A closer look at important poker concepts

poker range

As you begin to dig beneath the surface of poker then interesting facets of the game emerge. Firstly let me introduce the concept of range because it is range that goes to the very central core of everything that we do at the table. At the very basic level then we can break poker down into two elements……this is that we have a range and our opponent has a range. If we are on the button and our opponent opens for a raise from the cut-off then what hand do they hold? The answer is of course that we do not know short of cheating but there is another answer and that answer is what our opponent would do in that position given the action with every available hand that they could possibly hold?

A finite number of hands

Taking away individual suits then there are 169 possible starting hands in hold’em but let us say that our opponent likes to have some potential in their hand when they raise and they do so with around 40% of that 169 hand total. Now a different picture emerges because our opponent could have any one of around 65-70 hands or so. If they would raise just as freely with A-4 as A-A in that spot then clearly we cannot automatically place them on a strong hand this early.

Expert players use PokerStove

So they have a range of hands and the next step is to assign that range strength and we can simply do that based on one key factor and that is equity. The amount of equity in any given range is based on the width of that range and now we have to assess the next step which is in how our hand stacks up against that range. Let us say that we have a hand like As-6s and our opponent raises. If they do in fact raise with say 40% of their hands then our A-6s has roughly 51.38% equity using PokerStove.

Using equity to find the right play

But we have position which is worth something but our ace could be dominated by part of their range and so many situations will give us reverse implied odds. If our hand is comparable with our opponents range then a better play may be to call and see a flop rather than three bet. Clearly in this situation then a fold would be wrong and too tight given our opponents range but a three bet would be on the LAG side. In this situation then it isn’t exactly correct to look at equity as a set in stone answer as many hands do not see the showdown and board texture and betting lines can alter the hand significantly.

But once you start to understand that your opponent has a range and so do you then poker becomes a whole new different game. You need to remember that your opponents are also putting you on a range of hands also and when you call with the A-6s in that example then your opponent is trying to ascertain your range or at least thinking opponents are at higher levels.