Opponent’s Range

January 22, 2010 |

One of the most important factors to consider when playing a game of poker is sometimes over looked by novice players. Players that are new to the game typically strictly play their hole cards and the community cards on board. This is fine for players that are trying to learn the basics of the game. Yet they are missing out on one of the most important factors that separate the good players from the bad. In order to be successful players must be able to put their opponents on a hand, or a range of hands that will ultimately help them make the best decision possible. By studying how your opponent plays the hand you should be able to put them on a range of hands. Does your opponent call or re-raise your raise pre-flop? Do they play their hand stronger once they see the flop? Every street tells a scene and a good poker player has to be able to put these scenes together to see the whole story. Let me dive into an example and see if I can explain what I mean.

Let’s say you are holding AA and you make a standard 3x raise from middle position. The two players to your left decide to come along for a call and everyone else proceeds to fold their hands. Right now we can already eliminate some of the hands that our opponents are possibly holding. The first caller to our left could be holding a wide range of hands. They could even be holding AA, KK, or QQ in an attempt to slow play their hand. I wouldn’t put them on AK or AQ, because I feel they would come in for a raise to try and protect their hand in hopes of getting it all in pre-flop. Hands like KQ, AJ, KJ, JJ-22, and connectors are very possible. The second caller can be evaluated a little different. Since there is two people in the pot in front of Player C then we can start to evaluate what he is possibly holding. Once again I can’t put this player on AK, because I feel he will try to take the pot down pre-flop with a re-raise. I also don’t see him holding JJ through AA, because I feel that they would want to re-raise to protect their hands from getting into a 3-way pot. Also if they were to smooth call a big hand it is very possible that someone behind them would come along for a call creating more people in the pot. We can put there range on similar KQ, KJ, AJ, 10s-22, and possibly AQ if he doesn’t raise pre. Let’s say the flop is 10 7 3 with two hearts on board and we are not holding the ace of hearts.

We make a standard continuation bet , the second player folds, and the third player comes along for a call. Right now we can think of the potential hands that our opponent is holding. He could be holding a flush draw, maybe 89 for an open-end straight draw, perhaps they are slow playing a set, or maybe they are holding JJ. Now let’s say the turn brings a K of diamonds. This puts the board at 10s 7h 3h Kd. We proceed to make another bet on the turn, but this time our opponent comes over the top to move all in. Besides a sick bluff we can narrow our opponents hands down a little more. JJ really isn’t an option anymore, because a K would probably scare them away. It could be a good possibility that our opponent was holding a K high flush draw on the flop then proceeded to hit top pair on the turn. Also we still have to take into consideration that our opponent could be holding 10s, 7s, or 3s for a set. After considering our options we decide to make the call to see our opponent holding top pair with a flush draw as they hold the KQ of hearts. Regardless of what the river brings we made the correct decision in calling, because we evaluated the board and our opponents play during the hand. Yes I made this hand a bit obvious, but by putting your opponents on a range of hands we can make the decision much easier on ourselves. Evaluate your hands and put your opponents on a range of hands. I’m certain you will see positive results, so good luck at the tables my friends.

Craig Fleck

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