In-depth Hand Range Analysis

This blog post is an experiment. I have been trying to figure out a good way to help amateur poker players better understand how to put players on hand ranges in a clear, easy to understand format. I am considering writing a book using the format below and I want to see what you think about it. Please let me know in the Comment section below. Thank you!

This blog post would likely be near the end of the book, after it is fully discussed how to put someone on a reasonable preflop range. I also have to figure out how to add weighted ranges in a visual format. Writing books is hard work!

Preflop

At 100/200-25 with 25,000 effective stacks, a good, loose, aggressive played raised to 525 from the lojack seat.

The lojack’s preflop raising range is:

 

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This is a somewhat standard preflop raising range from the lojack. Some extremely aggressive players will raise a few more hands including all suited Aces and a few more suited gappers. Tighter players will fold many of the weak big cards, suited connectors, and small pairs.

A tight, aggressive player called from the hijack.

The hijack’s preflop calling range is:

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Most players in the hijack seat will 3-bet their best hands while calling with a range of hands that flop well. Some players elect to 3-bet A-Q, A-J, and K-Q, opting to use their high cards as blockers.

A loose, aggressive player called from the cutoff.

The cutoff’s preflop calling range is:

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Most players in the cutoff will call with a wide range of hands that flop well once there is a preflop raise and a call. Similar to the hijack, some players in the cutoff will elect to 3-bet A-Q, A-J, and K-Q.

You have Kc-Qd on the button and decide to call. Both calling and 3-betting are fine options. Both blinds fold.

Flop

The flop came Qc-9d-4d.

The lojack bet 785 into the 2,550 pot.

The lojack’s flop betting range is:

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(The dark blue hands are diamonds and clubs.)

The lojack could easily check A-K, K-J, K-T, and all made hands worse than top pair. He may also check with flush draws, backdoor flush draws, and gutshot straight draws. However, it is wise to leave at least some combinations of these hands in the range because the initial raiser is loose and unpredictable. Do not quickly discount hands like Kh-Th and 6c-5c simply because you would not bet them.

The hijack and cutoff fold.

You decide to call with your top pair to force the lojack to stay in the pot with his entire range while keeping the size of the pot manageable for when you happen to be crushed.

There may be some merit in assuming the lojack’s 785 bet is abnormally weak, as many players would bet larger, perhaps 1,500, with their strong value hands to maximize value from worse made hands and to charge the draws.

This could be the lojack’s flop betting range if his bet size is an indication about his hand’s strength:

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Against this range of hands that you crush, it is important to call because if you raise, many of these hands that are drawing thin will fold, making it impossible for you to extract value on the turn and river. Notice I left one of the sets (9-9) in because most good players are sophisticated enough to be somewhat balanced with their bet sizes such that they are not betting this size with only marginal hands. Other players all attempt to further balance by adding in A-A, K-K, and A-Q. We will revisit the (often unforeseen) consequences of having multiple ranges based on various bet sizes at the end of this post.

Turn

The turn was the (Qc-9d-4d)-2s.

The lojack bet 2,800 into the 4,120 pot.

This is the lojack’s turn betting range:

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(The dark blue hands are now only diamonds.)

Most players will give up on the turn with their hands that are almost certainly crushed and have a low chance to improve, such as backdoor flush draws that did not improve to flush draws and A-K (the missed backdoor flush draws have been removed from the range). Most aggressive players will continue betting with their semi-bluffs that have equity, such as flush draws and straight draws. Of course, if your opponent is particularly aggressive, he may continue betting with all of his range besides the marginal made hands.

Against this range, your K-Q has 56% equity.

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Since you only need to win 29% of the time to break even based on the pot odds (2,800/(4,120 + 2,800 + 2,800) = 29%), you must continue in the pot. As on the flop, calling is ideal because if you raise, your opponent will fold many of the hands that are drawing thin while always continuing with hands that crush you.

River

The river was the (Qc-9d-4d-2s)-Td.

The lojack bet 6,900 into the 9,720 pot.

