Familiarizing Yourself with Poker Range Chart

Dennis  «Dennis_Stets» 
31 May 2024
31 May 2024

Poker is a game of assumptions and probabilities. Every hand is impossible without determining the potential strength of your opponent's cards. That's why reading hands and knowing poker charts is one of the most important skills that a player has to improve throughout his poker career. 

What’s the Message?

The main problem for most beginners is that they try to guess the specific poker card combination of their opponent. It’s almost an impossible task. There are very few situations that allow you to accurately determine your opponent's hand.

Of course, if the opponent bets on the flop with an ace, he may have the top pair. However, not everything is that clear. In a poker game it’s necessary to operate such a concept as a spectrum of hands and accordingly build your tactics not against a particular hand, but against the whole range.

Poker Range Chart Explained

A certain set of possible starting hands of a player is called a range. It is also called a spectrum.

For example, if a player has top pair on board K83, his preflop range chart will look like this: K2, K4, K5, K6, K7, K9, KT, KJ, KQ, AK. 

In other words, he will have almost all kings in his range. If a player has a set on a Q6T board, he will have QQ, 66 and TT in his range. Another case: if he has a full house on a T88 board, his calling range will only include TT and T8.

Range in poker is all of the playable hands that your opponent has at any given time. 

A successful poker player must be able to correctly assess poker pre flop charts, and operate it in different game situations.

A specially designed system allows you to record the spectrums of your opponents' hands in a certain way. This is necessary for easier understanding of information. In accordance with it, each combo is recorded in the form of certain letters and numbers, where the face value of the highest card is indicated first.

If necessary to specify the suit of the combination. Further to this designation is added the letter "s" ("suited") in case of single-suit cards and "o" ("offsuited") in case of multi-suit cards. Accordingly, specific suits may be indicated separately.

The "+" sign is used to easily and quickly record a specific range, such as King-Jack and above. We end up with KJ+, this range includes KJ and KQ. If the term "higher" refers to pocket pairs, then 55+ refers to the range of poker hands from 55 to AA. 

When noticing some limited range of pocket pairs, it goes in the form of "77 - 33". It means the range of pairs 33, 44, 55, 66, 77.

How to Determine Poker Charts

The opponent's hand range in poker game can have 1,326 combos (52x51/2). Of these, pocket pairs make up 5.88% of the total range, or 1 pair per 221 hands. The other variants of starting hands can be calculated in the same way. These calculations are the basis for determining your opponent's range.

There are a number of tables for determining the range of hands in poker. A range table is also available in a specialized poker software like PokerStove.

In addition, it’s very convenient to determine the opponent's hand range with the help of such a poker statistics indicator as VPIP, which shows how many starting hands the opponent bets with. For example, an indicator equal to 10% corresponds to a range of 66+, AQ+, A2s+, KQs, QJs. 

It’s simple to determine the opponent's spectrum using special software. For example, FlopZilla, HM2-3, PT4 and others.

Ways to Compose

Originally, in the early days of poker, there were no established starting hand charts. Each player made decisions based on their understanding of the game as well as their personal experience. 

As poker became more professional, various aspects of poker game were studied more closely to identify the most advantageous strategies and techniques. So let’s look at the poker online's recommended preflop ranges closer.

Solver Charts

With the presence of poker solvers (computer simulation software), the process of mathematically modeling a profitable game became way faster. All this has given rise to the appearance of starting poker ranges chart based on solver solutions. 

Solver charts are matrices of ready-made solutions, proven by thousands or even millions of simulated hands, which computer programmes play out based on the concepts of GTO strategy (Game Theory Optimal). 

These charts can provide useful information for professionals and inspire new thoughts and solutions. However, this chart is not suitable for improving the game from low and medium limits. The reason is that the strategy against which the solver calculates the optimal game chart is catastrophically different from the real conditions of the game at the tables. 

Practice Charts

Another way to compile starting hand charts in poker is to analyse large databases of hands played by real players. It's no secret that computer logic differs significantly from human logic. This means that blindly copying the solutions and techniques proposed by the solver will not always be optimal when playing with real opponents — online or live poker.

In turn, by studying large amounts of hands, it’s possible to identify certain trends that are characteristic of most real people in different game situations. This is the basis for exploits — profitable solutions based on identifying and exploiting the weaknesses of real opponents. 

As for common preflop chart, the study of real databases allows you to determine the list of starting hands. Knowing this type of information can have a positive impact on future play.

