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what is a capped range in poker

What is a Capped Range? How to Take Advantage of (And Protect Your Own) Capped Ranges

You probably already know that a range is the totality of hands that a player can have in a situation.

You also probably know that focusing on ranges, not specific hands, is the professional way to approach poker.

But are you familiar with the concept of capped ranges?

Learning what a capped range is and how the presence of one should impact your strategy will give your win-rate a nice boost. That’s what we’ll cover today.

What is a capped range?

A capped range is a range that contains no (or very few) strong hands, such as overpairs, two-pairs, sets, straights, flushes, etc.

To illustrate this concept, let’s take a look at an example hand:

Online $1/$2. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $200.

Hero is in the BB with K 8
UTG folds. MP raises to $5. 3 folds. Hero calls.

Flop ($11.00): 9♠ 5 3♠
Hero checks. MP checks.

Preflop, the player in MP has a range that should resemble something like this:

un-capped range

Once he checks back though, you can eliminate most hands stronger than top pair since those would go for a value bet on the flop (assuming we are playing against a straight-forward player). This is what his range probably looks like once he checks back this flop:

capped range

The green and pink lines under each hand represent a 50% discount in the numbers of combinations of those hands.

I’ve discounted half the combos of the overcards and medium-strength pairs since he will bet with those hands at some frequency depending on his specific c-betting strategy.

Based on this range, we can say that the player in MP’s range is capped at one pair-type of hands.

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Why do capped ranges matter?

Capped ranges are important because they shape the optimal strategy.

When your opponent’s range is capped, you can bet whatever size most benefits your hand with impunity. Why? Because when a player’s range is capped, they can’t credibly represent a strong hand and thus can’t punish you with an aggressive raising strategy.

This means you can use small bet sizes with your medium strength hands that can’t comfortably bet larger, but benefit from the protection of betting. Or, you can choose to put an enormous amount of pressure on their capped range by using an overbet strategy.

Note: Whatever bet size you use, you must include some strong hands in your range to truly deny your opponent the ability to raise. Otherwise, they may still be able to profitably raise, especially against your small bet sizes.

Let’s take another look at our example hand:

Online $1/$2. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $200.

Hero is in the BB with K 8
UTG folds. MP raises to $5. 3 folds. Hero calls.

Flop ($11.00): 9♠ 5 3♠
Hero checks. MP checks.

Regardless of what the turn comes, your range will contain many combinations of strong hands while your opponent’s range will almost always be capped at one pair. This allows you to go for as much value as you want with all of the hands above his cap (his strongest hand).

Overbetting will often be the best size in these spots for a couple of reasons:

  • It gives you the chance to extract maximum value with your strong hands.
  • You can profitably bluff with more hands due to the bad pot odds that you are giving your opponent.

In order for this strategy to be effective, you must bluff with the appropriate amount of hands. If you don’t bluff often enough, this big-bet strategy is easy to counter because your opponent could simply fold all of his bluff-catchers.

If you do bluff often enough, your opponent will be put in a very tough spot. He will either:

  • Crumble under the pressure and over-fold (thus making your bluffs extremely +EV)
  • Buckle up and make the very high variance calls (thus giving your strong hands a large amount of value).

Either way, he’s pretty screwed.

You can also take advantage of his capped range by betting small with some medium strength hands in your range. If the turn is a 2, for example, you can bet 33% pot with a hand like A5 both for value and to deny equity. Again, you also must include some strong hands in this range for protection or risk being exploited by your opponent.

What to do when your own range is capped

When your range is capped, you just have to try to play your range as best you can. If you face pressure from an opponent who could be bluffing, you have to prepare for some variance and call down with the hands that make the most sense.

But there’s something else you can do to make your ranges less capped and less exploitable, and it might be the most valuable tip in this article. Ready? Here it is…

Whenever you cap your range with a check, you should also check with certain hands that will prevent your range from being as capped. The specific hands you should mix into the capped range depend on the board texture. Here are a couple examples:

  • On the dynamic 9♠ 5 3♠, you might mix in checks with AA some of the time. Additionally, you could check back some straight draws and flush draws so you aren’t capped when the turn completes those draws.
  • On the more static Q♠ 9♦ 7, you might check back 97 or AA (this is a great tactic versus players who probe aggressively on the turn).

Keep in mind this purposeful deception is only necessary against tough opponents who will attack your capped range. If your opponent is a weaker player who won’t attack your capped range, you are probably better off betting these hands.

Wrapping-up capped ranges

You should always be on the lookout for capped ranges, whether it’s yours or your opponents’. You will be able to generate much more EV once you understand this concept and start applying the correct strategies in order to exploit capped ranges.

That’s all for this article! If you learned something new or you brushed up on a forgotten knowledge that you had, show some love by leaving a comment down below!

Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!

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About the Author

Dan B.

Online grinder aspiring to reach the highest stakes and crush the toughest games.

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