Poker Strategy: How to Read Ranges

Poker is one of the most popular card games in the world, both physically and online. It has a huge and dedicated player base, with over 100 million people worldwide playing online poker. And while some people believe poker is just a game of luck, it is a well-established sport. The top poker pros play the game for a living, meaning if you are good at it, it can be a steady source of income. Skill in poker can be shown differently, from quick betting math to guessing which cards your opponents have. This poker guide will help cover the core principle of guessing cards: Hand Ranges.

Photo by Pixabay

1. What are ranges?

A poker range is a collection of all potential hands your opponent could have at a specific time. Both pre-flop and post-flop ranges can vary greatly based on factors like position and playstyle. Ranges exist because it is impossible to guess which two particular cards a player has. Instead, you must find out their range to get a general idea of which hands to be wary of.

2. Ranges pre-flop

Ranges are easier to find pre-flop since you do not need to consider the community cards. Ranges require lots of math and analysis that is difficult to do mentally, so instead, it is a great idea to use poker tracking software. The stats will help you find your opponents’ ranges based on their betting patterns. Ranges are usually visualized as a matrix, as shown below. They list the 169 unique starting hands, with โ€˜sโ€™ meaning they are of the same suit and โ€˜oโ€™ meaning they are not, or โ€˜offsuitโ€™. Of these 169 starting hands, there are 1326 unique two-card combos. The matrix allows you to see the best hands and use them to locate your opponents’ ranges. For example, your poker head-up display (HUD) shows your opponent open-raises 20% of the time. You can then use the range matrix to identify the top 20% of poker hands as an estimate of their range. Remember that this is an incredibly rough estimate, and you must consider the other factors like their position and your blockers.

Photo by Pixabay

3. Ranges post-flop

Ranges get more complicated post-flop. This phase of the game is when you want to refine the pre-flop range you found and try to make it narrower and narrower. As the rounds go on, ranges get smaller and smaller until you make it to the river. Additionally, each decision your opponent makes is an opportunity to see things from their perspective and eliminate more hands based on what they did. This technique does not have any hard and fast rules. Instead, it mostly comes with experience. While that may sound disappointing, it is simply the truth. Playing more poker will make you more knowledgeable about the game, and you might start recognizing common patterns in how your opponents play.

4. The value of ranges

Ranges are undoubtedly a valuable tool to have in poker. Understanding which hands your opponent could play gives a significant advantage since you can use that to predict their future decisions. Some prevalent uses of ranges include:

5. Common ranges you should know

As mentioned before, ranges are relatively complicated to find out, especially if you do not have access to automatic range viewing software. To help with this, here are a few standard ranges you can memorize and remember during a game:

The plus sign on a hand tells you to include all hands of the same type that are stronger. + on a pair like QQ means you include KK and AA, + on a suited connector like JTs means you should also include suited connectors like QJs, and + on a hand with no s or o like AQ means you must include all forms of that card combo, along with stronger ones like AK. These ranges are helpful but can even be combined for easy estimates. Ex. An 18% calling range would likely be the top 20% minus the 2.5% range.

Photo by Pixabay

The best way to practice poker

We hope this article helped you understand ranges, an essential concept for learning how to play poker. Proper hand reading and ranging come with a lot of practice, and the best way to practice poker is online. You get access to the all-important poker HUDs and can play many games simultaneously, meaning more experience in less time. If you want to try online poker, sign up at GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room. It offers many games of all stakes and has a free poker tracker plus hud built directly into the website.