Reading Hands, Turn

{Continued from the Flop, Part Three}

[NN] “The turn is the street of hope”, Nate the Natural asserted. “You hope you’re ahead in the hand. If not, you hope you can bluff your opponent out. But if all else fails, you still have hope that you’ll be able to hit one of your outs.”

[FF] “I’m usually hoping I won’t mess up the hand…”, Figaro the Fish added, “if I haven’t already.”

[DD] “Roderick’s usually hoping his opponent isn’t about to suck out on him”, Deb the Duchess noted.

[NN] “Which is why if you’re ahead, you need to figure out which cards you’re worried about and charge accordingly. Suppose we’re in position as before, on a wet board of K♥Q♥T♣, when the 4♦ hits, and our opponent checks again.

After he check-called the flop, we put him on:

	AA, JJ
	ATs+, K8s+, QTs+, Ah9h-Ah2h+, Jh9h+, Th9h
	AKo, KJo+, QJo-JTo

So he has a lot of draws in his range where he currently has less than top pair:

	JJ (8 outs for straight and 2 outs for set)
	JhTh (17 outs for flush or straight)
	AhTh-Ah2h, Th9h (9 outs for flush)
	KJo, QJo-JTo (8 outs for straight)

That’s half of his hands. Except for the J♥T♥, you can give your opponent the wrong odds to call with a half-pot or larger bet. Assuming of course you don’t pay off on the river if a scare card hits.

If you have a King yourself, your opponent is even more likely to be on a draw, so a bet here is basically required.”

[FF] “What if my he check-raises me?”

[NN] “That’s very unlikely around here, but if it happens, just fold and silently congratulate your opponent on a nice play.”

[DD] “I’ll have to try that with my next drawing hand!”

[NN] “On the other hand, if you have a King on the dry board of K♥7♣2♠ and the 4♦ hits, you need to know how often your opponent would have called your flop continuation bet with a weaker King or an underpair. The looser you’re perceived and the tighter he plays, the more reason you have to check behind to avoid the check-raise or check-call he was planning.

As the saying goes, ‘Big hands want to play big pots…’, and you have just top pair here, so keep the pot small. Your opponent most likely has at most five outs,1 so the free card isn’t much of an issue.”

{To be continued…}

Footnotes:

  1. An underpair has five outs to make a set or two pairs, a weaker King has four kicker outs, and an Ace has three outs for an overpair.

Cepheus Conquers Heads-Up Limit Hold ‘Em

[RR] “Headline writers are really starting to annoy me”, Roderick the Rock complained.

[SS] “Starting to?” questioned Stan the Stat.

[LL] “Instead of sharing useful facts in the headline, they’ll tease, ‘Find out which famous person did this bad thing'”, Leroy the Lion agreed.

[SS] “Or they’ll mislead you to get you to click because you’re thinking, ‘That can’t be true'”.

[RR] “Exactly. Bloomberg wins this week’s click-bait award with ‘Texas Hold’em Mastered by Computer With No Wrong Moves’.”1

[LL] “Wow. That’s pretty bad.”

[SS] “Yeah. If they’re talking about Cepheus,2 that omits some very important information. It was just Limit Hold ‘Em, and it was just heads up.”

[RR] “A combination that almost nobody ever plays anymore.”3

[SS] “And while Cepheus can beat any human in a long enough match, it plays a GTO (game theory optimal) strategy, so it won’t do as well against weaker players as a good pro would with an exploitative strategy.”

[LL] “I don’t doubt that computers will be able to play No Limit, Full Table Hold ‘Em at a pro level some day though.”

[SS] “And be better than the best pros not long after.”

[RR] “Still decades away I think, because you can’t just take Cepheus’s brute force approach and add processing power and memory. The search space is just too big.”

[SS] “Lots of money to be had though, so there’s no question that it’ll happen in our lifetimes.”

[RR] “Speaking of which, at least Bloomberg’s headline didn’t ask a question like Gizmodo’s did: ‘Can You Beat This Virtually Unbeatable Poker Algorithm?’

[LL] “That’s not too bad. They could have asked, ‘Is It Pointless to Play Poker Now?'”

