If you’ve been around the modern poker games, you’ve probably heard the term “range” in the context of a poker hand or seen a poker range chart. But for those learning how to play poker, what does “poker range” really mean, and how do you use it when you’re learning how to play poker? In the following few paragraphs, we break down precisely what a range is, how to use it in-game, and how to read a poker range chart.

Man playing Texas Hold 'em poker at Casino, he is holding two cards and was betting within his poker range

What is a Poker Range?

A poker range is a collection of hands played by either you or your opponent in the same way. Back in the day, people used to try and put their opponents on certain hands: “When he raised preflop, I thought he had AK,” or “When she bet the flop, I knew she had AA.” This thinking is flawed because when you raise preflop or bet on the flop, you’re not doing that with just one hand combination; you’re doing it with a range of hands.

For example, you’re UTG, and you raise to 3bb in a cash game. You’re going to be doing this with AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, 88, 77, AKo, AQo, AKs, AQs, AJs, ATs, KQs, QJs, and JTs (plus or minus a few hands depending on your playing style). So when you raise to 3bb, all these hands make up your “range.” You will have a range for every action you take, whether you’re fully aware of it or not. When there are many hand combinations, it can be hard to keep track of exactly what hands are in your range–this is where range charts come in handy.

A poker range chart is a visual representation of these ranges. There are 169 hand combinations in Texas Hold’em, and they can fit nicely on a 13×13 board, with suited hands in the top right, offsuit hands in the bottom left, and pocket pairs running through the top left to bottom right diagonal. When looking at poker ranges, you can highlight each hand you think your opponent will have in their range to visualize it better. 

Poker Range Chart

How to Use Poker Ranges

Now that we know what a poker range is, how do we use it in-game? The way we use poker ranges is by using them to hand read. Hand reading is the ability to figure out what hands our opponent likely has based on the betting action. We do this by estimating the ranges our opponents start with and comparing them to their betting patterns to see what hands from our range our opponent is representing. For example, if our opponent 3bet preflop, bet the flop, turn and river on an Ad9c6s4s2d board, they represent hands like AA, AK, AQ, and AJ for value and could have hands like KQ, QJ, and 87 as bluffs.

It’s vital that we keep our opponent’s range consistent as we go through the hand. A common trap people fall into is to suddenly assume a player can have a specific hand in their range on the turn when they had already discounted it preflop or on the flop. Let’s look at an example:

Your opponent raises UTG at a nine-handed table, and you call with 3d4d in the big blind. You think your opponent is a solid player, so you give him a range of 77+, AQo+, AJs+, JTs+. The flop comes 3s4s5d. You check, your opponent bets, you raise, and your opponent shoves. You might be worried that your opponent has a straight with either 76 or A2, a better two pair with 53 or 54, or a set with 33, 44, or 55, but you shouldn’t be. Why? Because those hands weren’t in our opponent’s estimated preflop range, so they won’t be in their post-flop range!

When using poker ranges, start with your opponent’s estimated preflop range; as your opponent gives you more information with their actions, you can remove more and more hands until you have a clearer view of their range.

How To Calculate Poker Ranges

The hardest part about using poker ranges is accurately estimating what ranges your opponents are playing. We’ll never truly get inside the minds of our opponents and understand how they think, but we can use the information to create a close estimate of the hands they’ll play. Here’s what you should consider when building a range for your opponent:

Who Your Opponent Is

Is your opponent an 80-year-old man with a coffee and a newspaper or an 18-year-old kid with a hoodie and sunglasses? While everyone is equal at the poker table, a player’s appearance, age, and demeanor can tell you how they’re likely to play. A rule of thumb is that the older the player, the tighter they are, as it plays on the stereotype that older people are risk-averse.

What a player wears can give you an indication of how they play as well. For example, if they’re at the casino in jeans and a hoodie like they’ve just rolled out of bed, they’re likely a regular player–people who frequent the casino often don’t usually dress up for it. However, if your opponent is wearing a cocktail dress or a business suit, they’re likely inexperienced at playing in a casino.

No matter who they are or what they look like, the information you’re trying to get is how loose or tight this player will play compared to standard ranges.

What Position They’re In Preflop

Once you’ve figured out what kind of opponent you’re playing against, look at their position. Are they UTG, are they in the LJ, are they on the BTN? A player’s position will drastically change their range composition (as long as they’re a competent player). If they’re raising from one of the early positions, their range will likely be tighter; if they’re rising from one of the late positions, their range will likely be wider.

It’s important to combine all your information to create an overall picture of your opponent. Therefore it’s crucial to use the inferences you’ve made from whom your opponent is when considering their preflop range based on their position. For example, if you see that your opponent is an 85-year-old who looks like they’re about to fall asleep, it’s likely that, even on the button, their range isn’t going to be very wide, so you need to adjust your ranges accordingly.

What Actions They Take

Your opponent’s actions during a hand, both preflop and postflop, should influence the range you put them on. Starting with preflop, did your opponent raise, or did they limp? Did they call a raise, or did the three-bet? Your opponent will have different ranges depending on the actions they take. For example, most players won’t call a raise with AA, they’ll three-bet, so when thinking of your opponent’s range, you can rule that hand out.

This same principle applies to postflop; your opponent’s actions will change the hands they have in their range. Let’s look at a scenario where you raise from the button with Ah8h, and your opponent calls in the big blind. The flop comes 8c6s2h, your opponent checks, you bet the size of your pot, and your opponent calls. A Qs comes on the turn. Should you be worried about it? Well, let’s look at the actions our opponent has taken. They would call preflop with some Qx hands, but they also called a pot-sized bet on an 8c6s2h flop. Their range is far more likely to be made up of pairs and straight draws, meaning the Qs is actually a safe card for us, despite it being an overcard.

