Poker Strategy: What Is Range Advantage?

Poker has a surprisingly complex and intricate strategy for what most people dismiss as gambling. While it contains an element of luck, skill matters far more in the long run, so much that some people even consider poker a sport. After all, poker has a thriving competitive scene, and the best poker players are not just lucky. The strategy is this multi-faceted because there is much more to poker than just the hand you get. In the long run, individual hands are insignificant, and your skill is constant.

Poker strategy has many factors that change each game, from their opponents’ playstyles to the size of their bets to the odds that they hit their draws. These factors also combine and synergize with each other. For example, you can use your odds plus a good read on your opponents’ playstyle to make bluffs you normally would not. This poker guide will cover a math concept often used to identify someone’s playstyle: Hand ranges. It will focus on range advantage, explaining what it is and how to use it.

Photo by Unsplash

Ranges Explained

Hand ranges in poker allow players to narrow down which possible hands their opponents could have. It is impossible to guess which two cards your opponents hold accurately, so ranges are the next best thing. Ranges are influenced by many factors like playstyle since looser players play a wider range of hands than tight players. Ranges also get refined over time, as each action your opponent takes along with each new card allows you to narrow their range. That is especially effective over multiple games against the same opponents. Ranges are also vital in conjunction with other elements of poker strategy. For example, because ranges are directly correlated with playstyle, you could also use them to determine how tight or loose someone plays and vice versa.

Range advantage explained

Range advantage, as the name implies, describes which player’s range is currently “ahead” or better. A perfect example of this would be the pre-flop caller vs. the pre-flop raiser. The raiser would likely have a range of solid pocket pairs like AA – 22 and suited connectors like AKs – J10s (these ranges are examples only and are not 100% accurate). In contrast, the caller would probably have a range of hands like TT – 22 and 910s – 54s. Their range is clearly weaker, and this is because if they did have a premium hand like KK, they would not have called and instead would have re-raised. While this is not always true against either new players who do not understand the game well or skilled players balancing their ranges, it is still an excellent showcase of range advantage. A range getting limited because of a call instead of a 3-bet is known as range capping and is a common sight, especially against inexperienced players.

Photo by Pixabay

Using range advantage

Range advantage is helpful to know because it is a decent measure of who has the most equity (chance to win) in the pot. It can significantly help your decision-making, as having a range advantage signals to begin aggressive play. If you have the current range advantage and you are called, that could signal they are on a drawing hand. The last thing you want in this scenario is for them to get a card for free. Likewise, if you miss the flop and your opponent has a subsequent range advantage, you will want to be more cautious since their hand is more likely stronger.

Factors that affect ranges

To use range advantage and effectively determine your opponents’ ranges, you need to understand which things change your opponents’ ranges. Here is a list of the main factors you must consider when looking for someone’s range:

Nut advantage

A subset of range advantage, nut advantage refers to the number of solid hands (two pair or higher) in someone’s range. That is useful for bet sizing, as the player with the nut advantage should bet large. Using the pre-flop raiser vs. caller example, let’s say the flop is an ace, a king, and a three. The raiser has all the strong ace/king hands like AA, AK, and KK, while the caller does not. The raiser has a severe nut advantage here, and betting big will be fantastic. If they have the best hand, a large bet getting called will build the pot quickly. If you fold too much to this nut advantage, they get to bluff you with impunity. It is critical to remember the player with the range advantage is not guaranteed to have the nut advantage. The caller is favored on a low but wet board like six, five, and three with two clubs because they have more potential draws than the raiser, who likely does not have any low cards in their range.

Photo by Pixabay

Playing Ace-King online

We hope this article taught you {{how to play poker}} using range advantage. The best practice is playing online on sites like GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room. Online poker is better for range reading since you can play more hands in less time, particularly if you multi-table. You can also access it from anywhere and even use poker tracking software to help analyze you and your opponents.