Range and relative hand strength

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Range and relative hand strength

Range = a set of hands that can be dealt to you or your opponents at any given time.

At first glance, it may seem that there is nothing special about this concept, but many players completely lose sight of it and because of this are losing a lot of money.

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In poker up until the showdown you will rarely be able to determine exactly which two cards are in the hands of your opponents. This means that often you can not judge the real strength of another player hand, but only the general set of hands that he may have at a given time. In this case you should not try to guess them. Conversely, a consistent definition of your opponents' probable hands based on their actions at different stages of the hand is a key skill in poker.

The reason is simple: the better you know what your opponent may hold, the better your decision will be. Many beginners and even experienced players completely forget about this, and their strategy is essentially based on guesswork. At the same time a correct estimate of the range of your opponents' hand helps you to bet exactly when your hand is stronger, to fold when you are weaker and to bluff at a time when your opponent's average range is weak and they often can not take your bet or raise.

Consider a simple example that will help you better understand this concept. Your opponent opens the betting with a preflop raise. However, this does not mean that it will always be pocket kings or aces. You saw earlier that he does the same with all the pocket pairs and suited connectors, as well as some trash hands. Thus, at this stage in the hand you suspect that it may be any of the above hands: a pair of aces or a pair of treys, or 78 suited, or trash like K♠5♣ . But you do not know exactly which cards are in your opponent's hand. You decide to take the call with T♥T♠. All the other players muck.

The flop comes 5♠9♠2♦ and your opponent bets. Now the action is on you and it is time to re-evaluate your opponent's range. Now the two cards that were in his hand and in his range preflop, has turned into some combination of five cards. This is his range on the flop. You assume that on this board, he would play a trash hand. However, it still can be any made hand, for example, a pair of aces, or a set of deuces or a drawing hand like a flush draw with A♠K♠, or a gutshot with 7♥8♣.

You re-evaluate his range of hands and come to the conclusion that here you should take his bet because your combination, a pair of tens, which is an overpair to the board, is now stronger than many hands in his range , like a draw or second pairs, like K♠5♣ or 6♥6♣.

The turn comes 2♣, which does not complete any of the draws. Your opponent checks, refusing to bet. His range is changing again. Now you do not think that he would have to check with his strong hands, for example, a pair of aces. On the contrary , he would certainly like to bet them again to get more money from the hands that he has.

Thus, you have avoided most of the strong hands in your opponent's range, but decide to check and look at the last card for free - in case the opponent did decide to slow play his set. Especially if his hand was something like a second or third pair, he can not call a bet .

The river comes 3♥, that does not change anything on the table - no draw is completed, except for 64, and only a few hands in his range increased to two pair or a set. However, he bets the pot . For the last time in this hand, you need to estimate his range of hands.

The main mistake made by beginners is that they do not take into account the previous rounds of betting. So , in the hand , even though we are dealing with a very large and intimidating bet on the river , even on the turn, we determined that his range almost never includes strong hands. The river did not help the second and third pairs to draw out not were there any terrible cards like Aces or Kings. And it means that we are ahead of the opponent's range . In other words, we are stronger than most of his alleged hands and easily make the call .

Do you think he showed a bluff? It does not matter.

In the hand, like any other, there can be two outcomes - we can actually beat our opponent's missed draw with our pair of tens, because on the basis of information available to us, we determined that on average he will have a very weak hand. But do not forget that this is only a guess (though based on facts). Therefore, when making a call, we may well see it played out unconventionally with aces or a set.

This uncertainty is a part of poker. We can never know for certain what the opponents cards are, so do not despair if you are showed some strong hand - just think how many weak hands could be in your opponent's range and whether you included this particular hand in his range. If not , then this hand will be a good subject for analysis in your spare time.

When assessing his range, you always need to take into account all the available information about him, his actions in the previous rounds of betting may well suggest hands that he could play this way. Many poker players base their decisions on a fairly simple logic, so over time the definition of ranges, with a certain amount of attention on your part will not cause difficulties.

Relative strength of a hand

Now that you understand what a range is, it's time to consider another very important concept for any player - the relative strength of hands.

Indeed, not all made hands and draws are the same in strength after the flop. Often, even the most powerful hands turn into garbage on certain boards.

In contrast to the absolute strength, which varies only with the arrival of new cards on the table (for example, on the turn when the highest card on the board is pairedand our top pair on the flop turned into trips), the relative strength of the hands not only develops with the turn and river and with our opinion of our opponent's range.

Consider a simple example:

The flop Q♦6♦4♦ we have set with Q♥Q♣ and made a big bet. But the turn was another diamonds. Now, despite the significant absolute power of our combination, we now have trash hand. Even if your opponent has 8♠3♦ if he has only one diamond, we still lose at showdown.

Another situation where our made hand turns into garbage, is when the turn or the river pairs one of the cards on the board when we have two pairs. Let's say we caught two pairs on a flop of A♠8♣5♣ with A♦5♠. However, the middle card on the board, an eight, paired - this means that we now do not have aces and fives but aces and eights five kicker. Thus, if our opponent saw the flop with AQ, he also has two pair, but with a better kicker.

Another example . You raise before the flop with A♠A♣ and get a call from one opponent. The flop came 6♦7♦8♦, you bet, but the opponent responded with a massive raise. In this case, despite the fact that you have aces, the relative strength of your hand is very low because the flop could have hit a lot of drawing hands: there are two pairs as well as straights and flushes. Therefore in this situation folding is the right choice.

The last example we consider concerns changes in your opponent's range .

You have decided to make the call on the flop with A♦K♣ an opponent calls and the flop comes K♠4♣6♠. Go into the hand, you know that you are playing against a very conservative player who will bet the flop, turn and river only with an overpair or a stronger hand. Thus, if your opponent again bets on the turn and the river, your hand, even though it is top pair with top kicker, loses all its value, because your opponent would only bet a hand like a pair of aces or a set of sixes .

Many beginners (and not only beginners) ignore the ranges and relative strength of their hands, resulting in poor decisions and endless defeats. Remember this, and then you will be able to minimize your losses and maximize your profits. Good luck at the tables!

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LESSON #6: Cash game strategy basics: pre-flop and flop