Poker Hand Ranges

It is said that poker is not a game of your cards but situations. This is an experiment where we won’t know our hand until the river. We will try and figure out our opponent’s hand before we know our own and by that, we can make better decisions. Sound crazy? Read on. 

Stack sizes:

Phil ($200,000) – SB $500

You ($200,000) – BB $1,000

Phil raises to $3,000 from the SB and you call. We don’t raise because it wont help narrow his range and then were stuck playing a big pot out of position.

(Remember, it doesn’t matter what we have. The point in this experiment is to try and figure out Phil’s exact hand so we know how to play our hand).

The flop comes Jc 5h 6h

We check and Phil bets $4,000. His range at this point is still anything from nothing to three of a kind. He could have any 2 cards. Calling won’t help us figure out his range and so we should raise. If he folds, great. If he raises there are only 8 hands he could have and only a number of hands can call.

So by doing anything but calling we can figure out his hand range. We raise to $12,000.

Phil decides to call. Since he raises two-pair, sets, and over pairs but calls with draws and weak pairs we can put Phil on a pair of fives, sixes, jacks, middle pocket pairs, straight draws and flush draws.

The turn is the Ks bringing one over card. Now that we know what Phil’s range is, we can figure out the most profitable move. To most of Phil’s range the K of spades is a scary card. If we make a bet, most pairs are going to fold and only strong draws will continue. If we can get Phil to fold the majority of his range, the bet will be profitable. The pot is $30,000 and we bet $22,000. Phil takes some time and calls again. Since we believed most pairs would fold to a bet we can take weak pairs out of his range and leave flush draws, straight draws and two pairs that he caught with the king in.

The river is a blank leaving only the straight to connect. [Jc 5h 6h Ks 2s]

At this point, we leave Phil with these hands:

Flush draws (missed but maybe caught a king)

Straight draws (34 got there but most missed)

KJ, K6, K5

At this point, we have 2 choices: bet or check. Betting will fold worse hands and better hands will call. However if you check, a better hand will bet and also a worse hand. Based on that information we can make the correct decision. Since most of Phil’s range consists of missed draws we should check-call a strong or decent pair and be right most of the time. If we haven’t made a hand or have a weak pair, we should bet. Since he’s always folding missed draws and always calling with two-pair, we don’t have to fire a big bet like 80 into 100. If we fire something like 55 into 100, we can get the missed draws to fold and when we do get called, we don’t lose that much.

In this scenario, we have [8x 9x] for the missed gutshot straight draw. The pot is $74,000 and we bet $38,600. Phil calls and shows [Ks 6s] of spades, damn. Even though it was the wrong move at the time, the move will be profitable in the long run due to how his hand range compares to ours.

Replay the hand now while you know what you have and think of Phil’s decisions with [Ks 6s]. Then go vice-versa and be in Phil’s position to see what he did. It’s very interesting because from Phil’s point of view, the bluff looks stupid but its actually very calculated and will work in the long run.

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