2023 Sep 4 10 min read
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Poker tests the best players when it comes to hand reading skills and game theory, and whether you are in the early position or middle position, a winning poker player will know when to call or to fold.

Much of this can be attributed to hand ranges, and being able to spot patterns within a game. But how do poker ranges work exactly? And what is the point of them?

Well, fear not. This poker range guide will plug any gaps by showing you types of draws, such as flush draws, running through suited hands, stack sizes, and answering some FAQs at the end, so you can feel more confident with your poker games in the long run.


Poker hand ranges revolves around a particular hand that you or your opponent could be holding at a particular point in a betting round.

With an opponent’s range, you will need to assess a few key factors, such as their preflop hand range, the size of the wager placed, and any other betting patterns. Spotting these early on is particularly valuable in Limit HoldEm games.

In the preflop range, a poker player should look for any noticeable habits, such as whether the opponent calls or limps, and you will be able to guess how often they do it.

As you will see later on, there are a series of poker table charts determining hand ranges, and if you can envisage certain patterns, then this will help you guess an opponent’s hand, and improve your win rate in the long term.


Positioning on the board is vital when it comes to determining poker hand ranges, and making the most of a particular situation. We have addressed a few key strategies when it comes to making hand ranges count:

Play tight early on in the game

Some poker players might like to be overly aggressive from the big blind, and that is a cardinal sin as they think they can be wider in range than they should be.

Instead, you should build up your own range and create say paired hands, it’s best to sit tight and wait to hit enter if playing at an online casino before you throw yourself into a big pot.

Don’t place too much emphasis on low suited connectors

Sometimes, players will benefit from suited hands, but low suited connectors won’t necessarily help with your poker range.

Examples of low suited connectors, include 67, 43, 45, and 32, but you should not call raise, or check with these hands in a poker game.

There are two exceptions however to this. Firstly, you can choose to use low suited connectors when you are in the big blind and your opponent hasn’t raised or if you are in the small blind and you are at an advantage.

Avoid low pocket pairs when short stacked

When you miss the flop, your small pocket pair should be folded. Rather, to thwart how an opponent plays, the best course of action would be to match your small pocket pairs with other possible hands, such as 3 of a kind if you want to produce a strong hand.

With small pocket pairs, we are referring more specifically to hands, such as 22, 33, 44, and so forth, and they can be valuable in online poker when used correctly.


Poker ranges should never be underestimated, and it is a crucial part of the decision-making process. So, to bolster your pot odds, you should know how to play preflop or when to make the most of straight draws to stifle the way opponents play.

Weaker hands, as we know, will get picked off by those around the table who have played poker for a long time and therefore will have a wider range.

More pertinently, they will possess excellent hand reading skills, so they will know when to hit enter during an online game and call or check.

By using a range of hands properly, you will be able to spot patterns, such as when an opponent checks or how to detect another player’s range when a bet size is likely to be increased during the flop or post flop stages.

Understanding poker range is also likely to give you more clarity and confidence when using the hole cards, although a bit of poker training shouldn’t go amiss if you want to clue yourself up on game theory.

In the following section, we will highlight some of the poker hand ranges you can expect to come across, and this covers poker games in the small blind and big blind.


Whether it is trying to manipulate your opponent’s range or to improve your own hand range, there are various poker ranges available to poker players.

We have outlined a few of the poker hands you ought to know as this will help for value range, and getting the most from the board.

  • All pairs – Example range includes 22, 33, 44, and so forth.
  • A sequence of consecutive pairs – Example range includes 44, 55, and so forth.
  • A sequence of suited hands – Example range includes 65s, 76s, 87s, and 98s.
  • All combinations including an ace – Example range include A2s and Ace King.
  • Suited aces – The suited aces include A2s and Ace Kings, and is a powerful hand.
  • Sequence of suited one gappers – Example range includes 86s, 97s, T8s, and J9s.


While memorising poker ranges or using reliable poker software, such as Equilab to determine hand range can be useful, you ought to know how to make calculations, so you know where you stand from the pre flop stage.

So, for example, to work out the range you must continue with to ensure you remain immune or rather unexploited to bluffs, we need to use the minimum defense frequency equation.

The MDF equation is as follows:

(Pot size/ (pot size + bet size) x 100 = MDF.

