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At its most basic level, poker is all about reading hands.  You have to know what hands you can get and the odds that you will improve your hand and you have to do the same with your opponents.  In poker, this becomes extremely difficult because there is hidden information in poker.

Online Poker versus Land-based Poker

Juicy Stakes Poker offers an excellent online poker platform where players can access many games and tournaments in many betting levels.  As you are learning how to read hands—and this can be a long process since the subject is as vague as the cards your opponent has hidden—it helps to be able to play at low stakes and in tournaments with low buy-ins or actual freerolls.

It is the ability of players to learn as they gain experience in low risk conditions that makes Juicy Stakes one of the best online poker rooms.

Everyone Evaluates Situations with Hidden Information

It isn’t just poker that requires people to make decisions with incomplete information.  Making choices without complete information is the essence of everyday life.  Here are a few examples:

  1. Is a high fat or a low fat diet best for me?
  2. Will the tour guide be as informative as we want?
  3. Will the other travelers on our week-long organized tour be pleasant people to travel with?
  4. Should I take this job?
  5. At what age should we allow our kids to go to a sleep over?
  6. Should I spend extra money on a refundable ticket or hotel reservation?

And the list goes on!

Since we so often make decisions with incomplete information, we can say that life itself is a “game” of controlled imagination!  In a real sense, poker is truly a game of controlled imagination!

Hand Reading Means Understanding Likely Hands

It is important to understand the plural in the word “hands”.  There was a time, not so long ago, that the best poker players sufficed with putting their opponents on a single hand.  The concept of a hand range had not yet been developed!

Poker had been played for more than a century without anyone developing and marketing the concept of hand ranges!  It seems remarkable to us now that that was the case but it was!

The concept of hand ranges has produced a genuine revolution in poker strategy and y=tactics.  This change is routinely attributed to Cole South who introduced the concept of hand ranges in his book “Let There be Ranges” that he published in 2007!  Yes, we have dealt with hand ranges for all of 14 years or so at this writing!

Let’s Begin to Understand what a Hand Range Is

First, a hand range may include several possible hands that a player is likely to play the same.  So we can say that unpaired and unsuited high cards belong to the same hand range.  However, suited high cards are a different hand range and any two suited high cards are considered to be the same hand for the purpose of evaluating a hand range.

If the flop reveals a high card, then a hand range that includes suited or unsuited high cards that include the flopped high card will constitute its own hand.

We can then observe that as the community cards come out, the hand range we put our opponents on will change and that most likely the range with narrow.  The idea of a narrowing of the hand range to resemble a funnel is attributed to Alec Torelli.

How Does Bluffing Affect our Evaluation of a hand Range

Bluffing affects everything in poker including hand ranges!  If, as we said earlier, poker is essentially about reading hands, it follows that reading hands includes developing the ability to read bluffs!

A good bluff will confuse opponents!  A good bluff will cause opponents to put a player on an incorrect range of hands!  A player who is bluffing might have a poor hand that looks strong because he or she raised before the flop and continued to bet on the turn and the river.

Now, if this player is foolishly bluffing, they will lose a lot of money in the end as long as no one folds with a better hand.  From the bluffing player’s point of view, a bluff is a form of intimidation.  It works only against players who can be intimidated.

From the other players’ point of view, it is the ability to see through a bluff and then to put the bluffing player on a more realistic range of hands.  In other words, even if we see through a bluff, we might also know that there is a good chance that the bluffing player has the better hand in any case!

After all, we know that he or she has a poor hand but we also know that we have a poor hand!  In fact, our hand is so poor that we would normally fold it except that we are sure that the other player in the hand is bluffing!

What, then, is the Goal of Using Hand Ranges in a Hand?

The primary goal is to put opponents on as narrow a range of hands as possible.  Then if you need to bet you need to decide if the payout is worth the risk or if you should fold.

The range will narrow because of the opponent’s actions.  For example, h or she probably wouldn’t have played the hand the way they played it if they were holding X.  The range can also widen in some circumstances if we originally put the player on a bluff, a high card comes out, and they make a big bet.

He might still be bluffing or he might have been truly helped by that high card!

Know Your Enemy

We also need to know our opponents’ tendencies as an aid to putting them on a range.  Here are a few tendencies or characteristics of poker players that we need to know and use as an aid in putting them on a hand range:

  1. What is their playing style?  In this sense, style and tendencies are the same.
  2. What is their mood?
  3. How knowledgeable is this player?
  4. Has he or she improved since we last played against each other?
  5. Are they still playing by the book?
  6. Do they brag?  This could be about anything, not just poker.

Hand ranges are at one a simple way of determining what an opponent might have but there is also a deep psychological side to determine a hand range on a given hand with a given opponent.

Join Juicy Stakes Poker

As we said earlier, Juicy Stakes is a leading online poker room.  In addition to offering many games in a very large range of stakes, we do everything we can to help players improve!



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