man playing poker

Poker ranges are exactly what they sound like. It’s a range of hands or hand combinations.

These hand ranges could be your own, or your opponents. Let’s have a look at the first ranges you should be thinking about.

Opening Ranges

Opening hands ranges are the hands you play when the action has been unopened and it’s your decision to act. For those unfamiliar with the term, “opening” a hand means to be the first one to enter the pot by either calling the big blind or raising.

Early position

Opening ranges from early position will start off quite narrow and tight. By narrow and tight I mean a lower percentage of starting hands, your premium starting hands.

You will open a wider range of hands the later position you are. By the time we reach the button, we are opening a hell of a lot more hands.

You may be thinking, “Why is it optimal to be opening such a small percent of hands in early position and a higher percentage of hands in late position?”

There is one main reason. When you are first to act, you have a lot more players to act behind you. The laws of probability make it likely for at least 1 of these players to have a premium hand at a higher percentage than you. Think about it, who is more likely to get a good hand, 1 person or 8 people?

The second reason is that in early position you will be at a disadvantage on later streets. You will be out of position. Out of position means you must act first on every future street. You win more money when you play in position. You compensate this disadvantageous position by playing a narrower range of hands.

Late Position

Opening a wide range of hands in late position is a great move because you only have a few players left behind you to act. If these remaining players fold, you scoop the pot of all blinds (and antes if you’re playing a game with antes).

The Button is the most powerful position. On the button, you get to act last on every street after the flop. Even though you are opening a wide range of hands on the Button, you will win the most money playing from the button position.

Defending Ranges

You aren’t always going to be the one opening the action in poker. Someone is likely to limp or raise when you are not in an early position. It is a good idea to have defined ranges of what hands you are going to raise, call and fold versus an open. Let’s take a look at a late position example.

You are in the big blind and the action has folded around to your opponent on the button. The button raises.

You are now aware that the button is opening a wide range of hands, you now need to defend a wide range of hands by 3-betting and calling. This range you defend will change depending on how big the Button decided to raise and how frequent they are raising. Typically, in the big blind versus a button open scenario, you will defend 35-60% of hands when they open. The big blind should play a mixed strategy of call and 3-bet.

When you fold from the big blind, you are losing at -100 bb/100. bb/100 basically means your win or loss rate in big blinds per 100 hands. So, every 100 times you fold the big blind you lose 100 big blinds. Makes sense, right?

Sometimes when you defend the big blind you don’t even need to be straight up profiting. You just need to make sure your 3bet or call is losing LESS than -100bb/100.

To Summarize

Good poker players will already have set ranges for almost every spot.

If you are aware of good players’ ranges, you will have a somewhat easier time figuring out what the best play is for you. The same can be said about bad players. If you have experience with bad players, you have a very good idea of their range depending on their action on a variety of streets.

You need to think of ranges at all times while playing poker. You not only need to think of what ranges you should open and defend, but what range your opponent has. You also need to think about what your range looks like to your opponent. That last part is incredibly crucial when it comes to pulling off bluffs. If you don’t know what your opponent’s range is and what your range looks like, your bluffs are not going to have a very high success rate.