Poker is an intensely competitive game. With real money on the line, every player tries to get every advantage they can find. Poker strategy is much deeper and more complex than some may think. There are many things to consider, from doing proper math to reading your opponents to making sure your opponents cannot read you. This poker guide will cover a vital technique that ensures your playstyle is unpredictable, so your opponents cannot read you: Range Balancing. It will cover everything you need to know, from how to balance your range to why you should learn this technique.
What is Range Balancing?
As you may know, a range is a group of poker hands a player is likely to have. Ranges are helpful for understanding which hands your opponent usually plays and adjusting your playstyle accordingly. Balancing your range means playing an equal amount of strong hands and bluffs and playing in the same style regardless of your hand’s true strength. That is essential to playing poker against good opponents since you want to make it harder for them to read and exploit your habits. For example, if you only played aggressively with premium hands, your range would be unbalanced. It would then be easy for your opponents to bluff you and fold whenever you play aggressively since they understand your range well.
Benefits of a balanced range
Balancing your range is one of the most crucial techniques to learn when moving up in stakes. At higher stakes, your opponents will likely use analysis tools like poker trackers and heads-up displays, meaning they can quickly figure out your playstyle and adapt. They also use ranges to understand which cards you could have, becoming more accurate with each action you take. To counteract this, you will want to balance your range. Proper range balancing makes your opponent unsure what particular hands you could have since your range contains equal amounts of bluffs and strong hands. That allows you to land more bluffs and get more value from your strong hands.
Here is a scenario that perfectly shows why balancing your range is so important. Let’s say you hit the flop with a solid potential draw. You hold a ten and a jack, while the board is a king, a nine, and an eight. You have an open-ended straight draw. You might think that with a drawing hand like this, it would be a good, unexpected play to check-raise, and you aren’t wrong. However, this surprise element will quickly disappear if you always check-raise with a drawing hand like this. Good players can catch on and re-raise you with strong pocket pairs, putting you in a very tight situation. That is why you must analyze the short-term play and your long-term strategy to avoid being predictable.
How to balance your range
You can balance your range through two methods. The first is by playing many hands in the same way, so your opponents cannot easily guess your hand through your actions. The second is by playing the same kind of hand in different ways. Choosing which hands to play is easy, but the hard part of balancing your range is understanding how your opponents see you or your table image. You want to know what they think of you to adjust your range accordingly. One of the best ways to do this is by using poker tracking software, as your opponents are likely using it too. Look at your own statistics and interpret them as if you were analyzing an opponent. Then, if something stands out, try expanding the number of hands you use with that particular play. Good range balancing takes time and experience since it requires the same skills as reading ranges.
When not to balance your range
With all this in mind, you might be surprised that there are times when having a balanced range is not always the correct decision. That is because range balancing is only an important part of how to play poker against experienced players. If you play with less experienced players, you will often spot bad habits and repeated mistakes. Since they are unlikely to be thinking about their own strategy and much less yours, unbalancing your range may be a better idea. You want to change your range and include hands that are effective against your opponent. If you notice you are up against very tight players, unbalancing your range to have more bluffs can be effective. If your opponents are reluctant to fold and instead call a lot, include more value bets in your range.
Where to practice your poker skills
We hope this article taught you how to balance the ranges of your poker hands. As mentioned before, range reading comes with practice, and there is no better place to practice than GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room. Online poker on GGPoker is a great way to practice since they give all users free access to the all-important poker tracking software. This software is incredible and will help you improve by breaking down your playstyle to find potential weaknesses that you can balance your range around. It also does this for your opponents, allowing you to spot common habits. Other benefits to online poker include multi-tabling, which is the ability to play many games simultaneously. This lets you get more experience in less time.