If you were at the river facing a bet from your opponent, and they have made a $200 bet into a $300 pot, you would need to work out the minimum percentage of your poker range, so you don’t become exploited by your opponent’s hand range.

Let’s run the numbers through then using the MDF equation, and we get the following:

(200/ (200+300) x 100 = MDF

(200/500 x100) = MDF

0.4 x100 = 44 = MDF.

Based on the above calculation, you would need to continue with around 45% of your hand range if you want to ensure you don’t get exploited by poker hands produced by your opponent.

In reality, MDF is rarely used for poker range. Nevertheless, when it comes to making a pot sized bet, it is a good thing to practice, so you know what poker hands you can play.

With the information about poker hands gathered before the pre flop, you can ascertain what you need to do to meet the MDF before you hit enter and take part in a poker game.


For all starting hands, the poker hand matrix is an invaluable tool for calculating poker hands. The poker matrix lists all the possible hands, well starting ones, anyway for poker.

The matrix will highlight all top pairs and unsuited hands in the hand grid, and in total, there are 169 different possible starting poker hands (13 x 13 = 169).

With an Under the Gun or UTG opening range, you can get a clearer idea of the range of poker hands you will be able to make.

Below, we have outlined some of the poker hands you can expect to find in the preflop range:

  • High pairs – AA, KK, QQ.
  • Medium pairs – 77, TT
  • Small pairs – 22,66

You may also come across poker hands, such as suited gappers. They almost connect in the same manner as suited connectors, however, they are known as one gappers, because there is often a space between them.

Hands such as TQs and 79s are commonly referred to as one gappers, and they can often make for good disguised hands when hit in game.

The bigger the gap (eg 85s would be known as two gappers), the more the hand will be disguised, however, you might not hit as well during the pre flop stage, and this could impact your poker ranges in later rounds.

As you will see later on, poker range charts will provide valuable bits of information, such as your starting hand, the action or actions of the opponents before you, and how you should play based on your current position.

It is worth noting that you can also work out the percentage form of a poker range based on the possible starting hands.

More specifically, you can drill down a suited hand or pocket pairs. If you have selected every hand on offer, you would have 100%.

Of the 169 possible starting poker hands, there are over 1,300 unique combinations (well, 1,326 to be more precise).

So, if you wanted to calculate the percentage form of pocket aces, there would be 6 combos, which makes the percentage as follows:

AA = 6/1,326 = 0.45%.

Percentage form is great for working out what your opponent’s range is like during the pre flop part of a poker game.

In the next section, we will look at the range of poker hands available after the flop.


Once you have made the call in the small blind and big blind, then we will go the flop, and you may encounter a more narrow range.

The flop may come in at Ah, 6h, and 5c, and your opponent decides to check. As you might be playing against an unknown opponent, you may need to assess what the preflop range was or what you raised from UTG.

After you have bet most of your sets, well at least the flushest draws and your top pairs, and all the hands that weren’t connected to the board, then you would be left with pockets and underpairs in your checking range.

But if you make a half pot bet and your opponent decides to call, then you may have to check call first as the pre flop raiser.

You could call 77-AA, AJo, and ATs, and fold underpairs, and you can now see what poker hand combinations you will be left with when you make your next play.

The process is repeated until a hand ends, but this is a more simplified version as real poker strategy takes into account actions, such as bluffing, calling, and raising.


Poker ranges determine what you should or shouldn’t do during certain positions of the game, and these have been noted below:

  • Open raise range
  • Against a 3-bet
  • Against a 3-bet from the cut off
  • Against a 3-bet from the button
  • Against a 3-bet from the small blind
  • Against a 3-bet from the big blind

There are usually two types of range in the post flop stage. With the polarized poker range, for example, you would bet with hands from strong and weak categories. The strong hands would be good pairs or sets, such as QQ, 99, or 66.

Alternatively, the other poker range would be the merged range where you would bet with poker hands from the strong, medium, and weak hand categories. The weak hands includes draws and lower ranked hands, such as draws and lower-ranked cards (JT, T8, 75, and so forth).