[SS] “Betteridge’s law of headlines gives you the answer, as it usually does. If a headline asks a question, the answer is, ‘No.'”

Footnotes:

  1. For comparison, The Guardian went with Poker program Cepheus is unbeatable, claim scientists, which is click-bait-worthy for other reasons, while Motherboard was the almost-accurate This Robot Is the Best Limit Texas Hold’Em Player in the World.
  2. Cepheus, the poker program, was named for the constellation (home of largest known black hole), which in turn was named for mythological Greek Cepheus, King of Aethiopia, husband of Cassiopeia, and father of Andromeda.
  3. In the Cepheus blog, a January 8, 2015 article said, “At of the time of writing this article on a Saturday evening there are, on Pokerstars, the current market leader, thirty-five heads-up limit hold’em tables above the one dollar level where players are waiting for an opponent and one table at which two players are actually competing. Cepheus will undoubtedly prove a valuable sparring partner and research tool for casino players and enthusiasts looking to sharpen their skills, but the heyday of heads-up cash play has, unfortunately, already passed.” Unfortunate for the developers of Cepheus perhaps, but we humans play other poker variations because they’re more interesting and entertaining.

Related Links:

  • Cepheus Web site, where you can play against the computer (when it’s not down, like it is as of this writing).

Stan’s Lists – Top Ten Best-Selling Poker Books of 2014


{As Nate, Figaro, and Deb continue their discussion on hand reading, Stan introduces a new topic across in the room.}

[SS] “Did you guys see PokerBug’s list of the ten best-selling poker books on Amazon in 2014?” Stan the Stat effused.

[LL] “No. Are you happy to have another list or sad that PokerBug thought of it before you did?”

[SS] “Both, I suppose, but it was actually a guest post by Jason from YourHandSucks, which appears to be a blog for poker newbies.”

[LL] “That reminds me of the You Suck at Photoshop videos.”

[RR] “That guy is hilarious”, Roderick the Rock noted.

[SS] “Not as funny, and sadly, nowhere near as instructive either. But this list is good as it’s just a simple reporting of the facts; I’ve added my own comments:

Top Selling Poker Books on Amazon, 2014

# Author Book Year Comments
1 Sklansky, David The Theory of Poker 1999 (orig. 1987) This book is old enough that it spends much more time on poker variants other than Hold ‘Em. The concepts are universal though and have withstood the test of time.
2 Whitehead, Colson The Noble Hustle 2014 (paperback due 3/15) Grantland.com staked the author to play in the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event and chronicle his experience. Witty writing but don’t expect to learn much about poker.
3 Brunson, Doyle Super System: A Course in Poker Poker 1979 A classic but really should be supplanted by its 2004 sequel, Super System 2. Texas Dolly’s once very aggressive play is now almost standard.
4 Harrington, Dan
and
Robertie, Bill
Harrington on Hold’em; Volume I: Strategic Play1 2004 Groundbreaking at the time but very conservative now. The other two volumes, The Endgame and The Workbook, are also worthy of this list, but you might consider his 2014 Harrington on Modern Tournament Poker instead.
5 Tendler, Jared
and
Carter, Barry
The Mental Game of Poker 2011 A good read if you have a tendency to go on tilt, curse your bad luck, or lose focus at the table. There’s also a 2013 sequel, but maybe poker’s not the right game for you if you need it.
6 Moorman, Chris
and
Jacobs, Byron
Moorman’s Book of Poker 2014 One of the most successful online pros analyzes 80 hand recaps as he “coaches” his co-author. Good if you like examples more than theory.
7 Caro, Mike Caro’s Book of Poker Tells2 2003 (orig. 1984) The original book on poker tells. Could use a new edition with clearer photos (and more Texas Hold ‘Em examples) and perhaps newer tells, as all but the weakest players now know to avoid exhibiting the ones in the book.
8 Harlan, Mark Texas Hold’em for Dummies 2006 An extensive beginner’s guide to Texas Hold ‘Em, published during the peak of the poker boom.
9 Harroch, Richard
and
Krieger, Lou
Poker for Dummies 2000 Like the Hold ‘Em book, but also covering Seven Card Stud, Omaha, and other popular poker variations so lacking in depth since it isn’t much longer.
10 Harrington, Dan
and
Robertie, Bill
Harrington on Cash Games 2008 Covers deep stack No Limit Hold ‘Em cash games but is actually just half a two-book series, with Volume II. Same super-tight style as his tournament series.”

