Introduction to Hand Ranges Poker Strategy

Introduction to Hand Ranges Poker Strategy

By Alton Hardin

Introduction

We utilize the concept of hand ranges when we are trying to determine what possible hands our opponents can have in any particular poker hand. The reason that we use ranges is because it is much easier to put our opponents on a range of hands rather than on a particular hand. Why is that? Because poker players do certain things in poker, such as pre-flop raises, isolation raises, squeeze plays, 3-bets, 4-bets, steals, and so forth with specific ranges of hands that we can estimate based upon their HUD stats.

Understanding and being able to visualize hand ranges is an important skill set to have in poker because many HUD stats align closely with hand ranges. Additionally, understanding hand ranges is very important when attempting to read your opponents’ hands and put them on a range of possible hands.

What are hand ranges?

Hand ranges are the overall range of hands that a person can play ranging from a 0% range to a 100% range. In Texas Holdem, there are a total of 1,326 hand combinations for a 100% range. In this article we will use PokerStrategy.com’s free Equilab software to help us visualize hand ranges.

I recommend that you download this free software application and utilize it. You can easily find instruction tutorials on how to use it online. It is invaluable, especially for pot equity calculations.

Visualizing 100% Range

Below is a visualization of all the possible two-card combinations in Texas Holdem, which equates into 1,326 hand combinations. For each pair, there are a total of 6 combinations and each non-pair hand there are a total of 16 combinations. Let’s do some quick math to show you how we get 1,326 hand combinations:

  • 78 Non-Pair 2 Card Hands x 16 Combos
    • 1,248 Hand Combos
  • 13 Pair 2 Card Hands x 6 Combos
    • 78 Hand Combos
  • Total Hand Combos = 1,326 Hand Combos

Visualizing a 9% Range

A 9% opening range is fairly conservative UTG pre-flop opening range. With Equilab, we can easily visualize this range, which would be 66+, ATs+, KQs, AJo+, KQo.

Visualizing a 45% Range

A bad, loose passive calling station will typically have a VPIP of around 45%. Let’s take a look at a 45% range to get an idea of how many hands are in that range. As you can see in the image below, that is a lot of hand combinations! That is why bad players miss the flop so often and end up having to fold on the flop so often. This is why it is so profitable to play against bad, loose passive poker players.

Relating Hand Ranges to HUD Stats

Now that you have an idea of what hand ranges are and you know how to visualize them with Equilab, let’s relate hand ranges to HUD stats. Remember that HUD stats are displayed as percentages, so we can look at particular HUD stats and correlate those to estimated hand ranges.

VPIP and PFR Example

For example, let’s take a look at a player’s VPIP and PFR. Let’s hypothetically say a player has a VPIP of 45% and a PFR of 9%. In a HUD this is usually shown as VPIP 45/PFR 9 or 45/9. So if someone tells you villain was a 45/9, they are referring to your opponent’s VPIP/PFR HUD stats.

What this is telling us is that this player is voluntarily putting money into the pot pre-flop with approximately 45% of all possible hand ranges; moreover, he is raises pre-flop with approximately the top 9% of all possible hand ranges. So majority of the time, he is limping in pre-flop and a small percentage of the time he is raising.

We already visualized a 45% and 9% hand range previously in this chapter, so we know that this player’s ranges look something like this (using Equilab):

  • 45% VPIP: 44+, A2s+, K2s+, Q4s+, J6s+, T6s+, 96s+, 86s+, 76s, A2o+, K6o+, Q8o+, J8o+, T8o+, 98o
  • 9% PFR: 66+, AJs+, KQs, AJo+, KQo

We now know that this player is playing with a huge range of cards pre-flop, but when he is raising we know his range looks something like the estimated 9% PFR listed above. When he is limping, we know he has the other mediocre / implied odds hands in his 45% VPIP range that we can attack, but whenever he raises pre-flop we should be cautious and understand this means he has a strong starting hand.

Other HUD Stats

We can also correlate hand ranges to other basic HUD stats. A player’s 3BET and STL stats directly correlate to hand ranges. So, whenever you are looking at VPIP, PFR, 3BET, and STL HUD stats do your best to use those numbers and Equilab to estimate hand ranges for your opponents. If you are new to HUD stats and hand ranges, it is good to have Equilab open while you are playing so you can quickly plug in the numbers, but over time this process will be second nature and you’ll be able to rough-guess estimate hand ranges in your head.

Summing Up

This article is a gentle introduction into hand ranges. Understanding the concept of hand ranges is vitally important to becoming a good hand reader. Once we understand hand ranges, we can then dive into the art of hand reading our opponents’ range of hands they may play in different situations. If you are interested in learning more about developing poker reads, please check out my Fundamentals of Exploitative Online Poker: Learn to Exploit Your Opponents Through HUD Stats, Player Tendencies and Table Selection book available at Amazon.com.