In our latest poker strategy article, poker coach John Bradley takes a closer look at how to construct a range and how to use range advantage to dominate your opponents.
In poker you are playing in a game of incomplete information. You are never quite sure what your opponent is holding. And your opponent is never sure what you are holding.
You can, however, narrow down the possibilities of what one player holds to a series of combinations. This set of hands is known as a hand range.
How to Construct a Poker Range?
Constructing a range in each situation is about determining which hands you can play profitably. You will then also want to shield that information by playing many hands in your range in a similar fashion.
What hands fit into which ranges will vary based on a number of factors:
- Position is very important, and you can generally play a wider range of hands the later position you are in.
- Every poker player is different, and adjusting to your opponents is essential to constructing a winning range. If you are playing against tight players, you can play a wider range. If you are playing against looser players, you may want to tighten up your range.
- Take note of table dynamics: Finally, it’s important to take note of current table dynamics when constructing a range. If the table is loose and aggressive, you may want to tighten up your range. If the table is tight and passive, you can play a wider range.
How to visualize poker ranges?
When determining what range of hands, you want to play in a situation, it can be useful to use a card matrix to visualize your range.
In No-Limit Texas Holdem, all possible preflop hands can be shown in a convenient grid:
- Pocket Pairs are coloured green and positioned diagonally from top-left to bottom-right
- The top-right half of the grid shows all the possible suited combinations of hands a player can hold
- The bottom-left half of the grid shows all the offsuit combinations
You can then represent the hands you would like to play like so:
This range is roughly what you might choose to open raise from Under the Gun for example.
One benefit of looking at your range in this way, is that it becomes much easier to adjust your ranges.
If you are playing weak-tight opponents then you want to open raise more hands. You can simply look at the hands just outside of your current range and add those in. In this example you may add in K8s, Q9s, 98s, ATo, KJo etc.
What is Range Advantage and how to use it to your benefit?
Range advantage is a concept that refers to when a player has a stronger range of hands than their opponents. Simply put, if you have a stronger range of hands than your opponent (higher equity), you have range advantage.
If you open Under the Gun with the range outlined above you will have a range of roughly 15% of the possible hand combinations.
If you are called by the Big Blind, they will almost always have a larger and weaker range than you. Often around 40% of hands and not including the premium holdings (they will usually 3bet these hands).
Therefore, on all flops, you will have a range advantage.
Here are some tips on how to use range advantage to dominate your opponents:
- Bluff aggressively: When you have range advantage, it is important to bluff aggressively to put pressure on your opponents. They are more prone to fold, due to having weaker hands, and because you primarily have strong hands when you take this action.
- Attack weaker players’ bets: If you have range advantage over a weaker player, you should raise and call their bets as much as possible. This means raising to get them to fold, or calling their bets in position to take advantage of their weaker range. Weaker players will often not recognise your range advantage initially. When faced with future aggression, they will recognise it though, and fold.
- Make good use of position: Position is always very important in poker, and it is especially beneficial when you have range advantage. Use your position to pot control, if your hand benefits from it, and force your opponents to make tough decisions on future streets with limited information.
- Be careful when you have a weak range: When you have a weak range of hands, it is important to be careful not to get yourself into trouble. Avoid bluffing too much, do not bet too often, and be willing to fold if your opponent shows strength with his betting patterns.
Essentially, when you have range advantage, you have the power in the hand, and you should wield that power mercilessly. Take advantage of your advantage.
Poker Ranges Conclusion
Constructing and using poker ranges is essential for success at the poker table. By understanding how to construct a winning range and how to use range advantage to your advantage, you can dominate your opponents and win more pots.
Remember to always adjust your range to your opponents, take note of table dynamics, and make good use of position. With practice and dedication, you can become a master of poker ranges and take your game to the next level.
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