[LL] “Wow, that’s a lot of old books.”

[RR] “It’s hard to write a great poker book.”

[LL] “And even harder for the masses to realize that you have.”

[SS] “Not unlike writing a great blog like PokerBug’s.”3

Footnotes:

  1. Harrington on Hold’em was reviewed on June 14, 2014.
  2. Caro’s Book of Poker Tells was reviewed on September 19, 2014.
  3. If only PokerBug would post more often. I’m still waiting for the second part of his REDi technique that he summarized three years ago and has shown many examples of (like much of his Donkey Test analysis, starting at question 15). He started to detail the steps with R is for Reading. And Reduction but hasn’t followed up.

Related Links:

Reading Hands, Flop: Part Three

{Continued from Part Two}

[NN] “Alternatively,” Nate the Natural continued, “the non-preflop raiser could bet first. Derogatorily called the ‘donk bet’2, the bet basically says that the player hit the flop (or, at higher levels, that they think the raiser didn’t, but we’ll ignore that possibility for now). For some players that means top pair or better. On a dry board, the strongest hands would usually check to the raiser, but on a wet board, those hands are in the betting range.

Using the same 20% preflop range as before, what hands would provoke a donk bet on that dry board (K♥7♣2♠)? Mostly just top pair, as the sets might slowplay, and the weaker pairs might hope to see a free turn,

	K8s+
	AKo, KJo+

which is under a sixth of the preflop range. Looser players might bet other pairs, nearly tripling the number of hands.

On the wet board (K♥Q♥T♣), the same players who might check-raise a good hand or a draw against a frequent c-bettor, could choose to lead out against a more timid opponent:

	KK-TT
	KQs, KTs, QJs-QTs, AhQh+, AhTh-Ah2h, Kh8h+, Qh9h+, Jh9h+, Th9h
	AJo, KJo+, QJo-JTo

Again, whether the draws, which are two-thirds of these hands, are included or not is very player- and stack-dependent.

The size of the donk bet might also be telling. A small bet can represent either a blocking bet with a weak hand or a value bet with a monster. The numbers say that the former are much more common than the latter. On the wet board an overbet usually means top pair with a good kicker, ‘to price out the draws’.”

[NN] “Lastly, in the case where there was no preflop raise, which is common at lower levels, you can’t narrow anybody’s range much preflop. This is one good reason why better players prefer to raise or fold preflop most of the time. The postflop bet, especially out of position, then simply means that the player liked the flop. In position, some players will often or always take a stab if checked to, while others will just take the free card (for some players, only with draws).”

[FF] “Okay,” Figaro the Fish commented at last, “now my head is spinning like Regan’s in The Exorcist. I know you’re trying to rid me of my donkey demons, but the cure is killing me.”

[DD] “But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, Deb the Duchess assured.

{To be continued…}

Reading Hands, Flop: Part Two

{Continued from Part One}

[NN] “Even if we know the range that the c-bettor is betting with, that doesn’t mean opponents will call or raise with broad enough ranges. Among weaker and tighter players, particularly out of position, a c-bet will induce a check-fold most of the time.

Looking at the same dry flop of K♥7♣2♠, if the button c-bets, a player who has already checked might call with top pair with a bad kicker, second or third pair, or a slowplayed set, but not much else. If the board had been lower, a loose player might call with just two overcards, but I don’t see that play much around here.

Suppose you had put a middle position player on this 20% range for their preflop limp-call:

	22+
	A2s+, K8s+, Q9s+, J9s+, T9s
	ATo+, KJo+, QJo-JTo

The calling hands would be these:

	22+
	AKs, A7s, A2s, K8s+
	AKo, KJo+

which is half of his hands.”

