Ranges in Texas Hold'em

Understanding players ranges in poker games such as Texas Hold'em can be of great help. I recall some years ago reading numerous poker books that spoke about putting certain opponents onto certain types of hand and in many instances onto one specific hand before the flop or on the flop. This very notion of course is silly, you can never know conclusively what type of hand your opponent has, generally. We can however make some informed decisions as to whether they may have connected with the board. For example if the big blind calls my position raise before the flop in a NL200 ring game and checks the flop on a 10c-7d-4s board then the chances are good that they are weak and will fold to a c-bet.

If they check the flop and we check behind and they also check the turn then this is at least an indication that they don’t have a huge hand. We would assume this as a strong hand would mean that a player would want to start trying to extract some value and build the pot. So this leaves very weak hands and moderate hands like weak pairs and draws. If we bet the turn and our opponent calls and the turn card was the 2h then we can almost eliminate draws from their range because the only draw that they have would be either 9-8 or the unlikely A-3 or A-5 type hands.

It is far more likely that our opponent has a moderate pair like J-10 which they checked for pot control or pocket eights or maybe A-7s. If we bluffed the turn and the river card was another low card then it is probably going to be difficult to make our opponent fold and the chances of them making a hero call are much higher. However let us say that we have A-Qs and the river pairs our queen. This is where I see many players go wrong and they simply check the hand down after their opponent checks.

It is unlikely that our opponent has hit a monster or is holding one and so they are still in the medium value hand range. Our hand has just overtaken most of the hands in that range if not all of them. Because of the passive lines being taken by both opponents post flop then it is clear that neither player has a big hand. So now it becomes a battle of extracting value when you can and making your opponent fold if you have to. This is where we need to follow our read and place our opponent onto a range. We already said that we believed that their range was moderate and so our hand is ahead of that range which means that a value bet on the river is called for. Let us say that there are 17bb in the pot on the river. The question is how much should we bet? If we raised before the flop then the queen will hit our range of hands and our opponent will recognize that fact. So we need to go for thin value because our opponent likely will not call a pot sized river bet.

So I would offer them something enticing like 3/1 by making it a half pot bet. Getting value from your better hands is the key or one of the keys to making money from no limit Texas hold’em. If you could have bet 8bb and been paid off by your opponent holding pocket nines but you checked then you could have effectively tossed away a large chunk of your hourly wage. You need to always be on the lookout for value bets whenever you play any form of poker. If you are ahead and your opponents can call then make them pay to do so.

A big thanks to Carl “The Dean” - an 888 poker professional at www.888poker.com. You can also find Carl on Google+.


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