Elasticity of Ranges

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Picture this - You have a date you want to impress. A candle light dinner in a fancy restaurant would be a good first step. But you are not sure what kind of food they like. You don't want to ask them directly, because you want to keep it a surprise. So you bring up food in your conversation and find out that they like Mexican, Italian and Indian. You can now choose from a range of restaurants and be reasonably sure that your date would be pleased.

In poker, Range is defined as all the possible hand combinations a person can hold. We try to disarm our opponent using our strategies so that they can part with their money. But like our date, they won't tell us their exact hand. Instead, we have to observe the gameplay, the bet size, their tells etc. and put them on a range of hands. The restaurant that we choose, or in this case, the strategy we choose would depend upon this range. 

Hand ranges are classified in various types. In this post, we'll learn about the concept of Elasticity of Ranges. It broadly divides into two types: Elastic and Inelastic.

1. Elastic Range
In some spots, the decision of whether to call or fold a hand is based on the opponent's bet size. When a range consists of a large % of these kind of hands, it is called an elastic range.

For example: Say we hold Jh9h
Board runs out 6cJs2d4hAc

Pot size is 1000 and we are facing a bet on the river. Considering that the villain is an unknown, the decision of whether to call this hand will be based on the action and the bet size.

- If the opponent bets 200, we will most likely call
- If the opponent bets 700, we may or may not call
- If the opponent bets 2000, we will most likely fold

2. Inelastic Range
In some spots, decision of whether to call or fold is not based on the opponent's bet size. When a range consists of a large % of these kind of hands, it is called an inelastic range.

For example: Say we hold ThTc
Board runs out 2cTs9h2d7c

Pot size is 1000 and we are facing a bet on the river. In this case irrespective of the bet size, we are never folding. 

Conversely, say we had 4c5c on the same board, we will fold irrespective of how much the villain bets. Thus our range is inelastic.

Think of it this way, if your date hates Chinese food or is allergic to it, they wouldn't want it even if you take them to a Michelin star Chinese restaurant. On the other hand, if they love Indian food, you wouldn't have to look for the best Indian restaurant to make them happy. Even a roadside Pao Bhaji might do. In this scenario, they are inelastic with their food preference.

How to use this in your game?

You need to be able to accurately asses your opponent's range to a reasonable degree before you start using this concept. Once you have a fair idea of what their range looks like, you can do the following:

Against Elastic ranges

  • Bet a small enough size with your strong hands that a worse hand will call
  • Bet a big enough size with your bluffs that will make your opponents fold hands that are better than yours

For example:

Your hand is AhQh. You raise preflop and the flop comes QsTs2c. Pot size is 1000. You bet 600 and the opponent calls. The turn is 7d. Board reads QsTs2c7d and pot size is 2200.

In this spot our opponent's calling range is elastic. The villain can have a wide variety of hands and his response will vary on what bet size we choose.

- If we bet a small size like 400, he might even call any 2 or 7 and any weak draw
- If we bet 1400, he will call with some strong draws and middle pairs
- If we bet 2800, he will most likely call with top pair+ 

Against Inelastic ranges

  • Bet bigger for value with strong hands and bet small with bluffs - since your opponent is inelastic, he will call or fold any sized bet. This allows you to win more when ahead and risk less while bluffing.

For example: 

Your hand is QhTh. You raise preflop and the flop comes Kd7c2s. Pot size is 1000.

It is a dry board with no draws. After calling our pre flop raise, our opponent will miss this board often. He doesn't have enough hands that will call a small bet but will fold to a larger bet. If he has a pair, he is likely calling a bet of any size but will fold pretty much everything that is not a pair. So we should bet small. 

Playing against an elastic range is trickier than playing against an inelastic range. This is because in the former case, there are more decision points to be made (different bet sizes), and this leads to more chances of error. Instead you can start by applying this concept against an inelastic range. However, to be able to use this profitably, it is a prerequisite that you are able to assign correct ranges to your opponents.

We hope you find this useful and let us know your questions/comments below.



This article was written by Mayank Jain. Mayank is a writer who plays poker for a living. He writes at http://mayankja.in/ on mindfulness, travel and art, among other things.