What is your opponent’s likely range?

Question mark man

question mark manTo be able to adequately play your hand, you need to be aware of your opponent’s likely hand range. This allows you to make all sorts of plays post-flop that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

For example, let us say that you have the Jc-8c on the button and there has been a raise before it gets to you. In full-ring games, there will be a world of difference between the average range of a raiser when in early position and in late position.

An early position raiser may have a range as narrow as say 6% in full-ring games when in the UTG position, but be as wide as 30% when in the cut-off. The difference in these two ranges is striking and certain plays will be less profitable than others. For example, if you are looking to make a really aggressive 3-bet, then you would be better off doing that against a 30% range than a 6% range. You will get very little by way of pre-flop fold equity with a 6% range and so this particular avenue will be blocked off to you or at least seriously stunted.

Also, with a 6% range, your opponent has far more hands in that range that they can 4-bet with and so you won’t even see a flop some of the time. Then when we factor in that your opponent could hit a strong pair, it simply doesn’t make sense to 3-bet an UTG raiser. The underlying reason has to do with our equity against their range. Even calling the raise and looking to play aggressively post-flop is also fraught with danger. I think the most solid line would be to fold the J-8s to the UTG raise but at least call the raise from the cut-off player with the 30% range.

That sort of range is going to miss an awful lot of flops and also make pairs that simply cannot take any heat post-flop. Hands like top pair and mediocre kicker on a board like 10-7-3 can be floated with the prospect of taking the pot away from them either on the turn or the river. In the modern online poker world, the difference between the really successful players and the players that merely grind out a few dollars per hour or recycle money is in how aggressively they attack wide ranges.

This is the key area that you need to address in No-Limit Hold’em and is why you need to be careful before you consider playing nothing but conventional poker against sophisticated opponents.

So you are never really attacking a specific hand because you don’t know what specific hand your opponent holds. However, you are looking to put them onto a range and the best and easiest way to do that is to place your opponent onto a certain category of hand. A hand range of 6% for example is going to contain many more strong holdings that will not fold pre-flop or on the flop, than a pre-flop range of 30%… it is simply probability at work.