The ability to identify and read poker ranges is one of the most important skills a player can have.
Poker is a game of incomplete information and we will almost never know exactly which two hole cards our opponent has. But with logical deduction and strong technical knowledge, we can build our opponent’s range and use that information to make even more profitable plays.
What Are Poker Ranges?
A range is a collection of all the possible hands a player can have right this moment. Ranges exist both preflop and postflop, and can vary widely since tight players will have fewer hands in their range and looser players will have many starting hands in their range.
You always begin by building your opponent’s range preflop and you continue to refine that range as they take action throughout the hand.
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Today I want to talk to you about studying poker in 2021 and share my study routine with you. This is especially useful if you don’t already have one, but if you do have a study routine, you can take bits and pieces of this process and improve your own.
The thing that we have to keep in mind is that we’re not going to become the best poker player in the world overnight, or in a week, or even in a month. It’s going to take long periods of time. Even just becoming the best poker player you can be is going to take a long period of time, but we can break poker study into week-long sprints and we can say, “Okay, this week I’m going to try to fix this leak, the next week another, the next week another, etc.” When we do that and continue improving our game and decreasing our poker leaks, we’re going to become MUCH better players over time.
One of the most profitable plays available to you in a game where preflop raises tend to get one or more callers is the squeeze. Done correctly, squeezing can pick up lots of uncontested pots preflop, even when you have marginal hands.
But squeeze in the wrong spots, and you will bleed chips quickly.
Folding is the least sexy topic in poker. Folding is just so…final. Your cards hit the muck, you concede the pot to your opponent, and you’re off to the next hand. But the honest truth is that poker players fall into two main categories:
Players that fold far too often
Players that fold far too rarely
There is a third type of player though. A rare breed of player that folds a correct amount of the time and keeps their continuance frequencies and ranges during a poker hand right on track.
The average poker player goes through a very similar path of progression.
They start as a fish who calls too often and folds too rarely. Then they get punished for that and eventually learn that they need to fold some of those junk hands. And then eventually they learn how to put those junk hands back into their ranges, at least sometimes, in smart spots to generate extra profit. The issue is that most TAG and Nit players are stuck in the middle – folding too often for their own good. So either push play and/or continue reading and let’s break this down…
Poker contains a lot of repetitive math, especially when studying poker hands away from the table. While you can use software to do a lot of this math, sometimes a good ‘ol fashioned spreadsheet is the best way to visualize and play with the numbers. So to save you a tremendous amount of time, I put together this pack of my spreadsheets that you are free to use while exploring spots!
This is a name-your-own price download, so if money is super-tight, you can enter $0 and get it for free. But if you throw a few chips my way, not only would I massively appreciate it, but I’ll also give you a free PRO video AND over $200 in discounts. No pressure either way – I just wanted you to know your options 😃
As a general rule, our main focus in poker is to make as many profitable bets as possible and reduce our number of losing bets along the way. One of the best ways to measure this is with the concept of auto-profit bets.
An auto-profit bet is when your opponent folds too often given your bet size, and as a result, you make an immediate profit when betting with any two cards. This is also referred to as a bet being “outright profitable” or “immediately profitable.”
As poker matures and aggression increases, it’s very important that you are understanding 3-bet ranges correctly. Today’s players are using advanced 3 bets more often and applying lots of preflop pressure, so it’s imperative that we can handle their 3bets profitably. In this article we are going to discuss how to assess a 3-bet range to help choose the best line when facing a 3bet.
Whenever we do anything in poker we want to first consider our opponent’s range. Now, some 3bet ranges are very easy to estimate and others are much more difficult. For instance, take a 12/8 nit with a 3bet of 1.2%. This person is obviously 3betting a much stronger range of hands than a 23/20 LAG with a 3bet of 8.3%.
But what does their 3bet % actually tell us about the hands they are 3betting?
Still Not "Getting" Poker Math?
Do you shy away from the math even though you know it would help you play better poker? If yes, this workbook will help you memorize the key formulas, internalize the calculations, and build your intution to make better decisions at the table.
To understand that we need to understand polarization and some very simple range math. First, what is polarization?
Polarized: A range made up of nuts or bluff hands
Depolarized: A range with nuts and stronger hands
So a polarized range may include hands like QQ/KK/AA/AK and maybe a 54s/A7o/J8s. A depolarized range may include hands like QQ/KK/AA/AK and also JJ/TT/AQ/AJs. Notice the polarized range includes super strong hands and weaker hands, while the depolarized range includes super strong hands and some other strong-side hands as well.
Now let’s take this concept and compare it to range math. So when we look at our hud and see that a player is 3betting 2.5% of the time, what does that mean? What does a 2.5% 3bet range look like? The tough part is that we will never 100% know. And as that 3bet % increases, it becomes even more difficult to asses the entire range correctly. But we can understand some basic poker ranges to get us started.
First, what are the logical strong-side ranges and what % of hands are they? Well KK/AA (KK+) is .9% of hands. So if a player is 3betting 1% of hands or less, chances are it is incredibly nutted. Another logical strong-side range is QQ+/AK, which is 2.6% of hands. If a player is 3betting TT+/AQ+ that is 4.7% of hands.
So let’s say we face a 3bet and our opponent has a 3.5% 3bet. We think they will 3bet QQ+/AK as the strong-side of their range, which we know is 2.6% of hands. So this means 74% (2.6/3.5) of their 3bet range is very strong, and we can simply estimate how we would perform against the entire 3.5% range. Or say a player resteals (3bets our steal) 12% of the time and that they would 3bet TT+/AQ+ for value. That means that only 39% of their resteal range is strong. But what is the other 61% of their range here? Is it hands like AXs or 44? Hands like K7o or Q9s? We can’t be 100% sure, but at least having an idea of the strong-side density of their 3bet range gives us a starting point.
Now we can bring this back to the polarization concept we talked about earlier. Say we think a player is 3betting 6% of hands in this spot and that they would 3bet TT+/AQ+ each time. Well that means 78% (4.7/6) of their 3bet range is TT+/AQ+, but what is the other 1.3%? If they 3bet a depolarized range it probably includes hands like AJ/KQ/99/JTs sometimes. Whereas a player who 3bets polarized would probably use some weaker stuff (A4s, 22, 86o, etc.) the other 22% of the time. This may not seem important, but it can influence our outright equity against their range and also the postflop playability if we decide to call the 3bet.
It should go without saying that you will rarely ever know a player’s exact 3bet range. But if you can visualize their range like a pie chart, it helps you understand the density of strong vs weak hands in their range. If you need a more in depth explanation or a visual example, check out this video.
in it I take you step by step, showing the powerful framework for building your opponents range in a precise and structured manner. Learn how the range forks, how different hands fall into different buckets, and how to narrow their call vs 3bet range. Once you’re able to apply this knowledge, your postflop play will become a million times easier while also helping you find extra bluff 3bets preflop.
And you should also remember that good players 3bet dynamically. Meaning they will 3bet a different range from the CO against an EP open than they would 3bet from the blinds against a BUT open. Good players will also 3bet you differently than they 3bet fish or an unknown player, so while a reg may have an overall 5% 3bet, they may 3bet this exact situation differently.
This article was meant to be a starting point so you can start understanding what normal ranges look like, how to visualize strong v weak densities, and how polarized v depolarized ranges look and change things. Do some work on your own to think about how this can be useful (hint, think about 4betting!) and you’ll be well on your way to hand reading better in 3bet pots!
Want to understand what players are CALLING your 3bets with? I created a free guide just for you…