Learning to deal with ranges is hard enough as it is, but there are a number of ideas about handling no-limit hold’em ranges that are a bit mislead. In this forum thread, I asked about the questions that people had about learning to work with ranges, and one of the biggest things that jumped out to me was that players were interested in learning how to think about two ranges at once. In short, they wanted to know how to incorporate our own range and our opponent’s range into the same thought process. This is the main topic of what we’re going to look at here as I offer general advice for handling one of the most daunting things for new players to learn.
A Big Misconception
I want to start off with a massive misconception which makes this stuff seem a lot more difficult than it really is. If you believe this misconception, then you’re going to be discouraged to even try to learn to manage both your range and the range of your opponent at the same time. Here’s the truth:
You can incorporate both ranges into your thought process and strategy in very strong ways without considering them both simultaneously.
When you think of dealing with both ranges at the same time, you’re probably thinking of a very complicated scenario where you’re trying to figure out the equity or game tree of how two ranges will face each other. That’s not the approach that we’re going to take here. Instead, we’re going to consider each range at a time and see what it tells us about what our strategy should look like.
I’m going to outline a brief process for doing this, and then I’m going to look at each step in a little bit more detail. This process isn’t the end-all, be-all for evaluating no-limit hold’em situations. However, it will give you the foundation you need to get in a lot of practice and expand your thought process in very strong ways on your own.
- Estimate how often your opponent folds to a standard bet size.
- Compare the estimate step 1 to approximate the GTO folding frequency to get an idea of your ideal bluffing frequency.
- Get an idea of the worst value betting hands you can have against your opponent’s continuing range.
- Combine the information in steps 2 and 3 to form an ideal betting range.
- Make adjustments for checking as needed.
This is a little complicated at first glance, so we’re going to look at each of these pieces of the puzzle individually in what follows.
Step 1: Estimate Opponent’s Folding Frequency
This is pretty straight-forward. You consider your opponent’s range, and you get an idea of how often he or she will fold to a standard bet size. You don’t really have to be super accurate with this, but here’s what’s important: A two-thirds pot bet size requires your opponent to fold about 40 percent of the time to be profitable on a bluff depending on your outs and the exact ranges. If your opponent is folding a lot more or a lot less than 40 percent, that’s important to know. If your opponent is folding about 40 percent, that’s also important.
Step 2: Find Your Ideal Bluffing Frequency
With a two-thirds pot bet, our game theory optimal (aka: perfectly balanced) bluffing frequency is a hair under 30 percent. This means that 30 percent of our betting range should be bluffs. What you do is look at what you found in step 1 and use that information to decide on your bluffing frequency.
With a two-third pot sized bet, for example, if Villain folded a lot more than 40 percent, then you’d probably want to have a bluffing frequency higher than 30 percent. If it was a lot less than 40 percent, you’d want a bluffing frequency lower than 30 percent. Finally, if Villain folded about 40 percent, then you’d want to have a bluffing frequency of about 30 percent.
Step 3: Decide on Your Worst Value Betting Hands
This is a shortcut to decide your potential value betting range. Just think about his calling and raising ranges and try to get an idea of what the worst few hands are that you could value bet with profitably. Once you find this, it’ll tell you your potential value betting range overall since that range will consist of all hands better than your worst possible value betting hand. From here you can decide on the size of your value betting range as a whole.
Step 4: Decide on Your Bluffing Range
You’ll want to use the size of the value betting range found in step 3 and combine that with the bluffing frequency you decided on in step 2 to find an appropriate bluffing range. The idea is that you want to form your entire betting range in a way that includes all of your value betting hands with an appropriate number of bluffing hands to create the bluffing frequency that you decided is best in the second step.
Step 5: Adjust for Checking
You don’t really want to just check hands that you plan on check/folding, and you’ll often want to incorporate more check/raising (for value or as a bluff) depending on the situation. Checking to induce can also be an issue against aggressive players. Along these lines, you’ll want to adjust the value betting and bluffing parts of your betting range to account for whatever you plan to do with your checking range.
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