Range Merging Guide

by trikkur

Range merging is a more advanced concept in no limit Texas Hold’em that can help you to extract a little extra value from mediocre hands on the river. Sounds good right? But what exactly does it mean to “merge your range”?

Unfortunately, whilst they are some great in-depth articles out there on this topic, very few make for light reading. The aim of this article is to give an easy-to-understand and basic overview of range merging in Texas Hold’em.

First of all, bluff catchers

To understand the concept of range merging, we must first learn about bluff catchers .

Bluff catchers are those hands on the river that are not strong enough for you to bet with, but you would more than happily call a less than pot-size bet from an opponent because you have a good reason to believe that they are bluffing.

For example, let’s say we hold on a board of . We are first to act and check to our opponent on the flop and he checks back. We check again on the turn and he checks behind again. On the river, we have very little use of betting because no weaker hands will actually call a bet. We decide to check one last time and our opponent fires out a 3/4 pot bet.

In this situation, we do not have a great hand by any means, so we are in no position to bet for value. However, based on our opponent’s play up to this point in the hand, this river bet looks suspicious to say the least. The 2 may have helped him, but why would he bet with just a pair of 2s on the river when he is only going to get called with a better hand?

Therefore, even though he may have (poorly) slowplayed a hand like AQ or A9, or spiked with 22; his river bet is suspicious enough to warrant a call. The majority of the time our opponent is going to turn over air and we are going to take down the pot with our “bluff catcher”. So we caught him out on his bluff with our bluff catcher hand, see?

Now, range merging

In a nutshell, range merging takes advantage of the players that call bets on the river with bluff catchers. Stop and think about that for a second.

Range Merging

Range Merging Ahead. Photo by: manostphoto

If we know that our opponent is going to call a bet on the river with a bluff catcher-style hand that only really beats a bluff, then we can take advantage of them by betting with hands that beat their bluff catchers, but are not necessarily the nuts.

Using the previous hand example, from our point of view it seemed silly for our opponent to be betting the river with anything other than the nuts (AQ, A9) or on a complete bluff on a board of A Q 9 A 2 rainbow. The vast majority of players with a hand like QJ would just check back the river and take the pot without trying to complicate the hand with more betting.

However, let’s say that we are that guy betting with the QJ. As we already know, our opponent thinks that we are only going to be betting with the nuts or air (this is called a “polarized” range), so they will be calling bets from us with their weak bluff catcher hands. So instead of just checking back the river, we can get extra value from the hand by “merging our range” and betting with our bluff catcher beating hand like QJ.

So our opponent checks to us, we bet out with our QJ, our opponent believes that we are bluffing the majority of the time in this spot and calls with a weaker hand. So we get more value from the hand by betting as opposed to playing too conservatively by checking back on the river.

That’s all that merge ranging is about. When you “merge your range” you bet with a hand that is in between what your opponent thinks you will be betting with, which from their perspective is either the nuts or complete air.

Range merging evaluation

All in all range merging is handy for helping you to extract that little extra from hands that you would normally check down on the river. However, it’s only going to be a valuable play against players that have a solid understanding of the game, so that’s probably at around the $50NL stakes and higher.

Range merging can be a difficult concept to grasp unless you are totally focused when trying to figure out what it’s all about and how to use it effectively. I know that I had a difficult time trying to get my head around it when I first heard about it.

Range merging isn’t going to turn your poker world around, but it’s another edge that you can push to get the most from your sessions, so it’s worth trying to understand how to use it.

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This article was written by Greg Walker of ThePokerBank.com, which is a site all about online Texas Hold em and ‘all that stuff’. You can read more gripping articles like this in his Texas Hold’em strategy section. Enjoy!

I made some small edits for clarification and readability.