Whether you prefer to play in cash games or in the various forms of tournament poker whenever you log into your Betfair Poker account you need to always be thinking about hand ranges.
PokerStove is a fantastic piece of free software that calculates the equity of any hands you enter into it, as long as they are Texas Hold'em hands that is.
Hand ranges are exactly what they sound like, a range of hands either you or your opponent could have in any given situation. Being able to accurately put an opponent on a range of hands is a skill that not many players possess, but if you want to succeed in poker then you will simply have to learn how to.
Two tools come in handy when you are thinking about hand ranges. The first is the completely free PokerStove and the other is a heads-up display, or HUD. Let's start with Poker Stove first.
PokerStove is a fantastic piece of free software that calculates the equity of any hands you enter into it, as long as they are Texas Hold'em hands that is. You can tell it that Player 1 holds As-Ac and Player 2 Kd-Qd and PokerStove will almost instantly tell you that the aces will win 82.315% of the time. While this is all well and good, PokerStove can also show you what hands are in the top x% of any given range. For example, tell PokerStove that Player 1 plays 15% of their hands and PokerStove will let you know that 15% represents 77+,A7s+,K9s+,QTs+,JTs,ATo+,KTo+,QJo. This particular tool is perfect for our needs and goes hand-in-hand with a HUD.
Imagine you have been playing for a few hours and have a reasonable sample size of hands on your opponents when one of the villains opens for a raise from under the gun.You check the statistics being displayed by your HUD and see that villain raises a narrow range of hands from under the gun, 10% to be exact. We now check PokerStove to see what 10% of hands looks like and we are told 88+,A9s+,KTs+,QTs+,AJo+,KQo. Whilst not an exact science, we can quickly see a rough range of hands that our opponent possibly holds. Of course, villain may have 6s-5s but it is more likely he has one of the hands in the top 10% of holdings.
We make the call and it is heads up to the 8s-Kc-2d flop. Villain bets 2/3 pot and we call. We have to think about the hands that he 1.) raised with and 2.) made the continuation bet with. I think it is safe to assume a typical villain would continuation bet with 100% of the hands he opens with on this flop, or at least close to 100%. However, when the turn comes down the 6h and he bets again we have to start to eliminate hands from his range. Do we think he opens then fires two barrels on this board with QT, AJ, 99? This is where the skill factor comes into play because you have to deduce which hands villain would act in this way and then figure out the best plan of action to take based on the strength of your own holding.
An area where many players fall down is not thinking about what their own hand range looks like. Against weak players there is little point in putting yourself in villains shoes because he will only be worried about his own holding and will not care one iota about the possible range of hands you have. But once you come across a more intelligent, more thinking player you will have to start to think about how your actions look to your opponents.
By putting your opponent on a range of hands in the first instance and then turning the tables and thinking about what your range of hands looks like to your opponent, you can narrow villain's range down even further and get a more accurate reading.
It is important to play your hand as if you are playing against an opponent's range of hands rather than an exact perfect holding. For example, in our hand history example where the board was 8s-Kc-2d-6h, villain may bet again and you put him on pocket eights for a set of eights but he could also be betting a hand such as king-queen, king-ten etc. By playing against his entire eange we will be able to call more or even raise him of certain holdings and ultimately win more pots.