Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Clarity on Ranges

A new DeucesCracked series, "Hand Readers," gave me a few more ideas on how to develop ranges. The gist of it is that analytical thinking and deductive reasoning are your primary tools in narrowing down an opponent's likely holding.

This is nothing groundbreaking, but it does reinforce the thought processes you should be going through as you develop a read.

The video recommends going through six steps: identify opponent, construct preflop hand range, note actions so far, determine what action we desire given our holding, evaluate how opponent will respond to our actions, and construct a multi-street plan.

Of course I'm not ready to go through each of these steps in every hand, but they create a framework for starting with a wide preflop range and eliminating potential hands from that range as the hand progresses. The video's coaches also correctly point out that you shouldn't second-guess yourself: as the hand moves forward, an opponent's range can only get smaller.

I picture a flow chart in my mind, like the one shown in the first Dogisheads UP video. Each of an opponent's actions from preflop onward characterize his holding until you arrive at a small enough selection of hand combinations that you can use to make correct folds, calls or raises when bigger bets go in.

As for my struggles with evaluating hand ranges heads-up against loose opponents, I plan to focus more on creating accurate ranges rather than abandoning the process and trying to play based on feel.

Against an opponent who never folds to continuation bets, I know his range isn't narrowed at all by my bet on the flop. Against an opponent who will raise any top pair or draw, I can eliminate his lower-pair hands and call more often. Against an opponent who bets the river whenever it's checked to him, I can induce more bluffs or consider price-setting blocking bets.

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