The main advantage of such approach is that it takes into account: 

  1. The actual strategies common among players at a given limit; 
  2. The average level of the player himself, who plays hands from the chart (taking into account that he will not be able to play them optimally and sometimes will make mistakes);
  3. Even a certain percentage of tilt is taken into account, which will affect the quality of played hands; 
  4. Even if the RNG in poker rooms is rigged (in any way), even this will be taken into account in the real analysis of the practical game, not software calculations of the game. 

Examples of Poker Ranges Chart

For convenience, the poker ranges can be written in abbreviated form. For example, a range with all pocket pairs included looks like this:

22, 33, 44, 55, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99, TT, JJ, QQ, KK, AA.

But in abbreviated form it’s even more compact:

22-AA, or 22+.

Poker statistics programmes or notes will help players to determine the range of the opponent's hands. Also, if the poker room does not support such programmes or you do not have enough data on your opponent, you can be guided by your own observations of your opponent's playing style. 

Knowing the peculiarities of your opponent's game, you can narrow down his hand ranges. It will allow you to read his hole cards more accurately and make the right move.

Suppose that Hero, who is in the button position, is dealt Ac, 19h and he raises after all opponents in early positions have passed. The player on the BB defends the blinds and calls the bet. The cards that appear on the flop are As, 5c, 3s. Opponent checks, Hero makes a standard counterbet, considering that he hit the top pair of Aces. Opponent responds with a call.

Let's assume that we know from the stats on the opponent that on the flop, when he has a double-sided straight draw or flush draw, he often plays a check-raise. He also likes to slow play strong hands on the flop, but mostly bets on the turn and river. 

Based on this data, we can assume that his hand ranges include all pocket pairs below aces, as well as an ace with a card of value below J. The point is that with AJ+ he would have raised preflop rather than just call. His poker ranges may also include stronger hands on the flop, i.e. pairs that formed sets with 5 or 3. In addition, the possibility of two pairs cannot be excluded.

As a result, the opponent's starting hand ranges are recorded as follows: AT-A2, 88-22, K5s, Q3s. On the turn opens Jd, which has no effect on Hero's hand strength or on his opponent's. BB checks, to which Hero also checks to try and make the river.

After 9c appears on the board, the opponent checks again. This behaviour indicates that his hand ranges no longer include cards that give him two pair or three of a kind. Otherwise, he would have bet to complete with Hero, as his stats indicate. 

So the Hero in this situation decides to bet two-thirds of the pot, to which he receives a call. The opponent has Ad and 2d in hand, which confirms our suggestions.

Cash Vs. MTT Poker Hand Range Chart

There are many factors that influence the differences between cash and MTT starting hand charts. First of all, it is the rake in cash games (it’s absent in tournaments). The presence of rake narrows opening range in cash, in many situations makes it unfavourable to call in free positions, etc. Also in cash we have a way deeper stacks and also they are more static over the distance. 

Rake is the commission a poker room takes for each hand played. In MTTs, starting hand charts are most importantly influenced by the value of the chips, which influence on many aspects:

  • Tournament stage.
  • Bubble factor.
  • Stack matching.
  • Profit margin.
  • Getting to the ITM zone, etc.

In general, compiling starting hand charts in MTTs is a more complicated process. Why? Because when creating them, it’s necessary to take into account more factors affecting the position and prospects of a player in a particular tournament situation.

Range Thinking

Range thinking is an essential skill for a professional player. Operating with poker ranges, we will make assumptions about our opponent's possible hands. All depending on the action and statistics happening at the current table. 

Thus, we will be able to choose the most optimal lines of play for our hands. For example:

  1. Find folds in situations when things at the table are not going well;
  2. To bet on equity when our hand is presumably stronger than the opponent's range and we can count on calls from worse hands.

When you learn how to correctly compose and label hand spectrum, you will find it much easier to think in terms of ranges and calculate the probability of any ranges your opponent has. 

In addition, you will begin to understand the language of poker pros and be able to track their possible ideas during the game.

Final Thoughts

In any case, it is important for us to have an idea of what hands our opponent may have. In most situations we will make decisions based on the actions of our opponent and our own experience.

Being able to correctly assess the strength of an opponent's hand gives a player a huge advantage in the construction of each particular hand. Many poker strategies are built with this knowledge. And a successful player should know the technique of determining the spectrum of hands no worse than the rules of the card game or poker math.

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