The lojack’s river betting range is:

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Most players in the lojack’s situation elect to check their top pairs because if they bet and get called, they are usually beat. This means the lojack’s river betting range is polarized to sets and better and bluffs. Since there are no unpaired hands in the lojack’s range by the river, most strong players will turn their hands with the least amount of showdown value (in this case, A-T, K-T, and J-T) into bluffs.

Against this range, K-Q has 27% equity.

Based on the pot odds, you need to win 29% of the time and you will only win 27% of the time, so you should fold. (6,900/(9,720 + 6,900 + 6,900) = 29%). It is worth noting that many players will not be capable of turning a pair of Tens into a bluff on the river because they incorrectly think they have a large amount of showdown value. This should lead you to fold even more often to a river bet because there are fewer bluffs in your opponent’s range.

On a Blank River

Notice that if instead the river was the (Qc-9d-4d-2s)-2h and you faced a 6,900 bet into the 9,720 pot, you would be in an entirely different situation because the lojack would be inclined to turn his missed draws into bluffs.

Perhaps his river betting range would be:

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Notice this range has your opponent check-calling the river with K-Q, Q-J, and Q-T to catch your bluff attempts. It also has your opponent checking Ad-Kd, Ad-Jd, and Ad-Td because they beat many of the missed draws you could have.

Against this range, K-Q has 51% equity, giving you an easy river call.

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If your opponent is well versed in poker, he will tailor his river betting range such that you have a break-even decision. He can do this by eliminating a few of his bluffing hands from his range. His goal is to make his range 71% value bets and 29% bluffs (when using this specific river bet size).

Perhaps this is a balanced river betting range:

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This range has your opponent checking his missed King high draws and only bluffing with hands that have absolutely no showdown value.

Against this range, K-Q will only win 25% of the time. Since you need to win 29% of the time, you should fold to a 6,900 bet.

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However, most aggressive players will not be disciplined enough to check their King highs, meaning you should typically call in this spot.

Splitting Lojack’s Range on the Flop

Going back to the flop, notice what happens if the lojack’s flop bet size indicates his betting range is abnormally weak.

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On the (Qc-9d-4d)-2s turn, most opponents will not make a 2,800 bet with middle pairs because if they are called, they are usually crushed, meaning the lojack’s turn betting range is:

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Against this range K-Q is in great shape, with 76% equity. Notice the Lojack’s turn range is now almost entirely draws.

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If the river is the (Qc-9d-4d-2s)-Td, if the lojack bets the river with his entire turn betting range, K-Q only has 20% equity.

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This is because the vast majority of the lojack’s turn betting range was draws. Since most of the draws came in on the river, K-Q is an easy fold.

Of course, if the river was the (Qc-9d-4d-2s)-2h and the lojack bet with this entire turn betting range, K-Q can easily call because it beats all of the busted draws. In order for the lojack to make you somewhat indifferent to calling, he would have to bet with this (incredibly narrow) range:

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poker-coachingThis illustrates why you want to have somewhat balanced ranges and why having multiple ranges based on various bet sizes is a bad idea versus strong opponents. You do not want to show up on the river with ranges that allow your opponents to easily call or fold versus your river bets. You want to be able to put them in difficult spots. If your opponent must either always fold or always call on specific rivers, they will rarely make costly mistakes.

 

Thanks for reading this blog post. If you enjoyed it, please let me know in the comments section below. If you haven’t checked out PokerCoaching.com already, I strongly suggest you do so. My students are working hard and learning a lot. Be sure to check back next week at JonathanLittlePoker.com for another educational blog post.

24 Comments

  • andy watson says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I have actually been in contact with Amazon re. your books recently. I was looking for a way to increase the size of the diagrams on the kindle versions as they are very small and difficult to read (equity calculations are especially difficult). The customer service guy offered me a refund, which I declined- I want to keep the books!! But I thought you might find this useful if your next book is going to have even more charts and tables included.

    I hope you find this feedback constructive.

