When we start playing poker, many of us engage in first level thinking, that is, we bet or call based on how strong our own hand is, without giving much consideration as to what our opponent’s might hold or the basic hand frequencies. As we become more sophisticated, we begin to consider what hands our opponents are likely to have and how strong our hand is relative to that. As we proceed in poker, it is crucial to develop this notion.
Example of the Importance of Range
Let’s say you are holding the Th9h on a board of As 4h Qh. Your opponent bets. You would like to call to try to draw at your flush and you think you are getting the right odds. However, you don’t know if when you hit your flush it will be good. You need to determine the likelihood that your opponent is betting something like a pair of aces rather than a higher flush draw than your own. If the ace of hearts comes, you now need to think about where AQ and 44 fit into the range of possible hands you put your opponent on.
What you would ideally like to do is constantly generate a list in your mind of possible hands that an opponent would play in the same way he is playing the current hand, and attach a percentage likelihood that that is the hand he holds. Then when calculating pot odds, use these percentages to determine your course of action. While figuring out your odds against a range of hands is complex, you will get better at it with practice. Furthermore you should make use of programs like PokerStove which generates these percentages for you. Seeing the hard numbers over and over again will improve your abilities in this regard.