I am going to talk about two things that I feel go hand in hand with each other but are very different when you talk about poker strategy individually.
First off I’m going to talk about Ranges, and more importantly learning to Range. As a live player turned internet player, I’ve had to learn what everyone was talking about when they assign villain a certain “Range”. It was a term that I had never used before in my poker playing because in live play (I was a very feel based player, and relied on body language of opponents to help me make decisions) you see and have a feel for what players are doing, but in internet poker you don’t have that luxury. I quickly realized putting opponents on ranges was extremely important and crucial in maintaining a solid win rate. So you must make a decision, based on how the hand is played by your opponent, on which likely hands your opponents have: PP, SC, Broadways, etc…, and then you simply make a plan depending on how your hand stacks up against your opponents range.
The second thing I’m going to talk about is a subject that I’ve had some problems with as a poker player: Learning to get comfortable when playing Out Of Position (OOP). When I started playing poker I never thought about position and it’s relevance in a hand or the outcome. I was more along the “I have a good hand I’ll bet/raise” or “I don’t have a hand I’ll just check/fold”. Position and understanding position can make your Win Rate (WR) soar. We all know that being in position and acting after everyone is a huge advantage, but what about those hands where you have a hand, but don’t have the initiative, or the luxury of knowing what your opponent(s) are going to do since you have to act first. I used to be truly uncomfortable being OOP, but now no longer feel like I am costing myself money when I call a raise from the blinds or get called by someone in Late Position (LP)
So let’s begin:
Learning To Range:
First off, there are a few things you will need to know about before you can truly put your opponent’s on a Range:
1.) Player VPIP/Player type: it is almost impossible to Range read correctly if you don’t have an idea of what the other player is doing. A person with a VPIP of 8 is effectively playing AQ+ and 55+ (rough estimates just for point making) while an opponent with a VPIP of 40+ can have just about anything. So knowing opponent tendencies and what they are doing is the first and most important step in Range reading.
2.) Position: more importantly what position your opponent is in. The same player that plays 8/6 from Early Position (EP) could be playing 25/20 from Late Position (LP), This goes directly with knowing your opponent and what player type they are.
3.) What your opponent thinks you have: Think about it! How can you correctly read your opponents hand if you don’t know what Range they are putting you on. If you raise w/ AA in EP and get called by a LP player (w/ stats of 12/7) who suddenly springs to life on a board of 9s8c4h, it’s very likely this player types Range hit this flop hard (flopped set) and is putting you (correctly) on AK or JJ+ (again estimates just for example) and is trying to build a big pot knowing you likely hold an over pair, but if you are only looking at your hand thinking “I have AA and they just must have TT-KK” you will be getting stacked very often. Once again it all boils down to #1, knowing your opponent’s and their style.
4.) Board texture: This is another very important part of ranging. In most situations that board will tell you what villain is likely to have, of course there are always times when they will show up with some completely random stuff, but overall the board will dictate the likely ranges of your opponents.
Ranging really breaks down into two, sometimes three parts. For the most part you should have a very good idea of your opponents range after the first two betting rounds, (pre-flop, and flop) this is the most crucial time when you start assigning opponents their ranges. Most of the players you will play against will let you know if they are wanting to play a big pot (top part of their range) or merely looking to get to a quick/cheap showdown (middle to bottom part of their range). As the hand is played on you should be narrowing your opponents range as you go. Some hands simply won’t make sense as the hand is played out, and you can take them off of the initial range, and have an even narrower range by the turn and river. On occasions the third step involves an opponent that has tried to hide their likely range to you and will spring into action on a later betting round. The important thing to remember here is that the most recent information you have involving your opponents range is the most reliable…i.e. If you get called pre flop and on the flop by a normal tag running anywhere from 12/9-14/10, and then they all of a sudden check raise you all in on the turn, this is basically always the top part of their range (made hands). Actions taken by opponents on later streets are always (for the most part of course) a better inclination of your opponents likely range, but for the most part, you should have your mind made up after the flop betting round what your opponents likely range is and how you plan on maximizing profits against those ranges.
Playing Out Of Position:
Learning to get comfortable when playing OOP is a huge step in becoming a winning player. Yes, you can be a winning player by simply trying to not get into bad spots OOP, and playing the majority of your hands in LP, but inevitably the time will come when you get into spots/big pots OOP, and you might as well get comfortable with it rather than trying to avoid situations that otherwise are +EV.
The first thing I needed to realize when playing OOP is that in certain situations it is ok to check call (c/c) the whole way. When you have an opponent you know is a bluffer or is uber-aggressive, it is ok, even correct, to give them rope and let them hang themselves. One of the most useful statements I was ever given in my poker career was the following: (this is directly quoted from Split Suit (SS)) “you have to let opponents make mistakes against you.” The way this pertains to playing OOP is on occasion if you take the betting initiative or go for the check raise (CR) you are allowing your opponent to play correctly, even perfectly, against you and your range.
The second thing (probably should be the first) is knowing your opponent (see a pattern here), and their range (see above!). The opponent and their position give you all you need to know about how, and if, you should play against them. If you are in the BB w/ KQo and the button (who has an ATS of 40+) raises first in, you have a situation where it is probably better to call than 3bet, even though logically you are way ahead of their range, but by just calling you are giving them that rope to hang themselves when you flop TP+.
Playing OOP offers you a few different lines you can take that are not possible when in position (IP). Check raises, leading into the pre flop raiser (donk bets) and one of my favorite lines I use against uber-aggressive blind stealers (someone with ATS of 40+): I will call their steal with any 2 cards, (and I do mean any 2). I c/c their flop bet and then I lead the turn (This play works so often I can’t believe I’m giving away my play) I know this is basically just a float, but when OOP the lead into them on the turn almost always gets them to lay down their hand. The majority of the time they have nothing and would’ve folded anyways, but this line is representing so much strength, competent opponents will give you credit for something big often and fold some solid hands that they would’ve like to seen a show down otherwise.
In closing the above two situations (as all poker in general) depends on your opponents. Some plays and situations will work and are very effective against certain player types but will never work and is basically spewing against another. The job to figure out the situation and player type is your job.