"Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach" - Aristoteles So this seems to be the best chance for me to find out if I truly understand what I'm trying to refelect at the poker tables! Dry stuff ahead!
Ranges in Poker
A Range in Poker simply is a Group of Hole-Cards, a specific player will use the same line with, under the exact same circumstances. (for example: same Posi; same Player-Type; same action before him etc. etc.) A player Open-Raises UTG only with AQo and better, KQs, AJs and better and Pocketpairs 88 and higher in "Forum-Language" his range would be: [AQ+;KQs;AJs+;88+] which covers every possible Starting-Hand in this Range. To keep things simple we use our Ranges often times in a Card-Matrix.
Because we love numbers in Poker, especially percentages, we do exactly that for Ranges, too. So we cut things down. Every possible dealt Pocket- Cards are 100%. So we can get for every single Range a different Percentage-Number. In our example this is 6.18 % Considering the action he takes on later streets we can remove some hands from that initual Range. That's the easy stuff every beginning Pokerplayer knows within hours. So let's dig some deeper!
When a player has ether a very strong hand or a bluff, (a very weak hand) he has a polarized Range! A mediocre Hand is not in the Range! This is explained best with an easy Preflop example. If a player with a polarized Range 3-bets you Preflop (for example CO vs Button), he ether has a very strong Hand or a bluffing Hand! His Value Range (Good Hands) might look like this
While his other Range consists of Bluffs only. His Bluffing Range might look like this
It should not be possible for him to have a mediocre Hand in between, for example KQ or a middle pair, because he would call with that kind of a Hand. A polarized Range is not only a Preflop thing tho. For example if you keep Value-Betting your Top-Pair, Top-Kicker and the River finishes a possible straight, but the flushdraw on the flop did not complete. Villain now donks into you. You read your oponnent for ether having a Set, 2 Pair, the straight. (his value hands) Or you read him for a missed flushdraw (his bluffs). It is very unlikely he donks on the river with Top-Pair, Second-Kicker or another value hand you can beat, because he has Showdown-Value and would be happy to see a Showdown for free. (later in this article I mention "Range merging", this would be a spot where Second to Third Pairs are almost as valueable as your TPTK because you beat his bluffs but not his value hands) In this case we have to count the Combinations of Hands we can beat, vs the combos that want to get value from us. Here we have alot more value combos than bluff combos. So we should tend towards folding unless we have a little dynamic going on between the two of us. But that would be different if both, the Flush- and the Straightdraw, didn't finish on the River. Just know your oponnent! If you are in the hand with a Loose-Passive player who simply would never bluff, we pretty much always have to fold. (unless some ridiculous undersized bets) That was just a small Thinking Process for Range merging and Combinatoric, I hope at one point in the future I will write an article about both things.
How to get money from People who use polarized Ranges?
In general it is good to have a polarized Range if you are well balanced! (if you have 90% bluffs and 10% value hands it's probably not good to have a polarized Range!) Whenever you noticed, that someone showed up with a polarized Range at a showdown, you should make a note that he knows about the concept! (Because not everyone uses, or knows about it) There will be Spots that are very hard for him to hit something strong. Let's stick to our preflop example ranges. We called someone with a polarized Preflop-3-Bet-Range. (As discussed above) Flop comes down with something like 762 rainbow. The best possible hands he can have on that flop considering the Range we gave him are: -76s for Two Pair (his preflop 3-Bet-Bluff). -AA-JJ for an Overpair (as his Value-3-Bet) -89s+56s for an Open-Ended-Straight-Draw (his preflop 3-Bet-Bluff) This could be one of the Spots where we can Raise up his C-Bet to represent a very strong Hand ourselfs, knowing that it is very difficult for him to have something that can withstand our Raise.
Another example is, when the board pairs with Second- or Third-Pair (like AT58T) we can call a guy with a polarized Range easier than someone with an unpolarized Range. (with our TPTK for example)
Merged Range (Unpolarized Range)
A Merged Range consits of Strong hands and Mediocore hands and usually no weak hands. An unpolarized Preflop-Range for example does not have gabs in between and only consists of the best Starding-Hands without to many additional "High-Implied-Odds-Hands" like Suited Connector or small Suited Aces.
A Player with a merged Range will in general raise Second-Pair-Type of Hands the same way he would raise very strong hands. His 3-Bet-Range will not consist of any real bluffs, the bottom end of his 3-Bet-Range would be Hands like 88 and KQs, mostly because of Value-Raisons. While it is not completelely true, alot of Button- and SB-Open-Raise- Ranges are unpolarized (+ some adititional SC + 1 Gapper)
To better understand the really huge differences between merged and polarized here are 2 different 3-Bet-Ranges with the same % of hands, Merged vs. Polarized! Take into consideration that there are 3 times as many unsuited Combos as there are suited Counterparts!
Conclusion: 6.79% =/= 6.79% In general the handstrenght of a merged Range is stronger than the same Range-% of a polarized Range! If you would let run this 2 Ranges against each other the merged Range will win 52.73% of the time over the polarized Range!