[NN] “On a wet board like K♥Q♥T♣, many players will check, hoping to see the turn for free but otherwise intending to check-call with just about any draw. Top pair and better hands might also check-call, along with some weaker pairs that have other potential, leaving this range:

	AA, JJ
	ATs+, K8s+, QJs-QTs, Ah9h-Ah2h+, Jh9h+, Th9h
	AKo, KJo+, QJo-JTo

That’s just about 60% of the preflop hands. Sets will probably bet, and straights will bet unless they have the flush redraw.”

[NN] “It doesn’t make much sense to check-raise on a dry board with a strong hand (although I suppose you should some of the time to cover your bluffs), but on that wet board it’s a good play against a frequent c-bettor. Not including bluffs, the check-raise of the c-bet might be made from two pairs, a set, better hands that don’t want to give up a free card, and semibluffing drawing hands that want to take the pot down now:

	KK-TT
	KQs, KTs, QJs-QTs, AhQh+, AhTh-Ah2h, Kh8h+, Qh9h+, Jh9h+, Th9h
	AJo, KJo+, QJo-JTo

Since two-thirds of that range are drawing hands, it really pays to know whether your opponent would check-raise with a draw.”

{To be continued…}

Reading Hands, Flop: Part One

[FF] “Wow, thanks Nate”, Figaro the Fish offered. That really would have helped me a lot if I could remember it all.”

[DD] “Or even ten percent of it”, Deb the Duchess amended.

[FF] “So now that you have everyone on a hand range, how do you narrow down the ranges as the hand goes on?”

[NN] “Well, let’s take this one street at a time”, Nate the Natural recommended. “On the flop, remember who raised preflop as that’s the player who’s most likely to bet even if the flop didn’t help him.”

[NN] “A postflop bet from the preflop raiser is much weaker than a bet from anyone else. Some players will continuation bet almost 100% of the time when checked to in position, especially against a single opponent. Some weaker players only bet if they improved or already had a pocket pair (fit or fold). Some players bet their draws frequently, while others will prefer to take a free card. Some players will bet to ‘protect’ their good hands against possible straight and flush draws. Some players will slowplay the strongest hands. All depending on the number, style, and stack sizes of their opponents, of course.”

[NN] “Stronger players will take the board texture into account while weaker ones may not.”

[DD] “That all sounds useful in general, and I understand that you need to notice people’s tendencies over lots of hands, but how do you apply it in practice?”

[NN] “I could go on for hours as the possibilities are nearly limitless, so I’ll just give a few common examples.”

[NN] “On a dry1 flop like K♥7♣2♠, two players check to the button, who raised 2.5xBB preflop and got called by two limpers. When he bets half the pot here, it’s very likely to be a c-bet. If you put him on a preflop range of 30% like:

	AA-22
	A2s+, K9s+, Q8s+, J8s+, T8s+, 98s-54s
	A8o+, K9o+, Q9o+, J9o+, T9o-98o

then an frequent c-bettor might continue with all but his best (KK, 77, 22) and worst (T9s, T8s, 98s, 65s, 54s, T9o, and 98o) hands, leaving his range as:

	AA, QQ-88, 66-33
	A2s+, K9s+, Q8s+, J8s+, 87s-76s
	A8o+, K9o+, Q9o+, J9o+

Just over half of those hands are a pair or better, so you can see why a in-position c-bet is so hard to defend even if you know this player c-bets here seven-eighths of the time!”

[NN] “On a more exciting, wet2 flop like K♥Q♥T♣, the c-bettor will be tighter, as a lot of draws will be calling, and there’s significant potential that someone checked intending to raise with a good hand. A pot-sized bet here represents top pair or better, hoping to price out the draws:

	AA-KK, 77, 22
	K9s+
	K9o+

but you’ll have to learn which players will make this bet with their own draws and which would prefer to take the free card (of course, depending on how many chips they have left behind). The above range is pretty small (just over one-sixth of his preflop range), while there are many more drawing hands. On the other hand, the sets that would be likely to slowplay on a dry board can’t afford that luxury here. Only the made straights (AJs, AJo, J9s, and J9o) might slowplay comfortably, although some players would bet without the flush redraw. Two-pair hands (KQs, KQo, KTs, KTo, QTs, QTo) could go either way.”

