Category Archives: HandRanges

Reading Hands, River

{Continued from Reading Hands, Turn}

[NN] “The river is the exciting conclusion to a four-act play”, Nate the Natural continued. “With a good read, you can pick off a bluff by a missed draw, like naming the murderer in a whodunit.”

[FF] “I don’t get killed that often, but they’re certainly always stealing my chips”, Figaro the Fish amended.

[NN] “Okay then, just a bit of larceny to discover… or commit. If you think you’re behind, can you try to steal the pot? If you’re ahead, how much value can you get from the final street of betting? If you’re in position or do you fear a check-raise? If you’re out of position, are you better off betting or hoping to pull off your own check-raise?”

[NN] “So, if a blank hits on a draw-heavy board after your opponent has check-called you the whole way, you’re not going to get paid off much. You have to hope the draw included a weak pair. In tournaments, you may not want to risk a small value bet if your opponent is a known check-raiser (unless of course you think he check-raise bluffs too often).”

[NN] “Likewise, if a money card hits on the river but your opponent still checks, there isn’t much point in betting.”

[NN] “The interesting case is when a draw comes in and your opponent leads out.”

[FF] “Easy fold.”

[NN] “Against most of the players here, probably. But what about against someone crafty like Elias the Eagle?”

[DD] “I try not to get into hands with him in the first place.”

[NN] “True, but you have top pair, and you never even had a chance to fold, since he never bet or raised. So here you are now with a board that shows K♥Q♥T♣4♦2♥. Elias bets half the pot. What are the odds he actually has the flush?”

[DD] “I have to fold or else he justifies his odds for chasing his draw.”

[NN] “The Birdman chases a lot of draws, because his implied odds are higher than ours are. When we didn’t bet him off on the turn, he called with pretty much 100% of his holdings, so he still has:

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

Count up the hands, and you’ll discover that he was on a straight draw more than three times as often as a flush draw. But by representing the flush, he more than doubled his ‘outs’, got us to fold, and stole our chips!”

[DD] “So, the only way to apprehend the criminal is to catch him in the act by calling his river bluff.”

[NN] “Right. Now suppose the board was dry instead: K♥7♣2♠4♦2♥, and your opponent is Roderick the Rock instead of Elias.”

[FF] “No draws there, so he has a real hand.”

[NN] “Yet he’s only been check-calling us.”

[DD] “He has top pair but doesn’t like his kicker.”

[FF] “Maybe a pocket pair lower than Kings?”

[NN] “It depends on who you are. If his opponent is Carlos the Crazy, Rod would have no problem calling with a pair of Tens. If it’s Mildred the Mouse, he’s folded all but his best Kings.”

[DD] “So, not only does he have a King, but it almost has to be King-Queen. Because he would have raised with Ace-King preflop.”

[NN] “Very good. So if we’re Mildred, and we actually hold pocket Sevens for a set, how much should we bet to extract the maximum value?”

[FF] “I’d probably pay off anything up to half a pot.”

[DD] “He’s tighter than you are. I don’t think he’s paying off much at all. I might try a quarter pot or even smaller.”

[NN] “I agree. That’s all you’re likely to get. He shouldn’t call anything, but we all hate to get bluffed, and we’re all curious to see what our opponents have.”

[DD] “Mildred isn’t ever bluffing here.”

[NN] “What if the opponent was Elias with an unknown hand instead of Mildred? If he bets a quarter pot, should Rod call? A half pot? Pot?”

[DD] “Roderick would probably call the first two but fold to a pot bet.”

[FF] “Unless Elias had been bullying Rod out of a bunch of pots recently.”

[DD] “Precisely when Elias is most likely to show up with the goods.”

[NN] “Maybe. But if you do a good job of putting him on a hand range, he won’t be able to fool you nearly as often as he does now.”

[DD] “Thanks, Nate. You could write a great book about reading hands.”

[FF] “I don’t know about palmistry, but you sure could write a good poker book.”

[NN] “Thanks, but Ed Miller already has. How To Read Hands At No-Limit Hold’em is expensive1 but worth the price. You can easily win that outlay back in a single cash game or tournament.”

Footnotes:

  1. Currently still selling for its original list price of $49.99 at Amazon. The book deserves a full review, but I’m not qualified to write it. Maybe in a couple years.
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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.
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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’1, 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…}

Footnotes:

  1. “Donk” being short for “donkey”, one of many terms for weak players.
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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…}

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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.
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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.
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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).
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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

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. December 24, 2018 update: Poker Sniper is no longer available. A good alternative is PokerCruncher, currently selling for $9.99.

{ The Hold ‘Em at Home blog is brought to you by THETA Poker Pro, the strongest, fastest, and most configurable Texas Hold ‘Em game for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV. }

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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.

{ The Hold ‘Em at Home blog is brought to you by THETA Poker Pro, the strongest, fastest, and most configurable Texas Hold ‘Em game for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV. }

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