Polarized and condensed ranges – Introduction

Polarized and condensed ranges

What is the difference between polarized and condensed ranges?

These two types of ranges are opposites of each other. Being able to spot when your opponent has polarized and condensed ranges is important to your hand reading skills. We would also recommend you read our article on putting live opponents on a hand range, here at poker.betzoo.uk.

What is a polarized range?

A polarized range consists of mainly (or only) strong hands AND weak hands. The range has little (or no) weak hands.

Examples

  • When you are facing a bet on the river, you are often up against a polarized range. Why? If your opponent has a hand a perceives to be stronger than yours, he will consider betting for value. If he has a hand that is weaker than yours, he will consider bluffing to get you to fold a better hand. However, your opponent is unlikely to bet medium strength hands (unless he is range merging), as these are already beating your weak hands (which you will likely fold), and are behind your strong hands (which you will call, and he will lose).
  • 3 bets preflop, from a balanced player. A balanced player won’t just be 3 betting their premium hands, as it will be easy for savvy opponents to put them on these after a while. 3 betting weak hands is good, as they can fold if 4-bet, and they win the pot if their opponent folds. 3 betting their medium strength hands is less good, as it is unclear if they want to fold if they get 4 bet.

You could describe a range as ‘top end polarized’ if it doesn’t contain the weak hands. An example of this is when a weak tight player 3 bets preflop – he might only be doing this with premium pairs, and AK.

What is a condensed range?

A condensed range consists mainly (or only) of medium strength hands. This range has little (or no) strong or weak hands. You may see condensed ranges, referred to as depolarized ranges.

Example

  • Lets say your opponent has just been taking passive actions (i.e. checking or calling, not betting out voluntarily, or raising), especially over multiple streets before the river where card(s) could come that are bad for the strong hands in their preflop range. Let’s also say with his initiative and range advantage on a particular board texture, he could reasonably cbet hoping to win the hand immediately with his air (or later by barrelling with his weak draws). You might suspect he has neither strong, nor weak hands in his range. If you have taken over the betting, and he check called out of position, you can remove the weakest hands from his range.