How to Think about Ranges
As poker players, haven’t you noticed that a lot of the poke information available online these days is cloaked in such general terms that it is hard to learn anything from it. We at Juicy Stakes Poker try hard to make even the most complex matters simple.
Pay No Attention to the Rake
A good example of that is our page on the rake calculator. The rake should never be a part of your analysis of the hand. The most important thing to know about the rake is that there is an upper limit to how much rake we will take from any pot.
In low stakes games, we don’t usually arrive at the upper limit for the rake which means that the rake for the hand is small. In higher stakes games, we do reach the rake limit on many pots. Still, no matter how high the stakes are, the rake is never so much that it should enter into your considerations about the hand.
What are Hand Ranges?
There are standard charts on hand ranges which we will not reproduce here since they are so easily obtained and you can print them as you wish. The charts confuse a lot of poker players. The most basic idea in the area of hand ranges is that you and any opponent can play given hands from a given position.
What Did You Say?
We agree. This over-complicates the basic point. The basic point should be that there are a number of holdings that we should not play in the position we find ourselves in. Furthermore, if we are in a position to know what a few players have done before us, that alone will affect the range that we can call or raise with.
If your opponent has raised before you, they could have one of about 61 hands! How can you possibly narrow their range to a more manageable number of hands? The only way to do so is to know that player’s tendencies.
Hand Ranges Include Good, Marginal, and Bad Hands
One of the problems with the hand range charts and the entire concept of hand ranges is that it tells new poker players to raise with such a wide range of hands that these players really have no idea why they should be playing many of the holdings.
The narrow focus of hand ranges does not, but should, take into account the stakes, the size of the blinds, the player’s stack, and the player’s skill at making two low suited cards seem worth playing but not to tell the opponents that it is actually a pair of aces.
In other words, we also have to take into consideration our ability to play a hand that is marginal at best.
The Existential Meaning of Poker Hand Ranges
For beginning players, the most important lesson to be gained from the idea of hand ranges is that before the flop there is a very wide range of hands that players will fold, another wide range of hands that players will call with, and another wide range of hands that players will raise with given their position, stack size, and courage to play marginal hands.
Do Hand Ranges Matter After the Flop?
They most certainly do! However, if the flop looks bad for one player, it might be the best flop of all time for another player! You might have to put a player who stayed in the hand with a much narrower range based on their play after the flop but that doesn’t mean that you have lowered their range enough to have more than a passing guess as to what they have.
There is a famous YouTube clip of a famous poker player berating an amateur who win a big pot because the pro had put that player on a much narrower range than the amateur’s skill level allowed. In other words, the amateur played a hand that he should never have played and the pro folded.
Then the pro, rather than accept his mistake, let into the amateur calling him many unfortunate names. Fooled by the concept of hand ranges, the pro entered his own massive world of tilt and tilted all over the poor guy who had no idea what he had done!
How Do I Play Hand Ranges after the Flop?
It is actually more complicated after the flop than before the flop. For one thing, the players still in the pot have put more money in and will be reluctant to fold unless they have a very good reason to do so.
One good reason to fold after the flop is if you still have a marginal hand and there is at least one solid bet before you. There will always be hands that if you fold, you will lose out on a massive haul had you stayed in but we cannot ever count on those hands! We need to fold when the folding is good!
Once again, we get to a confluence of factors. What are your main opponent’s tendencies? Is he or she likely to be bluffing at this stage? What if they are bluffing and you fold; would that cause you to tilt or would you chalk it up to more knowledge for use down the road?
To thine own self be true is very good advice in poker!
The Logic of Your Decision
The most reasonable way to decide a course of action is whether you feel that you can win the hand with the cards you have and whether putting more money into a losing pot will severely alter your ability to play going forward.
As you might have realized, hand ranges are a lot less important in low stakes games since most of the players can easily afford the cost of being wrong on a hand. In higher stakes hands, range does have a significant role to play but the range is rarely so narrow that it makes your decision easy to make.
After all, even a hand that is a sure winner might be a bluff until you pay to find out that it is a sure winner.
Experience versus Range Theory
Range theory certainly has a place at the poker drawing board but there is no substitute for sheer, pure experience. If you are bright and attentive and really try to understand the hands both that you play and the overwhelming majority of hands you don’t play, then eventually you will come to a better understanding of hand ranges than you could achieve by memorizing range charts.
Juicy Stakes Poker
Here at Juicy Stakes, we offer you a world of poker experience. You can play many forms of poker for many different stakes. Especially if you are new to the wide world of poker, you should want to get as much experience as you can in small increments.
That is one of the key benefits of playing poker online and we contend that Juicy Stakes Poker is the online poker room for YOU!