What Is Poker Hand Range Balancing?

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A hand throwing three ace of spades cards.
BetMGM Sep 04, 2023, 3:01 PM

Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or professional player, playing poker online means encountering hundreds (even thousands) of other players from every corner of the globe — each with their own playing style and strategy. Over time, you’ll come up against a variety of playing styles, some aggressive and some more conservative.

When playing poker, it’s important to remain elusive throughout the game and ensure that your opponents can’t identify your playing personality. Once an opponent figures out your playing style, you become very easy to read and exploit. Maintaining a level of unpredictability while raising, bluffing, betting, and folding is the best way to prevent this. Range balancing is the key to achieve this outcome. Here’s a closer look at hand ranges in poker and why balancing them is so important.

What Is Range in Poker?

A poker hand range is simply the entire selection of hands that a player can have in any given situation. Say you’re playing Texas Hold’em online, and the flop comes 3 of hearts, 3 of clubs and jack of hearts. With these cards, your opponent could be holding a high pair, two pair, trips, or a full house. They could also draw to a flush or even quads. Ideally, your strategy should take all these possibilities into account. But how, when there are 169 possible starting hands? It’s impossible to hand read with total accuracy, but you can put an opponent on a range based on who they are (player image,) what action they are taking (call, fold, bet, raise,) and where they are taking it (table position.)

With experience and application, you’ll be able to interpret this information, deduce the range your opponent is most likely playing with, and compare to see which of you has the range advantage. In poker, range advantage refers to which player has the upper hand in terms of your entire range. With range advantage, you can put your opponent’s range under pressure by betting large more frequently.

Why Is It Important To Balance My Poker Hand Range?

When you start thinking about ranges in poker, you need to include both value hands and bluffing hands in your analysis. Think about it this way. If you play only value hands, opponents who know how to think in ranges will eventually cotton on to your frequencies and exploit you by folding to your bets and hammering you when you check. If, on the other hand, you bluff too much and your opponents have you figured out, they’ll take you down with bluff catchers and bluff raises.

In both of these cases, your range is unbalanced — and subject to exploitation. Range balancing is simply a means to strike a happy medium between the two extremes. In other words, you want to achieve a balance of value hands and bluffs, and value when you bet. A good way to do this is to figure out a good bluff-to-value ratio by using pot odds. If you bet the full pot, your opponent’s odds are two to one, so your optimal ratio is to bluff one-third of the time (3%) and value bet two-thirds of the time (6%.) If you bet half the pot, you need to bet for value three-quarters of the time (7%) and bluff one hand in four (2%.)

How To Start Balancing Your Ranges in Poker

Many players will find the thought of playing this many bluffs an intimidating prospect. After all, bluffing is a skill that doesn’t necessarily come easy. Unless you’re a natural bluffer, it’s going to take practice. The good news here is that you automatically become more difficult to read — and thus exploit — when you add just one or two bluffs to your range. In fact, if you have an image as a tight player, this small change might cause your opponents to assume that you’ve changed your strategy and are bluffing more than you really are.

An example of a great way to start bluffing — and thus balance your range — is by playing a straight the same way you would a flush or a full house or playing a pair the same way as three-of-a-kind. As a result, your opponents will become unclear as to which one you may have, making you more unpredictable. In time, you’ll be able to bluff purely by representing a weak or strong hand and playing accordingly, regardless of the cards you actually hold.

Play Poker Online at BetMGM

Want to put your knowledge to the test and start balancing your range? The best way forward is to play more hands, which you can do as soon as you register at BetMGM, one of America’s best online poker sites. Join in cash games and online poker tournaments on your device of choice and enjoy seamless gameplay on a top-rated mobile poker interface. As a bonus, you’ll also gain access to the online casino, where you can explore a broad range of premium real-money casino games. Give the feature-rich online video slots a spin or play blackjack, roulette, baccarat, or craps with a real live dealer online. Everything is possible when you get your game on at BetMGM.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.