Poker is a game of incomplete information, and one of the key skills that separates winning players from losing ones is the ability to accurately put their opponents on a range of hands. By understanding the types of hands your opponent is likely to hold, you can make more informed decisions about whether to bet, raise, check, call or fold.
In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the techniques you can use to put your opponents on a range of hands.
Start with pre-flop ranges
The first step in putting your opponents on a range of hands is to understand their pre-flop range. This is the range of hands that they are likely to play based on their position at the table, their playing style, the size of the blinds and stack depths. Understanding pre-flop ranges is crucial because it sets the foundation for the rest of the hand. Every decision made after the pre-flop action is based on the range of hands that each player is likely to have.
For example, a tight player in early position is likely to have a narrow range of hands, while a loose player on the button may have a very wide range and could be holding any two cards. By observing your opponents’ actions and tendencies pre-flop, you can start to narrow down their range.
Consider the flop texture
Once the flop is dealt, you can start to narrow down your opponent’s range of hands even further. Analyzing the texture of the flop can give you clues about the types of hands your opponent may have.
For example, a continuation bet on an extremely wet flop like T ❤️ 8 ❤️ 7 🔶 will not likely help you narrow down your opponents range much as the flop connects with many of their holdings and they are unlikely to fold unless they hold a small pair. Alternatively, if the flop comes A X X rainbow, your opponent may be more likely to have an ace in their hand if they call a continuation bet as it is a disconnected board with few draws.
Considering the texture of the flop is a crucial skill for any poker player looking to improve their game. By analyzing the suits and ranks of the three community cards, players can start to narrow down the range of hands that their opponents are likely to have. Additionally, players can consider how the flop interacts with their own hand to make more informed decisions about the strength of their opponents’ hands.
Pay attention to bet sizing
The size of your opponent’s bets can give you clues about the strength of their hand. A small bet may indicate weakness or a draw, while a large bet may indicate a strong hand. This is player specific and can sometimes be the inverse.
For example, if an opponent bets ⅓ pot on the flop, they may be trying to buy a cheap turn card or get a fold hoping that their opponent completely missed the flop. Alternatively, if your opponent bets a larger sizing of ⅔ pot or more, they may have a very strong hand that they are trying to protect or extract maximum value.
Another example is if your opponent does not increase their bet size from the flop to the turn or from the turn to the river. This usually means that they are not wanting to check to show weakness but also do not want to commit a lot of chips if they are called. In these situations, you can usually deduce that they are at the bottom of their range.
The size of a player’s bet can reveal important information about the strength of their hand and their intentions for the rest of the hand. By combining this knowledge with an understanding of pre-flop ranges, flop texture, and other key poker skills, players can develop a comprehensive strategy for winning at the poker table.
Observe the hands that they play
Finally, if you have been playing with your opponent for a while, you can start to use their hand history to put them on a range of hands. By keeping track of the hands they have played and how they have played them, you can start to understand their tendencies and how they approach different types of situations.
You may notice that your opponent always raises pre-flop with strong hands, or that they tend to slow down on the turn when they have a weak hand. These patterns can help you to narrow down the range of hands that your opponent is likely to have in a given situation.
Pay attention to show downs and observe the strength of your opponents holdings relative to how they played the hand. Did they bet a draw super aggressively? Did they slow play a huge hand? Did they check the river with top pair out of fear of being raised? Did they make a loose call preflop? Reviewing your opponents actions in a hand when you see their holdings is a great way to get a sense of how they play – which will help you narrow down their ranges in future situations.
Putting your opponents on a range of hands is a key skill in poker. By understanding the types of hands your opponents are likely to hold, you can make more informed decisions about your own play. By using the techniques discussed in this blog, you can start to put your opponents on a range of hands and improve your chances of winning at the table.