I thought it might be helpful for students of the game to see a betting range construction problem worked out, as we hear terms like this more and more these days, but maybe not everyone knows what they mean and equally as important, how to do them.  I would offer the caveat that if you are new to poker, this blog is really not for you yet.  Feel free to have a look, but don’t fret if it seems like a lot… just mark it to come back to at a later time.  This is a bit more advanced of a blog entry.

I have picked an example from our Hand Analysis Forum that is relatively simple (because the number of card combinations we hold is limited), and yet represents a common situation we all face with some regularity.

The hand is a cash game hand from 10NL Zoom, with 100bb effective stacks.  Our hero had no prior history and thus no reads with the villain in the hand.

Action folds to the hero in the small blind, and he raises to .30c holding KsKh.  The player in the big blind 3-bets us to .70c.  Our hero 4-bets, making it $1.90 to go, and the villain calls.  There is now $3.80 in the pot and we have $8.10 left to bet.   The flop comes AsQc7c. 

So let’s use this example to try and answer the question, should we continuation bet?  Our hero checked, and in my response I said I thought this was fine… I wouldn’t c-bet 100% of the time and surely some combos of KK will be in my flop checking range. 

Let’s dig deeper now though and construct a c-betting range, so we can quantify what hands we might check here.  I will follow this process:

1) Determine what range of hands I actually get to the flop with (and how many card combos that is)
2) Decide what a good c-betting frequency is for the situation
3) Move my card combos into bet or check buckets in a way that has some balance to it while conforming roughly to the frequency I’d like to see in #2.

#1-  We’ve opened the small blind, and as it’s a steal position should be opening wide, with all our value hands and decent number of steals.  After being 3-bet, we’ll want to have a 4-bet range that includes strong value hands and some bluffs, since the villain can be assumed to have a 3-bet range that includes bluffs itself in a blind v blind battle. 

Let’s say our value 4b’s include JJ+/AK, which is 40 combos, and some nice hands to mix in as bluffs might be A6s-A8s, KTs/K9s/QTs/T9s/98s, which is 32 combos… hands that are maybe not quite strong enough to profitably call the 3-bet out of position but have some reasonable post flop playability as the aggressor if called.  It’s a 4-bet range of 5.43% of starting hands.  At any rate, I don’t want to quibble much on this part as the point of this blog is to demonstrate the process at large.

#2- As the preflop 4-bettor, I will like to continuation bet the flop with a pretty high frequency… maybe 75-80%.

#3- With the flop cards that hit the board, our 72 starting hand combos have been reduced to 57 combos we can hold. 75-80% of 57 means we’d like to c-bet roughly 43-46 combos.  Since I’m c-betting mostly, let’s start with the obvious bets. 

AA, QQ, AK, A7s can be bet for value.  The suited club hands, 98c/T9c/K9c/KTc.  That’s 24 combos, so we’ve got a lot to go.  Let’s add in the top pair+nut flush draw preflop bluffs, A6c/A8c.  I’d also like to add in as bluffing hands the gut shots that have a back door flush draw, and the pair+back door flush draw hands.  So we’ll include KsTs/QsTs.  Up to 28 now.   I might also include as bluffs the 3 combos of JJ that include the Jc… they have some back door equity potential if called, but aren’t really strong enough to check/call and are comfortable to bet and fold to a raise.  So that’s 31 combos, we still have at least 12 to go to reach 43.  I’ll add in 9s8s, since it has the most back door potential out of the garbage hands on AsQc7c.  If we also add in A6h/A6d/A8h/A8d, that’s 36.  Still 7 more combos to find.  What’s left? 

JJ(no club)
T9 suited(no club)
K9 suited(no club)

KTd/KTh make sense to me, as they are gut shots to the nuts.  Ks9s as well since the back door flush draw is to the nut flush.  That’s 3, so 4 more to achieve a 75% c-bet frequency.  We can throw in perhaps the 3 combos of KK that include a club.  That gets us to 42/57 combos (74%).  Close enough.

That sets us up with a range as follows:

Bet (value, even thin):
AA (3 combos)
QQ (3 combos)
AK (12 combos)
A7s (2 combos)
A6cdh/A8cdh (6 combos)
KcKd/KcKh/KcKs (3 combos)
QsTs (1 combo)
Total value combo bets: 30

Bet (bluff):
98c/T9c/K9c/KTc (4 combos)
KTsdh (3 combos)
9s8s (1 combo)
JcJd/JcJs/JcJh (3 combos)
Ks9s (1 combo)
Total bluff combo bets: 12

KK (no club - 3 combos)
JJ (no club - 3 combos)
98d/98h (2 combos)
QTd/QTh (2 combos)
T9 suited (no clubs – 3 combos)
K9h/K9d (2 combos)
Total check combos: 15

Phew!  Are we done yet???  No, not quite.  Notice that our range isn’t balanced really… all the hands in our checking range are weak hands that will be check/folding or at best, can only check/call 1 street of moderate action.  This is fine against a weak opponent… when up against a bad player we’ll do just fine being exploitative in this way as they won’t tend to exploit us.  This isn’t going to cut it vs. a strong/solid player however, as once they figure out that our “check” means “take it”, they will 3 bet us more frequently in position, flat our 4-bets more liberally, and proceed to take all the pots away from us we don’t stake claim to by c-betting. 

So from here I would tailor the range tweaking to the opponent if we had reads.  For example, if we were up against a known calling station, I would go even more unbalanced in the value heavy direction on the betting, swapping in some thin value bets like the other 3 non-club KK combos and QTd/QTh and dropping off some of the pure bluffs and thinner semi-bluffs like 9s8s, Ks9s, and KTshd (they won’t hold great value when called by the station, and stand to benefit the most from a free card that stations frequently give).   If we were up against the aforementioned strong/solid player that requires us to have more balance in our ranges, we might seed our checking range with some stronger hands that can check/call more than 1 street or check/raise.  The most obvious candidate hands to choose from are the sets and AK.  I would still bet all the QQ combos as those leave more big aces in the villains range with which to give action.  We might check the 2 AA combos that include the Ac, and bet the non club AA.  So that has us betting 4 of 6 sets and seeding our checking range with 2 of them.  Likewise we might check the AxKc combos or AcKx combos.  We might replace those 8 stronger checks with some of the weaker hands to bluff with, like the T9s non club 3 combos, the 98d/98h, and the 3 non-club JJ combos.

This is not an exact science, and I am by no means an expert at it… but if you’re still with me, this is meant to give you a working example of how to break down a spot with a range construction analysis.  This type of analysis is not a quick or easy process.  It takes hard work to do and perseverance to keep doing.  But if you put in the work when you come across spots you’re not sure about (like 4-betting KK, getting flatted, and having an ace flop), you’ll start to develop a better feel for what genre of hands to do what with and the strength of your game as a whole will improve!