Want to play your ranges like a pro after the flop?
In this article, I am going to cover 5 questions that professional poker players ask themselves every time they make a decision.
To assist with this process, I’ll be using a handy new tool called PokerRanger 2, which has a number of powerful features for analyzing poker hands (as you’re about to see).
Note: If you want to try PokerRanger 2 for free, start your 21-day free trial here. I highly recommend giving it a spin.
Watch a video version of this article from Upswing coach Gary Blackwood, or keep reading if you prefer to learn that way.
Let’s jump in!
Range advantage basically means which player’s range has more equity in the pot.
In general, the preflop raiser has a range advantage on most flops due to their higher concentration of premium hands, but this isn’t the case for every flop.
In order to check which flops are better for which player, you can use a tool like PokerRanger 2 to calculate the equities of both players’ ranges in any given hand.
Let’s take a look at two different example flops.
Note: Want to know how to play every hand in every common preflop situation? Get instant access to extensive preflop charts and lessons (for cash games, heads-up and tournaments) when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Lock your seat now!
Flop #1: A♦ J♥ 6♣
Let’s compare the ranges on this high-card heavy board first:
On this A-J-6 flop, the button has 56% equity compared to 44% for the big blind. That may not seem like that much more equity, but a 12 point spread between the two ranges is actually quite significant. You’d be hard-pressed to find many boards on which the button has more than 56%.
Having this large of an equity advantage greatly impacts the optimal strategy for each player. Namely:
- The big blind cannot profitably lead.
- The button can c-bet at a very high frequency.
With that in mind, let’s look at a board on which the equities run much closer.
Flop #2: 7♦ 5♥ 3♠
Same ranges as before. Here’s how they match up on this much lower board:
On this 7-5-3 flop, we can see that the big blind has a teeny tiny equity advantage — 50.01% to 49.99%. The ranges are in a virtual dead heat, with less than a tenth of a percentage point spread.
There are two major ways that this impacts the strategy for both players:
- The big blind can (in theory) start to lead a little bit.
- The button is supposed to check back, rather than c-bet, a lot more often.
Important note: This is about as good as it gets for the big blind caller. There are few situations in which the big blind has more than 50% equity on the flop against a preflop raiser.
Main takeaway from question #1: The bigger your range advantage, the more you can profitably c-bet on the flop as the in position preflop raiser.
The player with the nut advantage has a higher proportion of strong hands compared to her opponent. What qualifies as a “strong hand” depends on the board texture, but it’s usually two-pair or better.
Let’s dive into PokerRanger 2 again to visualize the concept of nut advantage.
Same ranges and situation as last time: the button raises to 2.25bb and the big blind calls. The first flop falls…
Flop #1: A♦ A♥ K♠
You may already know who has more super-strong hands on this board, but let’s visualize it with PokerRanger 2’s board hit evaluation tool:
This shows that 18.36% of the button’s range is classified as very strong, compared to just 12.38% for the big blind. The button also has an advantage in hands classified as strong — 31.4% to 24.83%. (Take a look at the Made Hands section of the visual to see a more specific breakdown.)
The button also has a massive equity advantage here, coming in at 56.62% (not pictured). PokerRanger also shows us that both players have similar proportions of middling hands and draws.
There are a couple of reasons for this massive spread:
- The big blind can never have quads or a full house because they would have 3-bet preflop with AA and AK.
- The button has a lot more Ace-x hands in their range, especially strong ones (like AQ/AJ) that the big blind may have 3-bet preflop.
Now, let’s look at a board where the button doesn’t have as significant of an advantage.
Flop #2: 6♥ 4♠ 2♣
It’s a much fairer fight on this flop. Take a look:
This time the big blind has a higher proportion of very strong hands with 2.66% to the button’s 1.7%. When you add in the strong hands, however, it becomes extremely close — 17.46% for the big blind to 17.41% for the button.
Unpictured is the equity calculation, which shows 50.23% for the button and 49.77% for the big blind.
Here’s how this but advantage breakdown impacts the strategy for each player:
- The button should use smaller c-bet sizes on this board when checked to.
- The big blind can check-raise more frequently (and perhaps lead a bit as well).
Main takeaway from question #2: The bigger your nut advantage, the larger you should bet as the in position preflop raiser. If you’re the out of position preflop caller, you get to do more check-raising as your nut advantage increases.
This is probably one of the first strategic concepts you learned about poker, so I’ll make this section short.
Your position relative to your opponent will have a major impact on your strategy. Being in position offers two big advantages:
- The in position player usually has the option to check back and realize his equity for free.
- You have more information as the in position player, which is key in a game of incomplete information like poker.
If you’re out of position, on the other hand, you are basically at the mercy of your in position opponent.
Broadly speaking, the player who is out of position (even as the preflop raiser) should play a more defensive strategy. There are, however, many exceptions to this rule, but they are beyond the scope of this article.
Further reading: Print Money with Your Flop C-Bets In and Out of Position.
Let’s play a little game.
Imagine your opponent open-shoves on the flop for 97 big blinds (bb) into a pot of 6bb and you hold the bottom set. There is no straight or flush possible.
You would probably be quite happy to call, right?
Now, suppose you’re playing a deep stack game and hit the bottom set on the flop again (still no straight or flush possible). You’re feeling pretty great until your opponent shoves 397bb into the 6bb pot.
I assume you wouldn’t be quite as happy with your hand as in the previous scenario.
The reason behind your reduced happiness is the concept of stack-to-pot ratio (SPR).
When your opponent risks 16 times the pot in the first scenario, your super-strong set still feels like the nuts. But when he blasts 397bb into a pot of just 6bb (66 times the pot), your bottom set shrivels up.
In short, SPR affects the hand strength threshold at which stacking off becomes acceptable. The higher the SPR, the stronger of a hand you need to justify stacking off by the end of the hand. The lower the SPR, the weaker the hand required to stack off.
Main takeaway for question #4: In general, the lower the SPR, the more aggressive you want to play, and vice-versa. This is not true in all cases, of course, but is solid general advice.
Further Reading: 3 Hand Histories That Highlight the Importance of Stack-to-Pot Ratio.
Multiway pots require a very different approach compared to heads-up ones.
When more ranges are involved, there is a higher probability that one of the players has a super-strong hand. Because of this, your value range has to shrink considerably when facing off against two or more players, which means your bluffing range would also shrink accordingly.
They both shrink to such an extent that when you add another negative factor, such as being out of position, it becomes better to simply check with your whole range. Put simply, you have to play very defensively in multiway pots, particularly out of position.
Note that this is not the case when playing in position. Even against two or three players, you should still bet some hands when you have the advantage of position. Just not as many as you would in a heads-up pot.
Main takeaway for question #5: Play more defensively in multiway pots compared to heads-up pots, especially when out of position.
In conclusion, we have a few positive factors (for playing aggressively) such as range advantage, nut advantage, low SPR, playing a heads-up pot, and being in position. And a few negative factors such as range disadvantage, nut disadvantage, high SPR, playing a multiway pot, and being out of position.
If you want to play around with PokerRanger 2 yourself, don’t forget to start your 21-day free trial here.
That’s all for this article! I hope you enjoyed it and that you learned something new!
If you have any questions or feedback please let me know in the comment section down below.
Here’s what I recommend reading next: How to Play Pocket Kings Like a Pro in Cash Games (Even When an Ace Flops).
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
Dan signing out.
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