    Andy

    • Willie McLeod says:

      I also have kindle versions with charts etc. that are too small to be of any help. This is not exclusive to your catalogue. Some sort of external link contained in the text would be useful, especially when using the iPhone version of the kindle.

    • Unfortunately Amazon does not offer the capability to upload multiple versions of the book. The images that work for iphone/kindle appear much smaller on android devices for some reason. I have yet to be able to find a solution. We had to pick a few devices that would display the images much smaller than wanted and we decided on android devices. Sorry!

    • Dave says:

      Hi Andy,

      I used to work on the Kindle, and I’m hoping the information given wasn’t completely correct.

      On the e-readers, if you double tap an image you should be able to see a zoomed in image.

      On the Kindle Tablets, the same double tap should also work. On the tablets, once the image is opened in the zoom window, you should be able to pinch it like you would to zoom in on something on a phone. This also works on some e-readers as well.

      Additionally, pressing and holding on the images should give you the option to zoom as well.

      Is there a particular book that you’re having problems with? Are you using an Amazon device or another device to read the books?

      Let me know if this helps,
      Dave

    • Thanks for helping with this!

  • Kenny says:

    Is the River Equity Graphic a mistake? You say that on a Td river the KQ has 27% equity but the graphic shows 73%

    Great article and in depth analysis. The equity graphics make the explanation easier to follow.

  • Tony says:

    I really liked the setup and graphics here. I wonder if prefacing these detailed posts with one showing a ‘typical’ and maybe even exaggerated range of different players on each street. For example a Typical TAG’s graph looks like this preflop, blah blah. Basically so we’d have a solid sense of what the colored patterns indicate in relation to a central pattern or theme. I’m sure, for instance, that you’re so well-versed in these that if I were to light up certain squares, you’d glance at what I’ve done and get an instant sense of what type of player you were looking on based solely on the pattern of the graph. I don’t know, I’m rambling a bit here, but I really like what you’ve done.

  • Arty McFly says:

    Nice article. I hate to be a pedant/nit about this, but your Equilab screengrabs (and equity calcs) don’t take into account the card removal effects of the cards on the board and in hero’s hand.

    e.g. Where you say (on the Td river) “The lojack’s river betting range is…”, the hand matrix includes 42 combos. If I’ve clicked the right suit-selection buttons while following this article, he actually only has 24. (Only one combo of top set is possible, for example). Villain can’t turn ATs and KTs into bluffs, because his range no longer contains any AT/KT. (A couple of specific examples: ATdd is impossible because the Td was the river card, KTcc is impossible because hero has the Kc.)
    These card removal/blocker effects can massively affect the equities. The 24 combos in villain’s river-betting range [QhQs, 9h9s, 9h9c, 9s9c, AdKd, AdJd, KdJd, KhJh, KsJs, JhTh, JsTs, JcTc, 8d7d, 7d6d, 6d5d, KdJh, KdJs, KdJc, KhJd, KhJs, KhJc, KsJd, KsJh, KsJc] have a whopping 87.5% equity vs hero’s KQ. It’s not even close to a breakeven call.

    The equities for the alternative betting ranges might be even more inaccurate. I haven’t checked.

    Despite my nittery, I think the hand-ranging examples you’ve provided will be very useful to beginners to this sort of thing and I wish you the best of success if this type of analysis is put into book format. It’s gonna be fiendishly difficult to get it ‘perfect’ without pedants like me spotting mistakes though. Best of luck!

  • Justin says:

    Hey Jonathan,

    I am excited to see you tackle this topic as it is a very important part of the learning poker player’s game. As someone who has been playing poker for only a few years, I find it very challenging to improve in this area. Like other area’s in poker, I believe this will improve and become easier with practice and repetition. The issue being I mainly play live (US resident) and getting large volume of hands in is nearly impossible.

    The challenge in combination with this is HOW to practice ranges. How do the good and great players go about improving this skill besides simply playing? And as you mention, what is a simple and easy to understand process that we can practice to get better? I have practiced a very similar way that you share above, however I find carrying this thought process over to the live table to be very, very challenging. And I often leave out large chunks of ranges or fail to think about other important factors when ranging someone.

