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Ranging Your Opponent

One of the most important elements of poker strategy is the concept of ranges. If you’re a frequent poker player, you will often hear someone say “I put you on King Jack, so I called” or “I put you on a flush draw, so I raised.” This is not a very effective way to think about what cards your opponent is holding. It is extraordinarily hard to guess your opponent's hand down to the very two cards he has been dealt. Instead, what poker professional try to do is assign a range of hands one’s opponent might be holding. 


This article gives a brief introduction to ranging. It is not a detailed analysis of how complicated ranging can be. It targets those poker players who are unaware of this concept so that they can start using it in their daily poker sessions.  


Here’s an example of ranging. Assume you’re playing a 100/200 table, with a buy-in of 10,000 rupees. There are six players on the table and every player has a stack of 10K. The player who’s Under The Gun (UTG), that is, next to the Big Blind (BB), puts in chips worth 600, that is, calls the BB and raises to 400. Normally, by the book, this is what his range looks like - 



If a player re-raises, typically a 3-bet to 1500 or 1800, then his range is slimmer. It looks something like yellow boxed hands. A flat call on the other hand, makes his range much broader, something like the green boxed hands. 



As you can see, suited connectors and small pockets are a decent hand to flat call a bet of 600, but premium hands are mostly subject to 3-bets. For example, assume that all other players folded, but BB flat called the bet of 600. Now assume that the flop turns out to be - 


 K♦️ 2 ♠️ Q ♣️


BB, who is the first to act, checks. UTG raises the pot, that is, 1300.  


This is what his range looks like now. 



We are not including the non-colored hands with a King because those hands do not make sense in the pre-flop range as explained above. The point of ranging is to know when to call, raise or fold. If BB is losing to most of these hands, it is an insta-fold. If BB is beating most of these hands, then it is an insta-raise. Finally, if BB has one of these hands, but also ranges his opponent, UTG, to have one of these hands, then he should just flat call, see the turn card and judge whether his hand has improved or not with respect to his opponent’s range. If it has, then seeing the river cards makes sense even if BB is facing a reasonable bet. If the hand does not improve with one card to come, BB should either fold or raise big, in an attempt to steal the pot with a bluff bet. 


This article attempted to introduce the concept of ranging, which is very useful in making decisions about calling, raising or folding. Remember, you can't place your opponent on the exact hand. There are 1326 distinct hands,. Leaving out the suits, there are still 169 distinct combinations in poker. Your probability of putting your opponent on his exact hand is 1/169. So don't try that. Try ranging, and dominate the game.



Author

Saptarshi 'Pixie' Basak

pixie@9stacks.com

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