Poker: There are benefits to targeting an opponent’s range

I have been working on getting out of my comfort zone and targeting my opponents’ specific ranges. Getting way out on a limb will leave you broke if your assumptions about your opponents’ ranges and tendencies are wrong. On the other hand, if you are right, you will frequently find yourself with a large stack of chips.

Early in Day 1 of a $5,000-buy-in tournament, a loose, aggressive player with 9,000 in chips raised to 800 from second position. I picked up As Qh in middle position and three-bet to 1,800 out of my 30,000 stack with the intention of getting all in if the player in second position went all in.

While A-Q normally isn’t good enough to go all in against opponents who raise from early position, I knew my opponent was wild, making an all-in move perfectly acceptable with my 22 big blinds. To my surprise, a player in the cutoff seat with 20,000 chips cold-called my three-bet.

Most players cold-call when they think their hands are too good to fold but not quite good enough to four-bet. This is usually a range containing hands such as J-J, 10-10, 9-9, A-K and A-Q. Assigning your opponent a range is important because it will help you formulate a plan for future betting rounds. That said, you must be capable of adjusting your opponent’s range based on his actions after the flop if you’re unsure about his preflop range.

The initial raiser folded, even though he was getting excellent odds to call. The flop came Ks 8d 8h.

While this flop obviously wasn’t good for my hand, it was good for my range. And based on the range I assigned my opponent, it was a pretty bad flop for him, because unless he held A-K, he had an underpair to the king on board. Knowing this, I bet 2,000 into a pot of 5,450, fully expecting to get called by his entire range except for A-Q.

You may be wondering why I would make a bet expecting to be called when I had the worst hand. My plan was to bet again on the turn, forcing my opponent off his entire range besides A-K (which may not even be in his flop-calling range because he might have raised the flop with it).

My opponent quickly called. The turn was the 4c. I bet 5,000, a little over half the size of the 9,450 pot.

If my opponent called this bet, he would have only 11,200 left in his stack. This would set me up to have a wonderful river-shoving stack. However, given my assumptions about my opponent, I wasn’t going to go all in on the river. I just wanted it to appear to my opponent that I was going to push the river every time.

Betting 5,000 put my opponent in a terrible spot with his underpairs, because in his eyes, I was willing to go all. Few opponents would be willing to put their entire stack in with a hand such as J-J in this situation.

My opponent thought for a while but eventually folded, giving me a nice pot.

Whenever you can pinpoint your opponent’s range and you are fairly certain your opponent will fold almost his entire range to multiple streets of aggression, don’t be scared to get out of line and try to steal the pot.

(Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and coach with more than $6 million in live tournament earnings. He is also the author of numerous best-selling poker books, including his recent ebook, “The Main Event With Jonathan Little.” For more information on Jonathan, check out JonathanLittlePoker.com, and follow him on Twitter: @JonathanLittle.)

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