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Figure Out Their Range and Then Do Something About It

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Dec 01, 2013

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While most advanced players know how to put their opponents on a range of hands, it seems like very few of them actually get out of line and take advantage of their range assessment abilities. I recently played a hand in the $3,500 Borgata World Poker Tour event where I was fairly certain I knew both of my opponents’ ranges. The only problem was that one, if not both of my opponents had me in bad shape.

To start this hand, I had 340,000 at 600-1,200 (200 ante). I was crushing the table and running hot. The average chip stack at this point was around 90,000. I imagine I had a fairly loose image although in reality, I was simply getting a good run of cards. A loose, passive player with 170,000 limped from second position. He was limping with his entire range, both with premium and trashy hands. He would occasionally fold his limps to preflop aggression. Knowing this, when I woke up ASpade Suit 3Club Suit on the button, I decided to make it 3,500. I expected him to either fold preflop or call preflop then play in a fairly straightforward manner postflop. To my surprise, a tight, aggressive middle aged man with 150,000 called in the small blind (SB). The initial limper also called.

The flop came AClub Suit KHeart Suit 2Diamond Suit. My opponents checked to me. At this point, you must realize that it would be relatively difficult to get much value from my hand. At the same time, if I checked behind on the flop and someone bet the turn and the river, I would be in a nasty spot because my hand would be fairly face up in a large pot. Because of this, I decided to bet 6,000 into the 13,500 pot, hoping to either pick up the pot or get called by a worse hand. Notice if I bet something like 10,000, my opponents would likely only continue when I am crushed. By betting 6,000, I allow my opponents to continue with some worse hands. When you have a weak value hand, it is important to make bets that allow your opponents to stay in when they are behind.

The player in the SB raised to 12,000 and the player in second position thought for a while before calling. At this point, I thought the SB had a strong hand, probably A-J or better. I was not sure if he was raising with A-J to “find out where he is at,” or if he was raising with a premium hand like A-2 to try to get the money in. All I knew was that he had something he thought was strong. Given what I knew about the player in second position, I thought his range was at best an ace and most likely a hand like K-Q. Notice there are already three aces accounted for, one in my hand, one on the board, and one that is probably in the SB’s hand, making it fairly unlikely that he also has an ace.
Knowing I am crushed by one opponent and probably in mediocre shape against the other, what should I do? While this may seem like an easy fold because I am behind, I think it is an excellent spot to raise. I thought the small blind would view second position’s call as strong, although to me, it was clearly weak. I thought the player in second position would certainly fold if I reraised, unless he was somehow trapping with a premium hand such as 2-2. In the end, I decided to reraise to 36,000. Notice this sizing gives me an excellent price on my bluff while forcing both of my opponents to risk a significant amount of chips in order to continue in the hand.

The player in the SB thought forever before folding, flashing an ace in the process. The player in second position also thought for a while. As he was thinking, I was trying to decide if I was going to call if he went all-in. While it may sound insane to play a 300 big blind pot with top pair/bottom kicker, given he knew an ace was in the muck, I thought he might think I could only call a push with a premium ace or better. He eventually decided to fold and told me he almost pushed with a king. I had pretty much decided I was going to call if he pushed, so I suppose my thought process was at least somewhat reasonable.

I think most players simply throw their A-3 in the muck when facing the flop raise simply because they think they are beat. While it is nice to always have the best hand, you will find it quite difficult to win, especially at the medium and high levels, if you only win the pots that belong to you, even if you win slightly more money with your big hands than your opponents do. When getting way out of line, always think about your opponents’ ranges, how they view your range, and how they will react if you apply extreme pressure. You will find that most of the time, unless your opponent has a premium holding or is a world-class hand reader, he will simply get out of the way and give you the pot. The next time you are playing, try to find spots where your opponent simply cannot continue when facing a raise. This will usually be when you think they have a strong, but not amazing hand, such as an overpair or top pair with a good kicker, on a scary, draw heavy board, such as 10Spade Suit 9Diamond Suit 7Spade Suit or 8Club Suit 7Club Suit 4Diamond Suit 10Club Suit. As long as you know your opponent is capable of folding, these plays will show a huge amount of profit. However, you must be careful. If your opponent is a calling station, these plays will quickly turn your bankroll into a pile of ash.

Jonathan Little, 2-time World Poker Tour champion has won more than $6 million in tournaments since 2006. He is sponsored by UltimatePoker.com, 3bet.com, Instapoker and BlueSharkOptics and teaches poker at FloatTheTurn.com and www.JonathanLittleSecrets.com. Follow him on Twitter @ JonathanLittle.