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How to define a range in poker

A "Range" means a certain bandwith of hands, which one assumes the opponent could hold in a certain situation. Instead of placing the opponent on one specific hand, we would assign to the opponent  a certain bandwith of holdings due to his previous actions.

Example: You have been sitting  with the same players during an online tournament for about 2 hours. Now, a player raises preflop from UTG (left of the big blind). This player has been quite tight so far (for example because he only played 15% of his starting hands) and he seems to be a good player. Here it can be assumed that he knows the importance of his position, and therefore raises from UTG with top hands only. His range would be here AKs, AKo, AQs, TT, JJ, QQ, KK, AA, or possibly even tighter.

In order to decide whether you should fold, call or even reraise yourself, you have to compare your own hand against the range of the raiser. Given the range mentioned above, it would be madness to call with hands like ATs or KJo as these are dominated by most of the opponent's possible hands.

That said, you would rather call with hands like T9s or 55 (hoping to flop a good draw or set), or reraise if you hold AK, AA, or KK yourself. If the opponents range is very tight but your own hand is in the top tier of your opponents hand, that means that you are in excellent shape and if nothing goes wrong, you might get an excellent payout.

How to estimate the range of the opponent?

Ideally, you would use of a tracking software such as poker Tracker or Holdem Manager 2 (when playing online). Here, for a player who you have collected enough data, you can easily see how often he raises preflop. Ideally, you can see what percentage of hands he raised from a certain position and draws your conclusions from that.

Pokerstove also provides a great help - you can, for example, set Pokerstove to show the "best 30% of all hands" and see what hands are in that top 30% range.

Assuming a player raised 35% of his hands preflop (not considering the position), we could tag him as extremely loose. Against such a player it makes sense to fire a strong 3Bet from time to time, followed by a C-bet. The raiser will fold to a C-Bet in most cases.

What is a range advantage?

If the first raiser (A) is loose, and the 3-Bettor (B) is a tight player, and A is aware of that fact, then the first raiser A must assume that the range of B for a 3bet must be very narrow (possibly only AK, AA, KK). In this knowledge he will fold his hand more often, preflop or if the flop misses him or if e.g. an ace comes on the flop and he (A) has a hand like for example 77.

So B often wins the hand independently of his own cards, simply because he has a range advantage due to his table image and his action. Of course, this only works if A plays well enough to think about the opponent's possible cards.