Poker is a game of information. The more information you have about your opponent, the easier it is to play against them.
If at any point you are confused by your opponent, you’re probably going to get beat.
That’s why it is important to turn the table on your opponent and make them be the one who cannot figure you out. There are many ways to do that in poker, but one of the most important is balancing your range.
What is it?
Balancing your range can be summed up in two ways: Playing the same hand in different ways and playing different hands the same way.
One extreme example might go like this: Most people raise preflop when they have pocket aces. Well, what if you limp in or call a raise when you have pocket aces?
If your opponent sees you are capable of limping in with the most powerful hand, they will have to think twice the next time you limp in. You probably don’t have pocket aces, but you might.
On the other hand, if all you ever do when you have pocket aces is make big preflop raises, it will be easier for your opponent to recognize when you have that hand and fold.
One spot in which balancing your range can pay off is continuation betting.
When you raise preflop and then make the initial bet on the flop, that flop bet is a continuation bet. The reason you do it is to maintain the aggression. If you do it enough, your opponents might catch on and start check-raising you or raising you because they know you cannot flop a strong hand or stronger hand every time.
If you also use continuation bets when you have a strong or stronger hand then you can make your opponents pay. If they start losing those hands they are going to think twice about playing back at you because they will not be able to figure out if you are weak or strong.
Balancing your range makes it easier to bluff, too.
Let’s say on one hand you have Q-Q and the flop comes Q-7-2. You check-raise your opponent, and they fold. You show them your hand, and now they know you did it with a strong hand.
Then, four hands later, you have 8-3 and the flop comes J-T-2. You check-raise your opponent again, and it is fresh in their mind that the last time you did that you had a monster. It would be natural for them to think you have another monster. The opponent is more likely to fold in that scenario.
Now pretend those hands are reversed.
If you first show your opponents you are bluffing when you check-raise, then they are not going to believe you have a strong hand the next time you do it. Imagine how big a pot you might win if you have top set on a dry board and your opponent plays back at you.
Once they see you are capable of check-raising with a monster and with nothing, they won’t be able to figure out what you have.
In a game of information, you’ll always have an edge if you keep your opponent guessing.