[NN] “An out-of-position check by the preflop raiser on this same flop doesn’t narrow down their hand much at all, as it could be strong, hoping to check-raise or slowplay; medium, not wanting to build a big pot out of position; or weak, simply checking with no strength and no desire to c-bet.”

{To be continued…}

Footnotes:

  1. A “dry” flop has at most one high card, no likely straight draws, and no flush draw. A paired board is dry if the third card isn’t close by, and the rare three-of-a-kind flop is always dry.
  2. A “wet” flop has at least two high cards or connected medium-high cards or two cards of the same suit. Straight draws or flush draws are possible.
  3. “Donk” being short for “donkey”, one of many terms for weak players.

Reading Hands, Preflop: Part Two

[FF] “I think I understand the idea behind hand ranges now,” Figaro the Fish began, “but I’m pretty clueless as to what ranges to put people on. It just seems so complicated!”

[NN] “It is complicated, so don’t feel bad”, Nate the Natural consoled.

[DD] “Maybe you could give us some more common pre-flop examples?” Deb the Duchess inquired.

[NN] “Sure. Especially among casual players like we have here, you often get an early limper that encourages the rest of the table to limp in because we love to see flops.”

[NN] “The early position limper has the tightest range of the limp chain, anywhere from 20% of hands to 40% of hands, not including the biggest hands like Aces or Kings which don’t want to be playing against a lot of opponents. This is what it might look like for 30%:

	QQ-22
	A2s+, K5s+, Q7s+, J8s+, 98s-54s
	A8o+, K9o+, Q9o+, J9o+, T9o

Subsequent limpers might be playing 40% of hands:

	QQ-22
	A2s+, K2s+, Q7s+, J8s+, 98s-54s
	A2o+, K9o+, Q9o+, J9o+, T9o-65o

But there’s always a guy who loves suited cards and limps along with almost 55% of hands:

	QQ-22
	XXs
	A2o+, K9o+, Q9o+, J9o+, T9o-54o

And don’t forget that the big blind gets to play for free, so he could have any two cards with up to about two limpers in front, and all but Aces or Kings with more (that’s 99%).”

[NN] “If a middle position player is known to raise a loose 30%, say,

	AA-22
	A2s+, K9s+, Q8s+, J8s+, T8s+, 98s-54s
	A8o+, K9o+, Q9o+, J9o+, T9o, 98o

then a player in late position could call with the same 30% with the positional advantage.”

[NN] “Another common occurrence is when a short-stacked player moves all-in pre-flop. You can use a formula1 to estimate how weak the player’s range is, but most people here just use their gut instinct. Depending on the player’s patience, the shoving range tends to widen with each hand that gets folded. In a rebuy tournament, the range is significantly wider early and tightens up tremendously after the rebuy period ends.”

[LL] “My range widens considerably once the side game has started”, Leroy the Lion admitted. “I don’t want to bust out and have to wait around doing nothing.”

[NN] “The button vs. small blind vs. big blind (BSB) battle is a special scenario that happens more with better players that it does here, but it’s still important. Some players will raise 100% of the time if folded to on the button. Other players, especially weaker ones, don’t value position that highly and are likely to play the same cards from the button as they will from the cutoff or hijack.”

[NN] “A limp from the button here is interesting, since it tends to deny a stronger hand. One player might raise 40% of hands,

	AA-22
	A2s+, K9s+, Q9s+, J9s+, T9s-54s
	A2o+, K2o+, Q9o+, J9o+, T9o

limp 40%,

	K8s-K2s, Q8s-Q2s, J8s-J2s, T8s-T2s, 97s-92s, 86s-82s, 75s-73s, 64s-62s, 53s-52s, 43s
	Q8o-Q2o, J8o-J3o, T8o-T5o, 95o+, 85o+, 75o+, 65o, 54o

and fold the remaining 20%:

	72s, 42s-32s
	J2o, T4o-T2o, 94o-92o, 84o-82o, 74o-72o, 64o-62o, 53o-52o, 43o-42o, 32o

while a raise-or-fold player could raise 50%:

	AA-22
	A2s+, K2s+, Q2s+, J6s+, T6s+, 96s+, 86s+, 76s, 65s
	A2o+, K5o+, Q7o+, J7o+, T7o+, 98o

and fold the rest.”