Your ranges may tend to be merged when a flop is made on the street when you play poker. The following table shows what poker hands you should play in a 6-max cash 100bb games:

Alternatively, if you prefer 9-max poker tables, you can see which poker hands are best to play from the various positions, and some of these have been highlighted below in our carefully curated table:

Poker starting hand ranges table

Position% of handsExamples of starting hand range
UTG1077+, ATs+, KTs+, QTs+
LJ1655+, A2s+, K9s+, Q9s+
HJ2044+, K8s+, Q9s+, J9s+
BTN4022+, A2s+, K2s+, Q5s+

The chart and table we have incorporated will show what poker hand ranges you will need to have at certain stages in order to improve your win rate, and stifle your opponent.

The following section will go into a bit more detail about how to use poker ranges, including how to use your opponent’s range when you play.


Once you have a clear idea of poker ranges, then you can use them to create a robust strategy which you should then put in place for games moving forward.

While there is plenty of nuance, there are a few things you need to take into consideration:

Use of poker software – There are some brilliant poker tools out there that you can have a play around with so that you can work faster and more efficiently when trying to establish a range you feel comfortable, regardless of whether you have offsuit hands or not. In the long run, you will also feel more comfortable with game theory.

Exchanging information – If you want to get a head start, you can use range by swapping ideas with fellow poker players away from the table, and use that to inform your decisions when you next play in a game.

Working out styles of play – Sometimes, poker hand ranges can make some players more aggressive than others. However, by memorising and using poker charts, players can decide whether they should be more aggressive in the pre flop stages or bide their time, bluff their opponents, and strike while the iron is hot in the later streets.


It is also imperative that you use an opponent’s range effectively when you play, so you can put yourself in a good position in games.

Have more than one in place – There may be times when your opponent may have a hand that you didn’t think was in their range. However, by mixing up tactics, you can catch your opponent off guard.

Good players will tend to throw in some curveballs to throw their opponents off balance, while bad players will be more predictable.

Bringing out the bluff – The bluff can be a dangerous weapon in poker, especially during the later streets. Of the hand combinations that you should bluff with include Ace-Five suited, and Ace-Four suited.

By ranging or bluffing your opponent on a street, you can harness your own hand ranges to make the most of what happens on the board.

Within this, always consider the ratio of bluff hands to value hands if you want to bolster your chances of winning in the long term.


While you will need to be able to manipulate poker hand ranges, and use MDF effectively to keep your opponents out wide, there are two rules you need to be familiar with.

You need to be able to visualise or memorise the poker grid to see what the best hands are that you can make. As such, you will need to appreciate the difference that comes with off-suited hands compared to suited hands.

For example, a Ten of spades and 8 of diamonds is a non-suited hand, while an Ace of Hearts and Ace of Kings is a suited hand.

If you can do some training with charts and studying cards, then you will be better at being able to play in range against your opponents.


Naturally, the more tools at your disposal, the more informed you will be when it comes to poker hand ranges, and fending off your opponent’s range.

There is plenty of technology that will help. We already mentioned Equilab, however, there is a useful bit of kit called Solvers, which will help with optimal poker play and game theory.

With Solvers, some of the input includes information about effective stack size, pot size, as well as preflop ranges, and if you want more in-depth tutorials about poker play, this should be considered.

The software needs to be combined with memorising hands and checking out hands charts, so you execute game theory.


Poker ranges are instrumental to how games unfold, and those who can play within range and detect their opponent’s range will fare well.

Understanding poker ranges isn’t something that happens overnight. You need to put the hours in and memorise ranges if you are going to execute properly when you play games.

⭐ Is it hard to remember poker ranges?

For some people, it can be quite hard, however, to make things easier, start off with say 5 preflop poker ranges and then build up your knowledge base.

⭐ How to balance your own poker hand ranges?

To balance your own hand ranges, you will need to play a variety of strong hands in the same way in the same situation. This will ensure your hand range is not weighted too far in one direction or another.

⭐ What are the most common preflop ranges?

Some players will tend to be much tighter in the preflop stage, however, one of the most common poker hand ranges, is AA-99 or AKs-ATs.

⭐ What is a polarized range on the flop?

A polarized range will contain a mixture of strong and weaker hands, and it is best to have a polarized range after the flop as bet sizes will tend to be bigger. Polarized ranges and the river go hand in hand.

⭐ How do you balance your own hand ranges?

The best way to balance poker hand ranges is to have a mixture of bluffs and value hands when you bet or raise. Otherwise, if your hands are unbalanced, your opponents can fold marginal hands if you take more risks and become more aggressive.