Range Merging in Poker - Merging Ranges

Range Merging in Poker - Merging Ranges 0001

The Basics of Merging

Merging is a term that I've been coming across a lot lately on various poker forums. It's a reaction to bluffcatching from opponents, and is definitely a useful principle to understand. This article will explain what is meant by these terms and how you can implement them into your game as good as possible. The term "Range Merging" means that you increase your betting range to get as much value as possible out of players using bluffcatchers.

Bluffcatchers

As mentioned we merge our range, especially on the river, to counter the so called bluffcatchers. A bluffcatcher is a hand that beats all our bluffs but doesn't have enough value for the player to bet. The reason why people use bluffcatchers is because very often a bet on the river has a very polarized structure. This simply means that your bet is on either extreme of your range, so either a complete bluff or the nuts. For example, a player holding {q-Diamonds}{q-Spades} is unlikely to bet on a board showing {k-Clubs}{4-Diamonds}{j-Spades}{j-Hearts}{8-Hearts}. If somebody does bet here on the river, its usually with J-x or better, as hands such as K-Q/Q-Q would rather just see a showdown with their marginal hand.

A river bet on this type of board will therefore often indicate either a really strong hand or complete rags without any showdown value trying to pick up the pot with one last bluff attempt. Seeing as monster hands don't appear too often, players will often use a bluffcatcher in these situations. Hands like 77/89 are perfect bluffcatchers on the board mentioned above. On other boards, such as double-paired boards, A-high might be a good bluffcatcher.

Merging

Now we can just keep on playing like we always have and make sure we don't lose any money, but as you can hopefully see, it can be much more profitable to also bet with our marginal hands against people using bluffcatchers on the river. Seeing as we now don't only bet with our monster hands but also with our marginal hands (that will still beat his bluffcatchers) our opponent will lose a bet to a larger range of ours

Here is a hand I played in a heads-up match a couple of weeks ago.

Seat 1: Villain ($50.90 in chips)

Seat 2: JdK87 ($105 in chips)

JdK87: posts small blind $0.25

Villain: posts big blind $0.50

*** HOLE CARDS ***{9-Hearts}{9-Spades}

Dealt to JdK87

JdK87: raises $1 to $1.50

Villain: calls $1

*** FLOP ***{a-Diamonds}{a-Clubs}{7-Clubs}

Villain: checks

JdK87: bets $2.25

Villain: calls $2.25

*** TURN ***{a-Diamonds}{a-Clubs}{7-Clubs}{3-Spades}

Villain: checks

JdK87: bets $5.75

Villain: calls $5.75

*** RIVER ***{a-Diamonds}{a-Clubs}{7-Clubs}{3-Spades}{5-Hearts}

Villain: checks

JdK87: bets $17

Villain: calls $17

*** SHOW DOWN ***

JdK87: shows{9-Hearts}{9-Spades}(two pair, Aces and Nines)

Villain: mucks hand

JdK87 collected $52.50 from pot

*** SUMMARY ***

Total pot $53 | Rake $0.50

Board{a-Diamonds}{a-Clubs}{7-Clubs}{3-Spades}{5-Hearts}

Seat 1: Villain (big blind) mucked {k-Hearts}{q-Diamonds}

Seat 2: JdK87 (button) (small blind) showed {9-Hearts}{9-Spades} and won ($52.50) with two pair, Aces and Nines

As you can see my opponent probably thought that I either had a monster on the river or nothing. Actually I just played my 99 aggressive and beat his bluffcatcher. A hand like 44 would be a lot more difficult for me to play here, because out opponent will often use a pair as bluffcatcher, which would be very hard for me to beat with a pair of 4's.

Dangers

The risk of merging is that you bet a large range on the river, and as a result, people can start slowplaying as they know you will probably bet the river anyway. For example, in the hand mentioned above, it is very possible that the next time, my opponent will just check a hand like A-x to me 3 times because he knows im going to bet anyways.

You also run the risk of somebody making a bluff raise on the river, as your range consists mostly of weaker hands that would have to fold to a raise. This move is rarely seen on the lower limits as people pay less attention, and definitely not enough to make a move like this. Here is a situation where I got a bluff raise against me from one of the best players on PokerStars, PoorUser.

Seat 1: PoorUser ($128.80 in chips)

Seat 2: JdK87 ($214.70 in chips)

JdK87: posts small blind $0.50

PoorUser: posts big blind $1

*** HOLE CARDS ***

Dealt to JdK87{9-Hearts}{a-Hearts}

JdK87: raises $2 to $3

PoorUser: calls $2

*** FLOP ***{a-Spades}{6-Hearts}{6-Spades}

PoorUser: checks

JdK87: bets $4

PoorUser: calls $4

*** TURN ***{a-Spades}{6-Hearts}{6-Spades}{5-Spades}

PoorUser: checks

JdK87: checks

*** RIVER ***{a-Spades}{6-Hearts}{6-Spades}{5-Spades}{j-Clubs}

PoorUser: checks

JdK87: bets $11

PoorUser: raises $31 to $42

JdK87: folds

PoorUser collected $35.50 from pot

*** SUMMARY ***

Total pot $36 | Rake $0.50

Board {a-Spades}{6-Hearts}{6-Spades}{5-Spades}{j-Clubs}

Seat 1: PoorUser (big blind) collected ($35.50)

Seat 2: JdK87 (button) (small blind) folded on the River

He knows that I'm probably going to bet the river very thin, and he makes a move that I is impossible for me to counter. This is something that almost no one on the lower/middle limits will ever do, so you don't really have to be afraid of that.

Conclusion

Merging is a relatively simple principle, but one of the most important things I would like to point out in this article is that merging shouldn't be used as a general move. We only merge when we know that our opponent is bluffcatching. It makes no sense to bet our marginal hands if we know that our opponent will never call us with a worse hand, this will just lead to us losing value.

It is also important not to bet the river too thin, and you should make sure that your marginal hand always beats his bluffcatcher. If you don't pay attention here and start doing weird things you will end up losing more hands than winning them.

These are all still very much the basics, there are many more aspects to range merging. Success at the tables when trying to find out what these aspects are.

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