[NN] “If the blinds are known to be tight, the stealing range from the button could be 70% or more.

	AA-22
	A2s+, K2s+, Q2s+, J2s+, T2s+, 93s+, 84s+, 74s, 63s, 53s+, 43s
	A2o+, K2o+, Q3o+, J5o+, T6o+, 96o+, 86o+, 76o"

[NN] “The big blind might then try to resteal with just the top 20% of hands:

	66+
	A4s+, K8s+, Q9s+, J9s+, T9s
	A9o+, KTo+, QTo+, JTo"

[LL] “A wider range would probably be better.”

[DD] “We’re only talking about what people do, not what they should do.”

[NN] “One last example… stealing from the small blind in a blind vs. blind battle is tough because the player is out of position. A player might raise 30% of the time (like the loose middle position raise) against a tight big blind:

	AA-22
	A2s+, K9s+, Q8s+, J8s+, T8s+, 98s-54s
	A8o+, K9o+, Q9o+, J9o+, T9o, 98o"

Footnotes:

  1. For example, the SAGE (Sit And Go Endgame) formula can be used to determine whether to move all in or fold.

Reading Hands, Preflop: Part One

[FF] “I’m really trying, but I just can’t figure out what cards people are holding. There’s just too much to pay attention to, and I seem to notice all the wrong things. I have a general idea that Roderick the Rock plays much tighter than Carlos the Crazy, but the only thing I really noticed was that the pizza stain on Rod’s sweatshirt was exactly the same shape and size as the mole on Carlos’s neck.”

[NN] “But a different color, I hope”, Nate the Natural suggested.

[LL] “Paying attention has never been your strong point”, Leroy the Lion suggested. “I know you pay up promptly when you lose bets. You pay compliments to pay your respect when you pay off after someone value bets you out of your chips. You even pay at the pump, but we don’t expect you to pay attention. At least not to the right things.”

[NN] “Pay Leroy no mind, Figaro. You know that if you pay heed to our advice it will pay dividends, especially if you pay your dues and work on your game.”

[DD] “At least you’re looking at your opponents”, Deb the Duchess commented. “I think all you need is a system — some straightforward step-by-step recipe you can follow.”

[FF] “That would be great; after twelve years, I can make mac and cheese now without even looking at the side of the box.”

[DD] “Maybe Nate or Leroy can explain help you here.”

[NN] “Sure. Let’s start before the flop. Where’s the button?”

[FF] “Leroy is twirling it between his fingers. The tournament hasn’t started yet.”

[NN] “No, I mean, you always have to know where the button is. The dealer usually has it here, but not when Elias the Eagle or someone else is permanent dealer, like in a casino. Hence the plastic button that says ‘DEALER’ on it.”

[NN] “Assuming you’re already familiar with how each player plays, before each hand you want to make sure you know:1

  1. The location of the button, so you can know what position each player is in.
  2. The number of players at the table. Expect tighter play with more and looser player with fewer.
  3. The size of the blinds and antes relative to each player’s stack (or M) and the average stack. Rough estimates will do.
  4. In tournaments, when and how much the next blind increase is. Is the rebuy period ending then? How far away is the bubble?
  5. The size of each player’s chip stack relative to each other, especially the smallest stacks who may move all-in preflop or soon thereafter.
  6. Any specific player traits that are relevant to the current situation. E.g., the cutoff likes to steal the blinds or the button doesn’t loosen his range much despite his position.
  7. Other random factors… Is someone on tilt because of a bad beat? Did someone just leave or join the table (and what effect will that have on table dynamics)? In our particular case, did a side game just start up so the short stack might suddenly loosen up his requirements for shoving? Did the sporting event on TV just end so some people will now be focusing better?

