Balancing Your Hand Range in Poker
In this scenario, we are “John” and “Google” is our opponent. It is a heads-up poker match with $200 and $400 blinds. It’s only one scenario but we show two hands that we have.
- Google ($40,000) – SB $200
- John ($40,000) – BB $400
- John is dealt
- Google raises to $1,200
My decisions: Fold, Call, Raise
AJ suited beats the majority of his raising range so folding isn’t an option. A raise can get worse to call so were going to raise. With 93 suited were also going to raise because his opening range is so wide that a lot of the time, he’s just going to fold. 93 suited isn’t a good enough hand to call because it can’t improve to a better hand other than the flush.
Raise size is important, so if were going to play 93 suited the same way as AJ, we need to stay consistent. We are going to raise to 4,000 because this is enough to get weaker hands to call but also to get hands to fold.
- John raises to $4,000
- Google calls $2,800
FLOP: Ac 7s Qs
This is a perfect flop for AJ and a miss for 93. With AJ we’re going to bet and with 93 we should also bet. If our range, at this point, is anything from AJ to 93, we need to stay consistent. We want our range to be widest at all times so our opponent can’t get a read on us. If we always check pairs less than top pair but we bet bluffs and strong hands, our opponent can take advantage of us. The pot is $8,000 and I don’t think we should bet something like $6,000 because if our range consists mostly of bluffs and middle pairs, our opponent can raise a lot and were going to have to fold. A bet like $4,400 is perfect. It gives a good price on our bluffs and with hands like top to mid pair, a lot of weaker hands are going to call. Also, if were raised, we can fold and not lose that much.
- John bets $4,400
- Google calls $4,400
TURN: Ac 7s Qs [Ks]
So if were going to bet with AJ, we have to think of worse hands to call and if were going to bet with 93, we have to think of hands that are going to fold. Now we have to put our opponent on a range.
Google raised to $1,200 preflop and that doesn’t tell us much about his hand. We raised to $4,000 and he called. We still have no idea what his hand range could be. We bet $4,400 and he called. This gives us a little more information as we can assume he’s not calling with T8. So what did he raise preflop, called a 3-bet and now called the flop? Here are our list of hand ranges starting from strongest to weakest:
As you can see, his hand range is very wide. Let’s assume he 4-bets AA, KK QQ, and AQ so those hands can come out. If we have 93 suited and we bet, I don’t think he’s folding the majority of his range. He folds 99+, 7x, and maybe Qx, but that’s it. He’s calling everything else. With 93, I think we have to check.
However, with AJ, I think we should bet because weaker aces, queens and kings, like KJ and KT, are going to call. We should bet like 11,000 and check almost any river.
With 93, we check. Our opponent bets and we fold. With AJ, we bet $11,000 and he calls.
RIVER: Ac 7s Qs Ks [4h]
We folded 93 and I believe we did the best play with that hand. We now have AJ and have to decide whether a bet or a check is the best play. To figure out our best play, we have to put our opponent on a hand. What is calling a 3-bet, calling the flop and then calling the turn? We obviously leave hands like two-pair, sets, and flushes but his range also consists mostly of weak pairs like Ax and Kx. Here is my guess:
This range consists mostly of hands that beat us so unless were looking to turn our AJ into a bluff, a bet isn’t profitable. Hands that we do beat are Ax and Kx but those hands aren’t calling a bet, so a check is just as profitable.
The pot is $38,800 and we check. Our opponent shoves for his last $20,600 and we fold. Since the only hands we beat are going to check, he’s only shoving hands that beat us like two-pair, sets and flushes. There are no hands he’s calling the flop and turn with that are now turning into a bluff. All the draws got there, like the straight and flush, but he’s not shoving the weak Ax and Kx, he’d just check back. Here is his hand range:
We don’t beat any of those hands and a fold is most profitable. We played 93 and AJ nearly the same. This is why high stakes poker is so tough to beat because it’s so hard to put your opponent on actual hand. Playing against weak opposition is easier because they their hand and it’s easier to know what they have. You also have to be balancing your ranges so that in any one spot, you don’t have only one hand. You want your opponent to be putting you on a wide range of hands so that he can make mistakes.
However, all said and done, a game becomes more thrilling and exciting only when the stakes are high and getting a win over weak players is indeed a hollow victory and is nothing much of an achievement as DominoQQ is well known for.