You hear a lot about ranges in today's poker game, but what exactly are they?

Understanding ranges and poker combos is an integral part of becoming a better poker player. It’s something you must know if you want to be a winning player.

I'm Ian Simpson, and I'll share 5 tips for understanding ranges in this video below.

Tip 1: Ranges vs Specific Hands

Let’s dive into exactly what this means.

When a player raises on the button, we don't have enough information to put them on one precise hand. Instead, we must make an educated guess about all the hands they will play this way.

Players will also say, "I put you on a pair," before making a dubious call or fold for their tournament life.

We cannot be that specific without an amazing live tell.

Our opponent surely will have pairs when they jam preflop, but they will also have a myriad of other hands too!

Tip 2: The Hand Matrix

This diagram (we use the poker term, hand matrix) helps us visualise all the possible starting hands in Texas Hold’em.

It might look daunting at first, but with a little experience, it’ll become second nature.

You can see all the suited hands, all the off-suit hands and all the pairs running across this diagonal.

Tip 3: A Basic Range From The Matrix

In this example, the button has raised. We can guess what their range will look like. They will probably open all the pairs and all the off-suit Ax.

They will open K6o+, which means every hand with a K that isn’t suited from K6 upwards. They will open Q8o+. J8o+, T8o, 98o and 87o.

They will also open all these suited hands.

Tip 4: Split Ranges

In our example, we call in the big blind and check when the flop comes 9s7s2h. Again, we don't have enough information to put our opponent on one specific hand.

We know roughly what hands they raised with preflop from the chart we made earlier.

Now, we can use that chart to help pinpoint which hands they might be betting.

• For example, we can well imagine them always betting with AA here. So, AA might be coloured completely red.
• However, we may think they will always check with 8d7h. So, that hand can be coloured completely green.

By having all of the hands coloured in, we can get a visual aid on what their range might look like. We will see some hands coloured in both colours.

If we think they check 99 25% of the time, we use the following colours to show that they use two strategies of different frequencies with that hand.

• 25% of the 99 box will be green.
• 75% of the box will be coloured in red.

Tip 5: Narrowing an Opponent’s Range

Each action a player takes, be it checking, betting or raising, will give us information about their Range.

So, as the hand progresses, the range of hands we put them on gets narrower and narrower further down the streets.

If the big blind calls your preflop raise, we can approximate their range. We eliminate a portion of that range when they call a continuation bet on A72.

When they call your turn bet, on the Jc on the poker board; again, we eliminate more hands from their range.

So, when we get to the river, and they check, although they started with a wide range, we can narrow down their holding quite significantly - given their actions on the flop and turn.

Visualising this in the hand matrix helps you decide what to do on the river.

Made to Learn – Poker Ranges Takeaways

The charts can sometimes be a bit confusing when the strategy involves folding, calling, and raising with different bet sizes.

But with plenty of practice looking at charts like the ones in the 888poker magazine strategy section, you’ll soon get to grips with thinking about your opponents’ ranges.

Ian Simpson is a poker pro player and 888poker ambassador. A former teacher turned professional poker player. Ian has racked up \$1,132,070 in total live earnings as of July 2023. With steady in-the-money finishes since 2016, he has proven himself to be a tenacious and extremely talented poker player.