With each bet, call, or raise, take into account:2

  1. The position of the player: earlier implies a stronger range, while later means weaker (possibly as weak as any two cards on the button).
  2. The tightness of the player: tighter means stronger; looser means weaker.
  3. The aggressiveness of the player: passive means stronger; aggressive means weaker.
  4. The size of the bet relative to the pot: larger usually means stronger; smaller means weaker.
  5. The size of the bet relative to the stack size: larger usually means stronger; smaller means weaker. An all-in is usually weaker (but beware players who may shove strong because they hope you think that).

With their first action in a hand, place each player on an initial hand range. Looser players will have wider hand ranges, while tighter players will have narrower ones. Adjust for how much each player likes being suited, connected, and paired. Keep in mind stack sizes, as speculative hands need more chips behind to be playable.

If the betting loops around preflop (and on subsequent streets), narrow down each player’s range.

For example, a tight early position raise at a full table might represent the top 10% of hands: 77+, A9s+, KTs+, QTs+, AJo+, KQo,3

while a loose open raise from the hijack might be 50% of all hands: 22+, A2s+, K2s+, Q2s+, J5s+, T6s+, 96s+, 86s+, 76s, 65s, A2o+, K5o+, Q7o+, J7o+, T7o+, 98o.

Some players will only three-bet with Aces or Kings, while others will do so with a pair or any two big cards in position. That reraise will fold out the weaker part of the loose raiser’s range, so a call may be a top 20% hand (66+, A2s+, K8s+, Q9s+, J9s+, A9o+, KJo+, QTo+, JTo), while a rereraise represents the goods (QQ+, AKs, and maybe AKo).”

{From across the room…}

[RR] “Shuffle up and deal!”

[NN] “Sorry, Fig, looks like we’ll have to continue this some other time… Are you following so far?”

[FF] “I’m picturing hand ranges as arrows pointing up and to the left. Sometimes they’re short and sometimes they’re big, and they shrink with each extra bet.”

[NN] “They’re also slightly lopsided, but it sounds like you get the point.”

Footnotes:

  1. Dan Harrington’s Harrington on Hold ‘em Volume I: Strategic Play (page 18) lists 11 Elements of a Hand, the first six of which are:
    1. What’s the status of the tournament?
    2. How many players are at your table?
    3. Who are the players at your table?
    4. How does your stack compare to the blinds and antes?
    5. How big are the other stacks at your table?
    6. Where do you sit in relation to the aggressive and passive players?
  2. The last five of Harrington’s Elements of a Hand are:
    1. What bets have been made in front of you?
    2. How many active players are left after you act?
    3. What are the pot odds?
    4. What is your position at the table after the flop?
    5. What are your cards?
  3. Hand ranges are from Equilab with minor adjustments (e.g., most players treat a pair of Threes and a pair of Twos identically preflop).

More Hand Range Software

[LL] “I found another poker calculator that’s for Windows but runs great using Wine on Macs: Equilab“, Leroy the Lion reported back.

[NN] “Is it better than Poker Stove?” Nate the Natural asked.

[LL] “It has more features. The most useful are the dozens of canned hand ranges (e.g., Under the Gun Open Raise), plus you can create your own custom hand ranges and save them for reuse.”

[NN] “That’s pretty neat.”

[LL] “And while Poker Stove and Equilab both let you copy the results as text, Equilab can also generate BB code.”

[FF] “What’s BB code?”

[LL] “It’s an HTML-like language1 that’s used for formatting posts on some web message boards.”

[NN] “‘BB’ for ‘bulletin board’, I think.”

[LL] “Oh, and I quickly discovered why both of the apps have Monte Carlo simulations.”

[FF] “I thought you said they were plenty fast”, Figaro the Fish commented.

[LL] “They were… until I ran a complicated scenario with two hand ranges against each other. The number of combinations blows up exponentially! A complete analysis still took under a minute, but if you just want a quick and dirty answer, then the faster estimate worked well enough, getting within one tenth of a percent in only two seconds.”

[NN] “And you definitely need the simulation if you’re running an app on your cell phone.”

[LL] “What app are you using on your iPhone?”

[NN] “I bought Poker Cruncher, which also has Android, and Mac versions.”

[LL] “How much did it cost?”

