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Starting Hands Revealed
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Turning Information Into Reads
Hand Ranges 101
Poker is a game of incomplete information. In any game, both you and your opponent are to some extent making blind guesses as to how best to play. The process of deducing a hand range is, largely, a process of trying to turn unknowns into 'more-knowns'.
It follows from this that the player who is making decisions less in the dark than his opponent will win more often. The player with more information has a more complete picture of the hand as a whole; and thus that player has an edge over his opponent!
So you'll want to strive for an information edge over your opponent whenever you play. If you train yourself to gather information in a way that trumps your opponent's ability to do the same, you'll be able to play more accurately than him. You'll be able to calculate hand ranges more precisely, and thus be able to evaluate how to make the most +EV moves in every situation at the table.
What, then, should you look for? What kind of information will help you to arrive at accurate hand ranges? What reads should you take note of as you notice them?
Let's find out.
Read #1: Opponent's Broad Tendencies
You'll want to keep track of your opponent's broad tendencies; that is, the way he plays on average in common scenarios.
We generally note this kind of information using a statistics tracking program like pokeredge or Holdem Manager. An example of a broad tendency would be VPIP, or Voluntary Put Into Pot. VPIP measures the percentage of times an opponent enters the pot preflop; a player with a VPIP of 15% is tight, a player with a VPIP of 40% is loose, and so on.
Another example of a broad tendency -- one of the more important ones -- is PFR%, or Preflop Raise percentage. This statistic, as you might guess, measures the percentage of the time an opponent enters a pot preflop by raising. So a PFR of 13% would be tight, a PFR of 30% would be maniacal, and so on.
Using statistics like these, you can paint a broad portrait of how an opponent is likely to play; and by extension, you'll be able to figure out what his likely range is in specific scenarios given his actions. For example, we know that someone with 19/17 stats is a classic TAG, and thus we can figure out what he'd do in all sorts of situations -- what he's likely to call with when 3-bet, what flops he's likely to continuation bet, and so on.
The more broad information you can gather about an opponent, the more complete a profile you can build of how he's likely to play. And the more information you have, the easier it will be to put him on an accurate hand range.
Read #2: Deviations from Broad Tendencies
You'll want to take note of any irregularities in play you notice from an opponent. For example, if you've got an opponent tracked as a 20/18 TAG over ~2000 hands, and you see him raising 40% of his hands at a certain table, you should take note. Perhaps he's on tilt, in which case you'll certainly want to play against him; and knowing that he's on tilt will help you tailor your range of profitable hands against his adjusted range.
Read #3: Opponent's Actions in a Hand
This one's pretty obvious. When calculating an opponent's hand range in a particular situation, you'll want to take into account the actions he's taken so far.
For example, you'd assign your opponent a different hand range when he makes a continuation bet into a dry flop than you would had he bet into a wet flop; the former action is much weaker than the latter.
Assigning hand ranges in Holdem is all about noticing these subtleties in your opponent's game, and then exploiting them. That's where your edge comes from: being able to gather the most and the highest-quality information of any player at the table.
Knowledge is power in poker. Leave no stone unturned when looking for information, and you'll gain a significant edge at the tables.
Thinking in terms of hand ranges can make it easier to understand how your opponents play and how to beat them.
One of the best online poker sites to practice your hand range technique is pokerstars.
This is where some of the best players play online poker, like Vanessa Rousso, Liv Boeree, and many others.
And the best players know how to analyse hand ranges.
If you sign up at pokerstars, you can observe Vanessa Rousso playing poker there. Her username is 'LadyMaverick'. Or you can even play with her, if you dare.