Take advantage of capped hand ranges
With information such as the opponent’s set patterns, the board cards, etc., one tries to assign a range of hands to the opponent for the current situation. You deliberately do not put the opponent on a specific hand but on one or two categories of hands … eg. Monsters with whom he wants to play a big pot or medium-strong hands, with whom he wants to come cheap to the showdown and draws or other weak hands with which he rarely wins without a bluff …
On the turn or river one is often able to say with certainty in one hand that the opponent rarely or never has a monster hand or the nuts in the specific situation. With this statement, we can limit the strength of the opposing hand to the top. It is also called a “capped range”. Whenever you manage to draw such a boundary, you can represent your good hands with more successful value-beds and better hands when a bluff is needed.
Often there are two ways a bluff can go wrong. Either your opponent actually has a very strong hand, maybe even the one you yourself claim to hold with your bluff … or he sets you up for a bluff and calls with a weak hand or reblufft you for that reason. If you are able to limit your range upwards, you will never put him in the uncomfortable position of holding a stronger hand than the one you represent. The best he can do is estimate how often you bluff and call you down.
A simple example
Let’s start with a very simple example to clarify the topic. Say you’re playing $ 5 / $ 10 fullring. The player UTG opens with a raise to $ 40. He plays very tight and predictable and you know he would only bet with a big pair from this position, maybe tens or better or a strong ace. Because you have such a precise read and the stacks are very deep with $ 2,000 you call on the button with suited JT. The rest of the table folds.
The flop comes 982 rainbow and gives you an open-ended straightdraw. Your opponent bet $ 70 and you call. The turn is a 6 and your opponent bet $ 150. At this point, you can see a clear upper limit to his range based on his very tight preflop raising range. He can not hold a stronger hand than a pair, albeit a strong pair. You can certainly own a set, 2-pair or even a street. So you raise to $ 500 and your opponent calls.
The river is a 4. Your opponent checks and you go all in for something more than the current pot. Your opponent whines, plays with his chips, complains about your garbage hands and folds.
A slightly more complex example
In a 6-handed $ 5 / $ 10 game, the player opens the button with a $ 35 raise. The other players fold to you in BigBlind and you call with T9 in spades. The stacks are about $ 1,000. The flop comes 7c 5c 4d and misses you completely. You check, ready to fold, but your opponent also checks.
What can you say about this hand so far? Many players open a wide range of late position, so preflop you have little information. The only thing that struck him was that he had checked the flop afterwards.
It is not a flop where you often count on slow play. If your opponent flops 2pair or a set, he has enough reason to bet, simply because dangerous cards can come on the turn. From his perspective, such cards could improve your hand to a stronger hand. If such cards do not improve your hand, they might scare you off and keep you from paying him off with a second-best hand.
The well-coordinated board has many possibilities for you to have the second-best hand flown. Several hands from a bad 2pair to a single pair, a StraightDraw to OverCards or a FlushDraw would be willing to deposit into the pot on this flop. If your opponent flops a strong hand, he has a lot of incentive to bet. But because he checks, you can be pretty sure he does not have 2pair or better.
What could he have? Everything from total air (even that would usually beat you) to ace high with some showdown value, to a strong pair that would not fear a check-raise. After all, he will very rarely have a hand stronger than a pair, possibly with a draw.
The turn brings the ace of spades. You could bluff now, but even if you continue on the river, it will put a lot of pressure on the opponent. So you would not win any of his possible further bluff attempts. And many players would call down with a pair after checking the flop. Because your opponent makes a kind of pot control on the flop, it’s difficult to bluff conventionally.
If you check, your opponent will often bet. If he does not have anything, the ace on the turn is for him to represent. If he has hit the ace, he will probably bet for the same reason a strong hand would bet on the flop. Even with a weaker pair, he will feel safe in this hand and will not want to give another free pass, because you’ve already checked twice. If he does not hold A4, A5 or A7, a stronger hand than a pair is unlikely.
You check and your opponent bets $ 60 into a $ 75 pot. You can now make a big raise to represent a strong hand that has missed a check-raise on the flop and wants to make that turn now.
You make a pot-size raise to $ 255. This raise will often win the pot immediately, but suppose your opponent makes a stubborn call. Now it is even more likely than before that he does not have a strong hand. Given the coordinated board and the fact that you seem to like your cards, with a strong hand he would surely try to get the rest of the money into the pot on the turn.
So you can unpack a big bluff on many if not all river cards. Your opponent’s call on the flop represents either a skeptical pair or a pair with a draw. Another big bet on all blanks on the river should make a good profit.
Sometimes you end up against a ranked monster, but you also have more fold-equity against pairs that think you hit the draw yourself.
In this case, your opponent calls the turn raise and the river brings the king of the spades. You bet $ 450 into the $ 585 pot and he folds. With a direct bet on the turn you would probably have won a small pot. The check-raise on the turn and the river bluff have given you a much bigger pot. What’s important is that you got your opponent to deposit money into the pot, while you were sure he would not be able to defend that pot.
Your fold equity is so high here that you also have some showdown value, eg. with 4 3 should play the same way. Your pair might be enough, but often it will not, and you’re probably going to be playing on the river anyway. Turning a weak pair into a bluff is often more profitable than trying to catch enemy bluffs.
How do you defend yourself against such a game?
If you have an opponent who reads hands so well and has the balls for such moves, then it’s a good idea to look for another table. If you still decide to stay, you should know how to fight back.
The best strategy is simply to avoid such situations. If you have opponents that can read you well, then you better hide the strength of your hand. This requires unconventional moves such as a UTs raise with 98s on a full-ring table or back-check with a set on a coordinated flop. These are without question risky moves, but still better than giving the good player the opportunity to eliminate strong hands from your range.
Poker is an information war. Whenever you have more information about your opponent’s hand than he has about yours … this is an opportunity to win money. The only question is how well you use the information. Even players who can read well hands do not always get everything out of the information.
Learn to recognize when you can cap your opponent’s hand and how to use this information. Hopefully this will open up some very profitable situations for you. On the other hand, it also makes clear how important it is not to play too predictably.
So, I hope today was a bit something for you. I’m happy if you share the post with your friends. Good luck at the tables!