Tuesday, November 11, 2008

HU19: Ranges

Heads-up coaches differ on how to assess an opponent's hand: Most recommend putting your opposition on a range of hands, but a few suggest a more nebulous approach that's based more on feel.

A previous post created some debate on what "hand reading" means if you're not narrowing an opponent's hand range.

A recent video clearly falls on the side of developing a read by starting with a wide range of hands and deducing an opponent's likely holding based on that range. The video is DogIsHeads UP, Episode 1.

"Range-based thinking is superior to hand-to-hand thinking," Dogishead says. "A player who thinks hand-to-hand cannot achieve the overall resilience that a range-thinking player can."

This contrasts with MasterLJ's approach.

"Heads-up, you can really throw hand ranges out the window and play by feel and match conditions," he says.

MasterLJ backs up his claim with hand examples against loose opponents who float the flop with such a broad variety of hands that it's difficult to put them on any range. In these hands, MasterLJ keeps firing away on the turn and river because his opponent could have anything from air to a gutshot to a flush draw to the nuts. Most of the time, he gets a fold on the turn.

It seems obvious to me that playing against a range of hands is the best strategy when you can do so. Only when you can't eliminate many hands between the preflop round and turn should you fall back on less precise methods.

It's hard though.

In heads-up, where it's essential to consider playing most hands, there are many times when attempts at thinking about a range seem like a waste of time. I often feel more at ease playing the player rather than playing the hands. I'd certainly like to be a master hand reader, but sometimes it feels like a frustrating and impossible task.

The solution may be to use all tools at your disposal as best you can: hand ranges, match flow, flop textures, past history, instinct, aggression and deceptive plays.

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