Past Information

It’s important to keep a close watch on your opponents to see if they’re doing anything unexpected based on the profile you’ve created for them. If you’ve made the assumption that the player is tight, but you see a showdown where they raised UTG with T5s–pay attention to that! Your initial assumption was likely wrong, so you need to start adjusting it.

Too many players assume someone plays a certain way and never update their image of a player even when presented with information to the contrary. Instead, you should always gather information while you’re at the poker table and use it to better understand your opponents’ tendencies.

While we will never get a wholly accurate picture of our opponent’s range, by considering these four points you can get a decent understanding of the hands your opponent is likely to play.

Preflop Range

A preflop range chart is a visual representation of a range of hands that a player will play from a specific preflop position. It’s a way of visualizing a range and better understanding it, rather than reading the poker notation and trying to memorize it that way. The more you familiarize yourself with these charts, the easier it becomes to picture them when playing

Let’s have a look at some you might be familiar with, starting with a nine-handed UTG raising range:

Poker Range Chart for UTG

As you can see, there aren’t many hands being played; all the focus is around the top left-hand side of the chart. When looking at these charts, remember that the best hands are in the top left and the worst hands are in the bottom right. Let’s look at a wider range to see how they compare, this time a BTN opening range:

Pore range chart for the button

That’s a lot of hands to try and keep track of when you’re in-game! If you’re having trouble remembering them all, try grouping certain hands that all play roughly the same, like all Qx, all Kx, all Jx, etc.

Preflop: Common Raise Ranges

  • 9% = 66+, AJs, KQs, AJo+, KQo
  • 15% = 22+, ATs+, KJs+, QJs, JTs, T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, 65s, AJo+, KJo+, QJo
  • 20% = 22+, ATs+, KTs+, QTs+, J9s+, T8s+, 98s, 87s, 76s, 65s, 54s, ATo+, KTo+, QTo+, JTo
  • 25% = 22+, A7s+, K9s+ ,Q9s+ ,J9s+, T8s+,97s+, 86s+, 75s+, 64s+ , 54s, A9o+, KTo+, QTo+, JTo, T9o
  • 35% = 22+,A2s+,K8s+,Q8s+,J8s+,T7s+,97s+,86s+,75s+,64s+,54s,43s,A8o+,A5o-A2o,K9o+,Q9o+,J9o+,T9o
  • 50% = 22+, A2s+, K2s+, Q7s+, J7s+, T7s+, 96s+, 86s+, 75s+, 64s+, 53s+, 43s, A2o+, K5o+, Q8o+, J8o+, T8o+, 98o, 87o, 76o, 65o

Preflop: Common Call Ranges

  • 8% = JJ-22,AQs-AJs,KQs,AQo-AJo,KQo
  • 13% = JJ-22,AQs-ATs,KJs+,QJs,JTs,T9s,98s,87s,76s,65s,54s,AQo-ATo,KJo+
  • 16% = TT-22,AJs-A9s,KTs+,QTs+,J9s+,T8s+,98s,87s,76s,65s,54s,AJo-ATo,KTo+,QTo+,JTo
  • 22% = TT-22,AJs-A2s,K9s+,Q9s+,J9s+,T8s+,97s+,86s+,75s+,64s+,53s+,43s,AJo-A9o,KTo+,QTo+,JTo
  • 30% = 88-22,ATs-A2s,KJs-K8s,Q8s+,J8s+,T7s+,96s+,85s+,74s+,63s+,53s+,43s,ATo-A7o,KJo-K9o,Q9o+,J9o+,T9o,98o,87o,76o,65o

Love Playing Poker?

Test Your Skills

Claim your $3000 Welcome Bonus at our Favorite Online Poker Room & Put Your Poker Skills to the Test!

Poker Range Tips

If you’re looking for tips on what to consider when building your own preflop ranges, check these out:

Don’t Play Low Pocket Pairs When Short-Stacked

Unless you’re going to be shoving all-in, the value of low pocket pairs drastically decreases as your stack gets smaller. Low-pocket pairs are good for making a set and winning a big pot by cracking an overpair; they’re very tough to play when you don’t make a set, and you’ll either have to fold or call down, hoping your opponent is bluffing.

Play More Suited Hands than Offsuit Hands

Poker players go through three stages when it comes to suited hands. First, they’ll play every suited hand they’re dealt because they can make a flush, and, well, a flush is a strong hand. Second, they’ll realize that a suited hand only gives you 2-3% more equity, so they play the same number of offsuit hands. Finally, they understand that while the actual equity increase is small, you will likely flop more equity with suited hands, allowing you to barrel and win the pot without a showdown.

When building your range, make sure that there are more suited hands than offsuit hands.

Don’t Overvalue Low Suited Connectors

Everyone loves playing low-suited connector hands because you can make some very disguised hands with them and win a huge pot against a player’s overpair. However, from early positions, these hands lose a lot of their value as there’s an increased chance that when you do make a big hand like a straight or a flush, you’ll be up against someone with the higher end of them. As well, you don’t make those strong hands very often, so you’ll either have to try and bluff your way out of trouble or end up check-folding the majority of the time.

Play Tighter Than You Think From Early Position

The biggest mistake beginner players make is thinking that they can play a wide range of hands from early position. While this is a mistake that’s fixed over time, many players still over-estimate the number of hands they can play from early position. Time and time again, we see players play hands like ATo or QJo from UTG, thinking they’re good hands; in reality, these hands aren’t profitable raises. So when playing from early position, err on the side of caution–if you’re unsure whether or not you should raise a hand, you probably shouldn’t.

Poker Range FAQs