How to Read Opponents Hand Ranges in Hold’em Poker
One of the most crucial elements to being a successful Texas Hold’em player is having the ability to decipher what cards your opponents may be holding. Putting other players on the various hand possibilities available is not an easy task.
However, you can often put them on a range of hands that will narrow the choices of what they may be holding and allow you to make the correct decisions when it is your turn to act in the hand.
Many players try to guess the exact hole cards that their opponents are holding. This is actually the incorrect mindset to have because very seldom will you be 100% correct. For that reason, when your thinking is geared more toward determining the range of the hole cards held by your table rivals, you can reasonably figure out what cards they may have based on their playing style and betting.
First of all, being able to figure out opponents’ hand ranges requires you to be an astute observer of playing styles. Combining this knowledge with each player’s position in the hand should help you in your goal to be prolific at deciphering the cards of your opponents.
As the hand naturally progresses after each round of betting, you gain more information about what the other players may have. Of course, players do bluff sometimes and may not actually have the hand they are representing to have. But by carefully analyzing the betting patterns before and after the flop, as well as knowing each players’ tendencies, you can often times pick up on bluff attempts as well.
Let’s use an example to illustrate. Let’s say you are in the big blind at a $1/2 no-limit table with nine players seated and peek at your hole cards to find a pair of Queens. One player limps in by calling and the player seated on the button, who you know to be the epitome of a tight-aggressive player, raises to $8. You assume he is using his position to perhaps steal the pot and fire a re-raise of $16 into the pot. This is too much for the limper, who folds his hand. Your rival on the button calls your raise.
You now have a bit more information to work with to establish a range of hands for your opponent. If he was trying to steal the blinds and the limper’s money with a weak hand, there is a good chance that he would have folded to your re-raise. And being the aggressive player that he is, if he was holding A-A, K-K or A-K, he probably would have 3-bet you with another raise.
So based on your knowledge of his playing style and bet sizing, the range of hands he is most likely holding at this stage would be A-J, A-10, K-Q, a mid to low level pocket pair, or perhaps even suited connectors. Due to his position and style, that would be a reasonable assumption.
The flop comes 2c-8c-3d, which looks good for you as there are no over cards to your pocket ladies. You bet $30 into a pot of $35 to see your table rival call your bet. You can now narrow your opponent’s range of possible hole cards by eliminating the A-J, A-10 or K-Q, as a tight player would fold those hands after missing on the flop. Also, if he had a pair of 3’s or 8’s or even a higher pair, his aggressive style would have led him to re-raise your bet instead of smooth calling.
You have to start believing that he is holding some kind of suited connectors of clubs and is hoping for a flush. You contemplate whether he may have A-8 and is holding what appears to be top pair, but rule that out because you know that his tight style wouldn’t allow him to continue playing that hand pre-flop following your raise.
The 9c on the turn has you concerned. A bet any less than 3/4 of the pot would be a sign of weakness, but you know that because of your opponent’s style and tendencies, there is a good possibility that he is holding a club flush. Neither of your Queens is a club so another club on the river would not help you. You check your Queens and your opponent bets almost the size of the pot. Because of the betting patterns and your knowledge of your opponent, you do what many amateurs would not do in this situation. You fold your top pair.
Your opponent, a good player as well as a nice guy, flips his cards to show you the Jc-10c, just as you suspected. You saved yourself a ton of money by successfully putting your rival on a range of possible hands based on knowing his playing style and paying attention to the betting patterns.
Keep in mind that against a loose-aggressive player, your thinking would be different regarding the range of hands such a player would play and you would probably play completely differently following the turn card. It all depends on your opponents’ playing styles, tendencies and position in the hand.
As the hand progresses, information as to what your opponent may be holding becomes clearer. Combining that with a keen knowledge of your table rivals, you can assign various hand ranges to your opponents and make the correct decisions on whether to call, raise or fold in given situations.
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