Range theory?

When you take the lead at a table, do you open or narrow your range?

I used to open it, and it was a mixed bag. Some tables, I could be more aggressive and bully more. At limper friendly tables, it was often possible to see cheap flops, so playing a wider range was rewarded occasionally when you hit with a hand you couldn’t normally play in a more active table.

Playing a see-the-flop-and-dump strategy isn’t very strong, and will lose you a lot of chips in the long run. But if you combine it with aggressively bullying weak players off of pots, it can seem viable. If you’re also betting aggressively with weak Kings and Queens when they hit, and getting the table to fold, that can also offset your losses from seeing a lot of cheap flops. With the big stack, you can sometimes manage this, depending on the strength of the table.

But after a while it seemed like this strategy wasn’t working for me anymore. When your opponents call the bully bluffs, you really start losing more than you gain by the technique. Bullying can still be profitable, but you can’t just do it all the time. But with the right position and right sized table it is useful.

More recently, I’ve taken to keeping my range the same after I take a chip lead, and have found that I keep my stack longer and get deeper into tournaments when I play tighter. I win fewer pots, but I hold onto those chips longer. Combined with better betting strategy, I’m finding I am more often taking larger pots.

Also, if you do open your range in certain situations, what hands do you open up to? Paint-suited for flush draws? 89+? 76+? Rag pocket pairs?

I would take into account the number of players at the table, their playing styles, their current stack sizes, their RP poker ranking and profile (how long have they been on the site, how many chips do they have?), my position at the table, any prior bets before my turn, and the size of any bets.

For example if there is a player who likes to shove on the flop, and another player who calls everything, I would let them have at it. On the other hand if I have seen that a certain player will readily fold in BB to a 2 BB bet, I might take that into account.

I rarely fold rag pairs except against huge raises that scream “overpair”, and I will often call a small continuation bet on the flop if they miss, because if they hit on the turn, that often leads to a very big pot win. Playing against possible overpairs is dangerous, because if the board pairs you could make a full house and be beaten by a better full house.

Well… I mean, yeah, definitely there are a lot of other factors to consider when determining your range. But what I meant was, all other factors being equal, if your stack is larger relative to the rest of the table, do you open up? I think when I do, sometimes it works out well (I can intimidate the rest of the table and bully them off of pots by making bets that I’m comfortable with but they can’t be wrong about) but sometimes I end up giving back a lot of those chips that I just won in a big hand by blowing another big hand. Easy come, easy go. But sometimes that’s alright, too, and (speculating here) perhaps I give the table the impression that because I’m a loose player, they should call me more, which sets them up for a more severe beating when I have a monster hand later.

On a few wins this week, though, I just continued to keep my range tight, and held onto those chips, and it seemed to work out for me well, maybe even better, since I wasn’t fluctuating as much, and it seemed like I just held onto my winnings without giving up much. When you’re up by a lot, and you’re only bleeding the blinds once an orbit, you can wait a long time for another strong hand to play. And sometimes you can play the blinds. And sometimes the rest of the table mucks and you get to keep the blinds, which is always super nice when you’re holding garbage.

I think depending on how frequently you’re getting good cards to play, and (well, all the other factors you listed), loosening up or tightening up can be a sound strategy, and I’m not sure which is better. Maybe you’re right, and either may be better depending on the other factors going on.

I do think that if you open up, you need to be more aggressive with your bet sizes as well, basing them less on the size of the pot, and more on the size of your opponent(s)'s stack(s)… make it hard for them to call when there’s already some chips in the middle, and you can take a lot of them.

No. If you have a wider range, you need to use smaller bet sizing. Otherwise you give your opponents the chance to exploit you by playing tighter ranges.

Let’s imagine you open up your range to 30% of your hands UTG, with a really large open size of 10BB, just to use an extreme example. Action folds to me in the big blind, so I don’t have to worry about players after me. I’m comfortable folding all but my premium hands - say, TT+ and AK - knowing that when I do get those hands, they’ll generally pay off well. I might drip away 1.5BB per orbit, but then I’ll pick up an average of 7BB when I call - or perhaps more if I chose to 3-bet and you feel the need to defend a wide range. Not to mention, you won’t only be facing me; players in other positions will have similar incentives, and in aggregate you’ll be putting too much in the pot than you stand to win.

While on the river, larger bet sizes man you can bluff more often, on earlier streets it’s the opposite. Small bets allow you to put pressure on other players with a wide range without necessarily overcommitting your own equity. That’s one of the reasons I counseled you in other threads to back away from large, pot-sized flop bets - it was getting you in trouble when other players called and your own range was to wide to support it. Similar logic applies to preflop play.

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I’ve tried smaller bets at the flop since you gave me that advice, with some mixed results, but mostly good.

The reason I was thinking a wider range should keep betting aggressively was to protect those weaker cards. If I’m playing bigger cards, I want someone to call me so I can take more chips from them. If I’m playing weaker cards, I want everyone to fold. So the strong bet will come in handy there. If you can strong bet everyone to fold, it doesn’t really matter what cards you have. But you know at some point someone’s going to have cards to call with, and that’s when you’re going to pay back what you took earlier.

Now, granted, if I do get a caller there, whoever is able to call my bet is likely going to have me beat, which means I either give it up on the Turn, or fire away on all streets and hope they fold. Knowing when someone is likely to continue or not is tricky, of course, but mostly it all depends on what they’re holding. If they’re 4-cards to hitting a flush or straight, they may call the turn and fold the river when they miss. If they’re on top pair, they may call all the way, and if they have two pair or trips, they’re almost always calling, especially if one of their pairs is the top or an over-pair.

But for sure, if I bet big on the flop, get called, and then check the Turn, suddenly scared that I’m beat, usually they sense this and go all-in. Of course, I can also exploit that by using the same betting pattern when I have a monster. So that’s not a bad way to set someone up, provided that you can be profitable enough with the pots you win from when they fold to sustain the occasional loss when you have to back down.

But it does seem like you can do nearly the same thing by betting half the pot, or somewhere between 50% and 75%, with less risk.

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When deciding how to size a bet, you always need to take into account the size of the opponent(s) stack relative to your own, and the strength of your hand. For example, if a pot-sized bet on the flop means that your opponent needs to bet half his stack to call, then chances are he is prepared to put in his whole stack. Now whether he has a made hand or a draw remains to be seen. Or if the opponent has a very large stack, and you flop a set, he will probably be more willing to call a larger bet with a marginal hand than an opponent who is grimly hanging on with a low middling stack.

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