The Practical Part: Preflop Hand Reading
After going through these theoretical concepts, the course moves on to the practical part, where Split Suit covers a range of concrete situations both before and after the flop. Going through the processes of constructing your opponent’s ranges in various spots (based on their vpip/pfr ratio, when they raise, when you’re the one defending against the raise, 3-bet pots, etc.).
Many of these videos have certain overlapping points, and they keep going back to the same theoretical foundations, which is why it makes the most sense to watch this course in the order it is presented.
Hand Reading: Open Raises
Figuring out what the players are opening with can help you decide what is the most +EV line. You will understand when it is better to 3-bet or simply call, and play a hand from flop onwards. This can give you a big advantage.
If you’re able to put someone on a specific range of hands early, you can use that info to make a better decision moving forward in the hand.
As stated earlier in the course, open raising ranges are the most static and depolarized by nature. Although they vary by players, they are still somewhat similar, and you can expand and narrow them slightly based on general tendencies.
There are four main categories in every open raise range, namely:
- pocket pairs,
- broadway hands,
- suited connectors,
- and other hands.
Start building your opponent’s range by asking yourself certain questions, such as what is the worst pocket pair or broadway combo they’d open with, what worst suited connectors they’re going to raise with, and what other hands do you suspect might be in there as well.
For example, some players are tighter with smaller pocket pairs early and will prefer to limp with them instead of raising, which is something to consider when building their hand range. Then, you can go through a similar process for their broadways using the escalator idea, etc.
Solid players use logic when making their decisions, so you also need to use logic when making yours. These players don’t typically open randomly, but they can adjust ranges based on a specific situation.
Think about what it is and use that idea to construct their ranges before the flop. Are they opening more hands because there is a recreational player in the blinds or maybe playing much tighter because they have aggressive regulars to the left?
Always ask yourself what a good player is looking at and how they’re making their decisions.
Against recreational players, building their hand range will depend greatly on what type of a player they are. Some are just using default ranges without thinking much about the situation or other players. Others are going to raise with random poker hands just because they feel like it, so make sure to identify such opponents.
Hand Reading: 3-Bets
The video covers the basics of 3-betting, 3-bets vs. flats, polarized vs. depolarized, playing from the blinds, and, of course, reading hands. The starting point is understanding how your range correlates with the flat calling range.
Based on their position, people mostly use polarized and depolarized ranges when 3-betting, and these shapes were covered in one of the previous videos.
In polarized ranges, there are more blind spots as it is harder to figure out exactly what they’re 3-betting. So, to start building the 3-bet range, begin with nutted hands first, i.e. big pocket pairs and strong broadway hands. Keep an eye on the percentage and use this information in an online setting where you have someone’s 3-bet stats to structure their range.
Then, move to some strong hands like AQ and pocket 9s, for example. Once you have their strong range defined, you can move on to trying to figure out the non-so-strong part of their 3-betting range. Keep in mind that weak players have either too much or too little air in their range, while strong opponents will have a proper ratio of hands most of the time.
Once you figure out these details and tendencies, you can figure out how to exploit them. Maybe 4-betting more against players who have too many weak and/or weaker hands in their range, or flatting more hands in position.
SplitSuit goes on to explain this idea in more detail in the rest of the video, emphasizing the importance of visualizing their range by using a pie chart.
Calling Preflop Raises
This video addresses situations where players are faced with a raise and have an option to 3-bet but choose to call instead. Like the previous lesson, this one also focuses on explaining the process of figuring out your opponent’s range in these spots, specifically addressing how to approach good vs. recreational players.
As already mentioned in the previous lesson, flat calls and 3-bets are somewhat intertwined. So, the good starting point is figuring out what hands your opponent would 3-bet with and removing them from their range. Then, we can proceed to try and construct their calling range by looking at four broad categories: pocket pairs, broadway hands, suited connectors, and other hands.
Pocket pairs are a baseline starting point as many players are going to set mine in these situations. Then, there are broadway hands – what percentage of them they call with as opposed to 3-betting? It is really important to understand the kind of hands your opponents are going to 3-bet with as it helps you construct their calling ranges.
When thinking about suited connectors, it is important to distinguish between good and recreational players. Regulars are going to consider all sorts of aspects, such as the stack depth and position. While other players are going to call a lot with hands such as suited connectors simply because they look too “pretty” to fold.
In terms of other hands, you’ll face many more surprises in 3-bet pots when playing against weaker and more passive opponents.
These players will often flat call with hands they don’t like folding but also don’t feel comfortable 3-betting. SplitSuit goes on to explain how to deal with these situations.
Like in other pieces, SplitSuit first explains what 4-bet and 5-bet are on practical examples for those who may not be familiar with the terminology.
With that out of the way, the lesson continues by once again explaining the concept of a fork – i.e. once a player faces a 3-bet, they have a certain range of hands they’ll continue playing. Some of these hands they’re going to call and others will be in their 4-betting range.
James proceeds to explain how in most scenarios, these 4-bet+ ranges are going to be either polarized or depolarized, meaning very strong hands or not at all strong. In these spots, especially with 5-bets and 6-bets, it is not uncommon at all for the players to have just the nuts, meaning hands such as 10-10+ and AK.
It is harder to construct these hand ranges because it is difficult to have a big enough sample for these spots. However, you can start by assigning a very strong range by default and work your way from there based on the information you manage to get.
Calling 3-bet Ranges
The lesson addresses the fact that flat calling and 4-betting ranges are intertwined and then use similar logic to start with building the calling range by eliminating the 4-bet area of the spectrum.
This particular video uses much of the same logic to explain how to construct 3-bet calling ranges of your opponents, and thus we won’t go into too much detail.
That said, this is a very important lesson in The Hand Reading Lab so you should by no means be skipping it. If you’ve watched previous parts, it will be much easier to keep up with the ideas and logic used by SplitSuit.