Poker is a game that requires players to make calculated decisions based on their poker hands, their opponents’ actions, and the probability of certain outcomes. To be successful in poker, players need to understand the concept of balance and range protection.
These two concepts are crucial to mastering the game and achieving long-term success. In this article, we’ll dive deep into Texas Holdem and explore how you can use balance and range protection to improve your game and maximize your winnings. So grab your cards, sit at the table, and let’s get started!
What is Range Balancing?
Range balancing refers to continuously playing with strong and weak poker combinations. Essentially, it involves betting with a wide variety of hands. In poker, a range refers to the entire set of hands you or your opponent can have in a given situation, from a pair to a royal flush.
For instance, on a flop of three of hearts, three of clubs, and jack of hearts, the range of possible hands includes anything from a full house or three-of-a-kind. Balancing your range can keep your opponents guessing and increase your unpredictability. One effective way to balance your range is to play a straight, flush, or full house in the same way so that your opponents are unsure which hand you may have.
Balanced Versus Unbalanced Ranges
When playing poker, having a balanced range means that you don’t weigh your hands too differently from one another and similarly play a variety of hands. On the other hand, if you consistently play certain hands, such as re-raising a flush or straight, your range becomes unbalanced, and other players can easily predict what cards you might have and adjust their poker hand strategies accordingly.
Being mindful of your range is essential since playing with an unbalanced range puts you at a disadvantage. If your opponents can identify a pattern in how you play different hands, ending the game with a profit becomes challenging. In games like online Texas Holdem, which attracts players of all skill levels, differentiating yourself is a great way to ensure longevity.
To achieve this, avoid repeating your bets, and don’t hesitate to play aggressively, even with weak hands. Even if you lose, it may lead to a big win in later stages, as someone may think you are bluffing again.
Protecting your Ranges
Range protection in poker involves ensuring an even distribution of different holdings across your overall strategy and the various lines we take. If some lines do not contain enough value hands, you expose a hole in your game that your opponents can exploit.
For instance, if you open-raise in the small blind and the big blind calls and only c-bet all of your good poker hands, your checking range becomes vulnerable if you have no value hands left to use. Your adversary can place a bet using any two cards, knowing that you don’t have any strong hand to protect your position.
This can also happen in position if you tend to c-bet all your strong hands and don’t check. This can unprotect your range, and a skilled opponent can take a lead of the turn recklessly, knowing that your range is vulnerable. It’s slightly less problematic in the position since the turn card may improve some of your range, but if you have an unprotected checking range out of position, you may not even see a turn card most of the time.
Do You Often Need Strong Hands to Protect Your Ranges?
The idea of range protection is often misinterpreted by players who believe that simply having a range with strong hands is enough to prevent reckless bluffing from opponents. However, having a range that is too strong can also be considered unprotected.
A balanced range should have a mix of nutted and weaker Holdem hands. Those of medium strength are the only hands not essential for a balanced range. Nonetheless, if we choose to play these hands, we should also protect them by having some strong hands and some weaker hands in our range.
Playing With Balance Ranges
To achieve balance in poker, it’s essential to distribute air hands evenly across different lines of play. This is because, in poker, players tend to have a lot of air hands (hands that miss the flop) and few strong, made hands.
If a player uses too many air hands in one line of play, they create a weakness in their game because that line doesn’t have enough strong hands to protect the abundance of air hands. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain an equal distribution of air hands to ensure a balanced range.
Consider a scenario where you receive a 3-bet and then call it before making a call on a Js-10s-7d board. Later, the turn card is revealed to be a blank 3h, and your opponent checks to you. If the opponent misses their turn, c-bet. Statistical analysis suggests you could profit by betting 2 cards against most opponents. However, it is theoretically correct to avoid betting all your air hands on the turn and reserve some for the river to maintain an even distribution of your hand range.
Two issues arise when you use a strategy that involves betting all your air hands on the turn. Firstly, this makes you susceptible to checks/raises on the turn since you have a lot of air hands in your range. Secondly, if you bet all your air hands on the turn and check back mid-showdown hands, you won’t have good hands left to bluff on the river.
Essentially, your turn betting range becomes air heavy while your turn check-back range becomes mid-showdown heavy, creating an uneven distribution. It’s better to check back some air hands to balance your river betting range and avoid being vulnerable to turn check-raises. However, this doesn’t mean that a 100% turn betting strategy using air hands can’t be used in practice, as it can be an effective exploitative strategy in certain scenarios. Nonetheless, it’s an unbalanced strategy that a skilled opponent can exploit.
Achieving balance in poker is essential for long-term success. A balanced range ensures that your opponents cannot easily predict what cards you are holding, and it allows you to remain unpredictable and adaptable to different situations. Neglecting balance can lead to an exploitable game and ultimately result in losses. Therefore, distribute your hands evenly across different lines, protect your range, and avoid overusing certain types of hands.