    I also mainly play lower stakes live tournaments. Ranging opponents at these levels is very challenging because opening ranges and limping ranges are so wide. Players can literally have anything. I find it very challenging to just find a starting point with these players and giving them a base of ranges. I have been experimenting on trying to assign ranges more based off their actions which has been going pretty well (this obviously would not work against better players though).

    Your above listed format of explaining seems pretty straightfoward. The only comment I could add is that most of the players I face (and assume many other novice beginners playing small stakes face) is that our opponents do not think or act in the way better players do. Making this process even more difficult.

    That may be something that is explained earlier in the book. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this topic as there is just not a ton of quality information out there on the topic.

    Thanks!

    • Thanks for the comments. I will certainly discuss how to play versus players who make huge errors on a regular basis. That was actually the topic of the most recent Inner Circle webinar at PokerCoaching.com.

  • Dennis says:

    I think you missed 44 since it was a part of lojacks pre-flop opening range. Other than that and card removal on combos mentioned above really informative post.

  • Albert Hart says:

    Andy,

    I would like to check out those small Kindle images and/or to know the book and page number so I can check it out myself.

    Can you upload a picture of a small image to our Float the Turn Poker Forum?

    I started a thread about this for us to discuss it there:

    http://floattheturn.com/wp/forums/topic/small-images-in-kindle-books/

    If you have trouble logging in, send an email to support@floattheturn.com so we can help you.

    Al

  • Carlos Szwedowski says:

    excellent idea! even though it is a difficult subject to take, I know you will find the way to do it easy to read. Don’t forget to include some kind of advice to how you put it in practice on live tables. One last thing, your books are the best because you shows us in a simple way the most difficult topics that poker could have. Never lose that touch. Regards

  • LuckyEva says:

    Hi Jonathan!

    This looks awesome….and I look forward to understanding it someday fully. I like knowing this is going to be towards the end of the book – and I look forward to the step by step buildup to get us to the point where we can understand this and can, hopefully, do it someday by ourselves as well. Maybe it’s just the way I learn, but I like to see the big picture and have the general concepts down before I see all the lovely detail. But when I am ready, I do LOVE the detail – which you provide here. Although I have been reading your stuff for a few years, this will still likely take me several more passes before I fully grok it. (I also admit that I only have so much time in a week to devote to studying poker – but I do so love it.) It’s going to take the time it takes for me, but I do deeply appreciate your sharing the hows (especially with visuals!) with us all. Upshot of this post: this looks great and I hope you follow through and do this book with this kind of detail and explanation. I look forward to reading the book and fully understanding it. Thank you!

    P.S. I liked the way you were teaching Amie on Twitch (a few weeks back when she showed up after work and you were asking her how she would have played a few hands) – you were simplifying things greatly for her and having her understand the logic by asking questions. I really enjoyed that. Perhaps that’s too simplified for this range book (since this concept might be for more intermediate – advanced players???), but I admit that I like to understand the WHY before I see the numbers. That really helps me anchor the concepts. Thx.

    • LuckyEva says:

      IOW (with regards to my P.S.): would it be at all possible to write this book as if you were writing it for Amie to teach her how to see ranges – or would several more stepping stones be required before a beginner could fully and deeply grasp this?

    • LuckyEva says:

      Another addendum….sorry for all the verbiage….my intention was to help (but maybe all it is doing is showing my desire for clarity): my mind and the house were quiet today, so I got it. I also printed the blog post out so that I could follow along and make comparisons. Following along with Equilab and making the appropriate changes would likely have the same effect. It is simple and easy to follow when I take it step by step. So perhaps no more simplification is necessary. Now for me to do this again, and ask myself questions, and see if I can re-create this thought process habitually. GREAT STUFF. THANK YOU!!!!

  • Vanessa says:

    This is awesome! I really like this format.. it makes it easier to understand range game analysis, which I struggled with at first. It’s still very new to me, but I see this helping a lot.

  • Barry says:

    Wow — Can’t believe I just saw this. How’s this project going?

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