hand ranges in poker

Fortunes can be won or lost with the flip of a card in poker, so understanding hand ranges is a crucial skill that separates the newbies from the seasoned players.

What are hand ranges?

Hand ranges are the set of possible hands a player can have based on their betting patterns, actions and the community cards on the table. By narrowing down these hand ranges, players can make informed decisions, optimize their strategy and gain a competitive edge at the poker table.

Understanding hand ranges

When you sit down at the felt, you’re not just playing against your opponents. You’re also playing against their potential range of hands. This is true whether you’re playing in the flesh with friends, in a casino or online. And the first step to figuring out hand ranges is to understand different starting hands and their relative strength.

Starting hands

You can group starting hands into a range of categories, ranging from premium hands (think AA or KK) to weak hands (offsuit 7-2 is famously known as the worst hand in poker).

These categories help you establish a baseline for trying to figure out the strength of your opponents hand. They help you to estimate the range of hands they might be playing.

Range narrowing

As the hand progresses and the community cards are revealed, players continuously narrow down their opponents’ hands ranges based on their betting patterns and actions. For example, if an opponent raises pre-flop and continues to bet aggressively on a low, coordinated flop, it’s likely they have a strong hand like a two-pair, a set or a straight.

On the other hand, if they check multiple times and suddenly bet big on the river, they might either have a moderate strength hand or just be plain bluffing.

Keep an eye on opponents

buying a poker table

If you keep a close eye on what your opponents are doing at the table, it’ll be easier for you to figure out what ranges they might have. Think about their betting patterns, tendencies, playing style and previous showdowns. All these things can give you valuable insight into estimating their hand ranges.

For example, some players are tight and only play premium hands. Meanwhile, others are looser and tend to play anything half decent. You might also encounter players who always bet when they have a strong hand or tend to bluff when someone is playing aggressively.

By paying attention to this, you can figure out what their hand range might be and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Context and position

The context of a hand, including the number of players, stack sizes and position, plays a crucial role in this. For instance, a player’s range from an early position is generally tighter than their range from a late position.

Similarly, the short stack at the table might play more aggressively with a wider range. And those with a healthy stack might play a little more cautiously.

Put it all together

When you put all these bits and pieces together, suddenly you’ve got a lot of information. We get it might sound confusing. But you’d be surprised. Once you start piecing it all together, it’ll soon become second nature to pay attention to all these factors.

When you get better at narrowing down your opponents hand ranges, suddenly it gets a whole lot easier to know when to bet, call, raise or fold.

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