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Exploiting Capped Ranges in Poker

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This concept usually becomes a serious factor on the turn and river

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A capped range is when the typical range that the player will show up with in a particular spot has an upper limit as to the strongest hands it contains.

This concept is useful because if our opponent has a capped range, and we do not, then we can apply more aggression than usual. If we have a much stronger range and know that our opponent recognises it then they are at a serious disadvantage with their hands tied somewhat.

This concept usually becomes a serious factor on the turn and river. By this stage in the hand we can apply logic to all the previous actions and assess what each player’s likely range is and what are the strongest hands possible. 

With a range advantage, we are then able to value bet more effectively and bluff more frequently. In fact, we are able to now lean towards optimised bet sizes because our opponent won’t be able to come up with an effective raising strategy. This may be small bet sizes with weak to medium strength hands and large sizes with our strong hands.

If nearly all the monsters possible are such a tiny percentage of our opponent’s range, they just can’t credibly tell that story.


How and Why

Even a relatively unskilled opponent isn’t going to wilt to our aggression right away, but they are going to have a tough time holding only medium strength combos. If we never bluff then it’s easy for them, they simply fold knowing they are beat so often. However, once we start bluffing with an increased frequency they must work out how to play back at us to avoid getting run over.

Call too frequently and we own them with our strong range; fold too frequently and we own them with our bluffs. They must defend with a balanced frequency which is extremely difficult to do due to the high number of possible situations. 

Understanding how capped ranges work make us a much tougher opponent to play against.


What if We Are Capped?

It is now clear that if we give our opponents serious headaches when they have a capped range then we ourselves must face the same prospect and know how to defend correctly.

We should begin by accepting that this doesn’t matter against bad players who don’t yet understand hand ranges, let alone what a capped range is. However if our opponent is a great hand reader then we will end up in serious trouble unless we have a decent plan.

One strategy to consider is to make sure your range take board coverage into account. For example, opening a small number of suited connectors from early position ensures that we can credibly represent a strong hands on all board textures.

Another strategy is to not go flat out for value with a strong hand that isn’t the nuts. Something like bottom two pair on a coordinated board is definitely a hand where we can see our value bet raised followed by more aggression.

We should always be thinking when making bets with a capped range what our reaction will be if we get raised.

Cautious play, while not something a player generally wants to do, is the safest way forward against a good player who understands range advantage.


Extra Profit

While some opponents who understand when they are capped will shy away and not play back at us, there are the others who just can’t face getting bluffed. Many regs all the way up to mid-stakes still make this error. 

If we can read our opponent’s range well enough to know that while there are not many hands that can call a large bet on the river, there are also not that many that beat us anyway. This allows us to bet big for value, even when it is thin to begin with. Some opponents while not understanding what the game theory optimal (GTO) solution is, will understand that they have to call some hands at the top of their range to avoid being pushed around. Often we will know that they rarely have better than one pair and can treat our top pair top kicker like a monster. 

This advice comes with a warning that we must be able to correctly assess what the hand ranges are for any player in the hand at any time.

It takes a lot of hard work and practice, but the benefits are clear for all to see.


Putting it All Together

Poker is a game of incomplete information. The more information we have the better quality decisions we are able to make and the better player we will become. This translates into more profit. 

Everything ultimately comes down to hand reading and assessing ranges. Almost impossible to do perfectly, but this also means that there is more scope for hard work and improvement. Let’s face it, most players while claiming to work hard are not even scratching the surface with what’s possible. 

It’s also true that while many players do indeed learn how to hand read, they don’t take full advantage of the situation and mercilessly punish their opponents. It’s not enough to value bet our way to success in 2019, we must learn exactly when our opponent is weak and why

Some readers who have been scared to pull the trigger in the past can now use this information to embark on a new adventure in the world of bluffing. It sounds ridiculous, but there are a lot of players like this out there.

Rather than randomly choosing when to fire with a weak holding, now use whatever information is known about villain’s capped range and seize the opportunity.

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Author

Mark Patrickson

Mark Patrickson is a professional cash game player grinding stakes up to 100nl 6 Max NL Hold'em13 years experience of poker, across MTT SnG and cash, FL PL NL.Currently living in South East Asia and trying to make it back to mid-stakes before the end of 2019.

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