How to abuse a merged Range
Certainty is rare in Poker! But if you have the feeling, that one Player only uses merged preflop Ranges, you should write it down in his notes. If he proofs you wrong you can still remove the note later on. While it is harder to make a specific play on someones "Range-Type" than on someones "Player-Type" there are still a few "adjustments" we can make. But remember that some players will use a merged Range Preflop and continue with that exact Range polarized on the flop (for example) Sounds complex? Yeah I'm going to stop here on that matter. So in general to abuse a merged Range (Preflop) just remember there are more "Higher-Cards" in their Range, and also more middle Pairs + Facecards in their 3-Bet Ranges. They have hardly any real bluffs. From time to time guys with merged Ranges will arrive with 2nd Pairs at showdown when you would think he can only play a really strong hand the way he just did. Merged Ranges in general are used by weaker players, but can also be used very efficient by "Range Merging" as a 3rd Level Thinker. (Usually only on higher limits!) A merged Preflop Range gains in strenghts the higher the blinds are, because of the higher Showdown-Value (good to know for tournaments)
Elastic / Inelastic Ranges
Elistic- and Inelastic-Ranges are calling concepts. "Inelastic calling Range" means you have a preset opinion about a hand and have already planned to call. the Betsize does not really matter! While if you have an elastic Calling-Range you base the decision whether to call or to fold on the Bet/Raise Amount you are facing. This is easy to understand. Even tho you might not yet have heard of the terms, I believe you still automatically use the better one.
Every decent player should have an elastic Calling-Range. A little example for an elastic Calling-Range: We have Second-Pair Top-Kicker on the Flop and face a C-Bet. 1/4 Pot = call right? 1/2 Pot = Probably still call 2/3 Pot = Borderline 3/4 Pot = I'd rather fold but vs some guys I will call Pot = Usually fold unless some overly agressive Players >2 x Pot = Almost always fold right? this is elastic and good!
How to abuse an Elastic Range
You can't! Use the same Bet-size all the time. (95% of the time!) Sometimes you can differenciate from the norm, but I'd suggest only to vary when you have a clear reason for it. Few Small Examples when I would differ my Bet-size vs an "elastic Caller": -AJ on QKT9x Board: I would oversize my bet in this spot -AA-QQ on double barreled 83732: I would bet 20-40% of the pot to get more value from 99-JJ and AT (because I think those hands fold to another standart-sized Bet) -Backdoored a flush vs straight possibilities: I raise very high here
Inelastic Calling Range
An inelastic Calling Range is used by bad player exclusivly. It does not matter to them what Bet-Size they have to call. Once, they made their decision to call, they will call any "normal" Bet-Size/Raise-Size. Sure at one point they might find a mirracle fold with their Third-Pair-No-Kicker, but only if you really oversize the Bet. Same example for a guy with an inelastic Range, 2nd pair on flop, no draws. 1/4 Pot = Call 1/2 Pot = Call 3/4 Pot = Call Pot = Call 2 x Pot = Start questioning! He is always calling unless you obviously announce that you have the Nuts!
How to abuse an inelastic Calling Range
This is easily abuseable and easy to find out on Reg Tables. Make a note! (In Zoom it is harder to figure out those tendencies) Just raise bigger than usual when u have it, and small when u don't have it yet, but a good draw that will give you a winning hand if you hits (Blocking Bet within your Odds!) If you are certain they would not raise even tho you check, checking is even better! And don't think that they will get behind your betting patterns. Those are the fishes we have to target to win big. They won't adjust! We will adjust towards them! Not the other way around.
If someone has a capped Range that means we can remove some hands out of his Range. This is mostly used to remove the top Hands, but it can also work for the buttom part, in which case we have to fold more and bluff less. (not at all!) Since I do not intend to (yet again) write a book we will only focus on removing the strong Hands out of someones Range. You loved my examples so far? Great! Here is another two! Some players always Raise AA and KK (Recommendation: Raise it 90%! Call 10%) (But never ever call it multiway!!) So if you found a player like this and this exact player calls your Raise-First-In, you can be sure he does not have AA nor KK in his Range. If a Flop like AK2 comes down, the best hands he can hold are 22, AK, A2 and maybe K2 (if he is a fish). A Set of Aces (and Kings) is not possible! (The nuts in this case) So it is very important to be somewhat balanced. I'm very well aware not many players in the Micros are capable of figuring out those tendencies. But the higher the limit the more people will be able to catch up on stuff like this! The next time you get Aces, just remember this Blogpost, smoothcall preflop and blame me for whatever is going to happen!
Another Great example that happened not to long ago for a capped Range: My friend was Heads-Up in a 30$ Buy-In tournament. His Oponnent had a few huge leaks in his Heads-Up game. It didn't take to long until my friend had figured out one of them, and abused it big-times! Villain raised frequently and also folded some hands. His general Heads-Up approach didn't look to bad on the first glimpse. However, Villain sometimes (rarely) only completed the Big Blind. That's what he did when this hand occured: Friend's hand is not relevant, he sits in the Big-Blind. SB completed, friend checked his option. Flop A83 Friend checked, Villain Bet, Friend called (with air). Turn Q Friend checked, Villain Bet, Friend Raised, Villain Folded. So what exactly happened in this hand? Great random Bluff everyone would make sometimes? Far off! My friend figured out, that it's impossible for Villain to have an Ace. Villain Opened alot of hands before, so every single Ace would definetly be in his Open-Raise-Range. Also it is impossible for him to have any kind of Pocket-Pairs judging his frequent Open-Raises. Villains Range was capped and he needed to fear the Ace unless he hit something ridiculously strong like 2-Pair. Considering the blinds where huge and both of them only had 20-30 Big-Blinds, my friend won a huge pot without the need of a good hand. Just a simple read on his oponnent eased the way to victory and glory! Thanks to the simple concept of capped Ranges!
It comes in handy to know all of that stuff about Ranges. Keep your eyes open and make decisions based on the facts you have at the tables. Maybe this can add a few more Big-Blinds to your Winrate! Also it is very very important to make notes about that stuff! (I guess you figured thatone out already, since I preached about it 50 times during this post)
Check out this Blog next weekend again for my March Recap. Subscribe to this Blog or follow me on twitter, to always stay up-to-date when something new gets published. Thank you so much for reading.