is lower than that of getting unsuited cards because there are only four possible combinations for suited cards, compared to twelve for unsuited cards. This concept is important for beginners to understand and can be visualized mathematically.

When a player makes a bet, they are making a statement about their hand range, especially in relation to their position at the table and information about previously played hands. For example, a Poker Tracker can indicate that an opponent only plays 15% of hands in the button position. What does this range look like? You can use a Poker Calculator such as Equilab or Flopzilla to see the range and make more informed decisions about your next move.

Poker Range Notation

When playing poker, it’s essential to understand the concept of range notation, which refers to the possible range of hands that your opponent might be holding. To write a hand range in textual form, you need to follow certain rules. Let’s explore the categories, examples, and notations for various hand ranges:

CategoryExampleNotation
All pairs22, 33, 44, …, AA22+
Sequence of pairs44, 55, 66, 7777-44
Sequence of suited connectors65s, 76s, 87s, 98s, T9s, JTs, QJs, KQs, AKs65s+
Sequence of suited hands74s, 75s, 76s74s+
All Ace combinationsA2s, …, AKs, A2o, …, AKoA2+
All suited Ace combinations2s, …, AKsA2s+
All offsuit KingsK2o, K3o, …, KQo, AKoAKo, K2o+
Suited one-gappers86s, 97s, T8s, J9s, QTs, KJs, AQsAQs-86s
Top percentage of strongest starting hands5%88+, AJs+, KQs, AKo

Opponent’s Poker Range Analysis

To determine your opponent’s range in a poker game, you can use various tools such as poker tracking software, which helps you gather useful statistics. The heads-up display (HUD) of Poker Tracker or Hold’em Manager provides you with displayable statistics such as PFR (preflop raise) and VPIP (voluntarily paid into pot), or VP$IP (voluntarily put $ in pot). These values indicate how often a player raises before the flop or enters the pot, respectively. The higher the values, the wider the range.

Once you have determined your opponent’s range, you can use postflop analysis to further narrow it down. To do so, you need to consider the opponent’s actions on the flop and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why did the opponent check on this flop?
  • Why did the opponent bet on this flop?
  • Why did the opponent raise on this flop?

By answering these questions, you can get a better understanding of the opponent’s hand range and make more informed decisions. Remember to use a combination of hand range notations and postflop analysis to improve your poker strategy.

Playing Poker Ranges with Strategy

In poker, you don’t just play with one range, but with many. Your range for a raise looks different than for a call or a re-raise. Furthermore, your behavior and range can vary depending on your position, your opponents’ behavior and skill level. Our poker experts have some tips and tricks to keep in mind when creating your ranges:

  • Against conservative-aggressive players, your range should contain fewer hands but stronger ones, while against loose-aggressive players, it should contain a larger number of hands overall.
  • Don’t choose hands for your range based solely on your opponents’ strength.
  • Ensure your range is balanced and not predictable.
  • Depending on the situation, include speculative hands like pairs and suited connectors with your strong hands.
  • Your range can be weaker if it gains potential for different flops.
  • The aim of preparing your range is to deceive your opponent into thinking you have strong hands when you have weak ones and weak hands when you have good cards.
  • Assume your opponent is also thinking about your range, but watch out for players who don’t react at all.
  • When comparing your range to your opponents’, don’t be too optimistic when making decisions. Sometimes it’s more important to minimize losses than to win a pot. Within a range, you and your opponents may weight individual hands differently. This is also known as a “Weighted Range.” For example, if your opponent’s range is AA and QQ and you hold KK, your chances of winning would be 50% if your opponent plays both pairs in every case. Instead, it’s possible that they give more weight to the aces and only occasionally play the queens. This would mean that you would lose more than half the time at showdown.

Flexible and Static Ranges

Ranges can also be classified as elastic or inelastic, or flexible and static. A poker player with a flexible range adjusts it according to the current pot or bet. A player with a static range makes their decisions for call, raise, or fold independently of the bet size or pot. The flexibility of a range is determined by how much influence the opponent’s bet has. With a static hand, you make a large bet when you have good cards. With a flexible hand, you only bet as much as weaker hands would call.

Achieving Range Balance in Poker

In the world of poker, it’s important to have a balanced hand range. But what exactly does that mean? If you consistently play certain hands in a specific way in a given situation, your range is imbalanced. This makes it easier for your opponent to predict your range. On the other hand, if you play hands of different strengths in the same way in a given situation, your range is balanced. This is achieved by approaching the same situation with different hands.

If your range is imbalanced, you can rectify the situation in two ways:

  1. Play hands of different strengths in the same way.
  2. Play the exact same hand in different ways.

However, it’s important not to bluff if you would normally play with equity. Achieving range balance is a delicate balancing act that requires a lot of practice and experience.

Summary of Poker Ranges

A hand range is the combination of all possible cards a poker player could have. Just like the exact cards, you cannot know the exact range of your opponent, but there are many indicators and statistical values that can help you estimate your opponent’s hand range. Poker software is an essential tool when working with poker ranges. Before the flop, it’s easier to determine your opponent’s range. After the flop, you need additional information and experience to estimate your opponent’s range reliably.

Poker ranges are a professional approach to Texas Hold’em theory and analysis. By thinking about your opponent’s possible hand ranges instead of trying to guess their exact cards, you will naturally understand your opponents better and improve your own game and decision-making skills.

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