A Game That Will Live in Infamy: Homing In On the Ranges

I started working on this series just a few days after the tournament, which was on 7 December, so for me it’s been more than three months of on-and-off work. Then the past three weeks—in-between working on the Calendar, the weekly Plannersplaying poker myself, and life, it’s been a busy time. Thanks for staying with it.

I could have wrapped up with the last hand, but after running the first sets of numbers on VPIP, I was intrigued by the stats I was getting on player 5, the winner of the tournament.

As I mentioned early on, the Six-Max format requires you to open up your range. Putting money into the pot an average of single hand per orbit, your VPIP is going to be about 17% (as opposed to 11% for a full-ring table playing one hand per orbit). A VPIP of 33% in full-ring would be considered very loose (playing essentially three hands per orbit), whereas in Six-Max it’s only a little loose. Player 5 had a VPIP of 57%, meaning he put money into nearly three-fifths of the hands played. Since the bulk of the hands where I observed him were five-handed, he was playing essentially three hands every orbit.

The possibility exists that he was dealt exceptionally good hands. As I showed in an article I wrote for PokerNews.com last spring, variance can truly make a difference in the quality of cards dealt to players in the short-term length of a tournament. Graphing the cards dealt to myself and player 5, however, the cards he was given were—if anything—worse than the cards I got.


The square charts show card combos, with aces at the top left and deuces at the bottom right, and colors/numbers indicating multiple instances of the same combo. Suited combos are above the diagonal line. The histograms show how the cards fall into the Sklansky-Malmuth hand groups.

I was dealt 150 more hands (that are in my hand history) than player 5 (my charts are on the left side), but the histograms between the hand charts show proportionally how the hands dealt fit into the Sklansky-Malmuth hand groupings. The classification bands are practically identical in size; I actually got more hands considered “good” than player 5 (the uncolored portion of the histogram on the right is larger than that on the left, indicating that  a higher percentage of player 5’s hands fell outside of the eight Sklansky-Malmuth zones).

I did get pocket aces twice in the course of 324 hands, but probably more significantly, I picked up queens three times. In just 174 hands where I observed player 5, he had aces and kings once each and pocket queens and jacks both twice, in addition to every other pair except for eights and threes.


This is the range of hands where player 5 and I put money into the pot other than for blinds. If you compare the VPIP chart for player 5 with his hands dealt, you can see that he  either raised or called with all of his suited aces (the top row shows AQs, AJs, and A5s) and all but one of his unsuited aces (the left-most column). Nearly the same thing can be said about his king-high hands: of seven suited kings (row 2 to the right of the diagonal), he didn’t add money to the pot with one of them, and he put money on eleven of fifteen unsuited kings (second column from the left, below the diagonal). He played about half of his unsuited connectors (combos immediately below the diagonal line). The histograms show that while nearly all of the hands in my VPIP range were in one of the 8 Sklansky-Malmuth zones, more than 40% of the hands player 5 put money in with were outside all of the zones.


I made a pre-flop raise (including re-raises) with about two-thirds of the hands I played. By contrast, player 5 only raised about half the hands he got involved with pre-flop, doing a lot more calling than me. Still the absolute percentage of hands he raised pre-flop was more than the percentage of hands I played. He limped the only pocket aces I tracked him on, and he limped deuces, but raised every other pair he played, as well as most of the other ace hands he played. He also raised 23o pre-flop, though that was in the late stages of the final table, as SB in an unopened pot four-handed at Hand 307.



Both player 5 and I won more than half of the hands where we raised (or re-raised) pre-flop without going to a showdown and both of us laid down about a sixth of the hands we raised. Players either laid their hands down pre-flop or we won with further bets on the flop, turn, or river. Comparing the histograms for these hands to the PFR chart above, you can see that an even higher percentage of “garbage” hands in what player 5 was able to win with—nearly half—made up this category, whereas the distribution in my histogram (on the right) is identical to the PFR range for all intents and purposes. Player 5’s histogram for lost raises shows that he didn’t fold any premium hands (green bands) when he made a pre-flop raise.


Both of us went to showdown with over a third of the hands where we put money into the pot. Player 5’s showdown hands are definitely more widely-distributed than mine are, with more than a quarter of them falling outside the Sklansky-Malmuth classifications. My win-rate at showdown was marginally better than player 5’s but he won as many showdowns as I did though he was dealt only half as many hands (that I could track).


Two different styles of play that get you to the same HU result. Our final hand was a race: JQ v 66, where I caught a pair on the flop as he caught a set. Could have gone either way, though I like to think that I could have ground down his 9:5 lead given a better outcome on that hand.

Four hours and fifty minutes. 324 hands. +2,050% ROI.

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