[NN] “I paid $4.99 for the Advanced version, although it’s currently $5.99.2 Don’t bother with the Basic version.”

[FF] “Why not?”

[NN] “It doesn’t support hand ranges. The Advanced version seems to be pretty similar to Equilab feature-wise, with built-in and savable hand ranges. But it also lets you save hand scenarios.”

[LL] “Equilab may let you do that on a PC or a good emulator, but it doesn’t work in Wine (it just pops up an empty error dialog box). I also crashed Wine when I tried to cut and paste using CONTROL-X/CONTROL-V, so I’d use Parallels if I ever wanted to run a lot of calculations.”

[NN] “What do you use away from your Mac?”

[LL] “I usually run PokerSniper, which handles just about everything I need. It’s limited to four players, but that’s enough most of the time. It supports hand ranges but only if you type them in (including percentage ranges). I got the iPhone app when it was on sale for $0.99, but it’s currently $2.99.”3

[LL] “But when I need more power, I use Poker Odds Pro, which is currently $3.99 in the App Store. It supports custom, savable hand ranges like Equilab, although the interface for specifying them is clunky (the percentage doesn’t update as you move the slider, and you need to repeatedly tap the ‘Add’ button when you’re building a range by hand).”

Footnotes:

  1. So much like HTML that there are numerous simple translators like this BB Code to HTML converter and this PHP conversion code, which is under a thousand characters.
  2. All prices are as of November 28, 2014 and are not only subject to change but quite likely to.
  3. There’s also an iPad version of PokerCruncher currently selling for $6.99.

Visualizing Hand Ranges

[FF] “I keep hearing people talking about hand ranges, but how do you know what a hand range looks like?” Figaro the Fish inquired.

[NN] “There are 169 unique starting hands: 13 pairs, 78 suited non-pairs, and 78 offsuit non-pairs”, Nate the Natural began to explain. “The standard way to display these is a 13-by-13 grid with the pairs going down the diagonal from Ace-Ace in the top left to Deuce-Deuce in the bottom right, suited cards above and to the right, and offsuit cards below and to the left.

A good example, which is also the simplest place to play around with some percentages is the Poker Hand Range web site.

{Nate shows Figaro the site on his phone.}

[NN] “Drag the slider around or type in a specific percentage to see what various ranges look like.

[FF] “Hey, that’s pretty cool.”

[NN] “You can also tap on any specific starting hand. Or even click and drag to quickly select multiple hands. This does NOT update the percentage, however, so you can’t use this site to figure out what percentage a certain set of hands comprises.”

[NN] “For that and much more, you should get the free Poker Stove application.”1

[FF] “I’ve heard of that, but I thought that was just a PC app. I use a Mac.”

[NN] “There are more than a few Windows emulators you can use, like Parallels and Boot Camp.”

[LL] “I have Parallels,” Leroy the Lion chimed in, “but I almost never run it because it’s a huge resource hog. Fortunately, there’s a lightweight way to run many Windows apps under Mac OS. It’s called Wine2 (which originally stood for “WINdows Emulator” but was backronymed into “Wine Is Not an Emulator”). You can find instructions for downloading and running Poker Stove in Wine. Just make sure you get the latest version of the Poker Stove installer. I first got one file that was 732 Kb, but after installation it said it had expired. I then found another version that was 1.4 Mb, and that worked.”

[NN] “So there you go. The primary purpose of Poker Stove is to calculate equity by comparing two or more hands, but it lets you specify a player’s cards by Hand Range by tapping on the player’s button then the Preflop tab.”

[NN] “The Hand Range feature is pretty good. If you select any subset of hands, it will tell you what percentage that corresponds to.”

[FF] “That’s great. I can visualize a hand range this way much more easily than I could memorize a list of hands.”

Hand Ranges in 10% Increments (edited Poker Stove output)

Hand Ranges in 10% Increments

Footnotes:

  1. The Poker Stove application has a slightly different idea of the order of hands than the Poker Hand Range web site, but they’re pretty close. Poker Stove uses preflop all-in equity against three random hands, while the Poker Hand Range web site lets you choose from one to three opponents using unknown criteria.
  2. Wine also runs on Linux.