Poker Strategy: Difference between range and nut advantage

Poker Strategy | estimated reading time
2024. May 14.
In this article, we'll examine the terms range and nut advantage and how to use them in practice.

We need to clarify two terms: range and nut advantage. They are often used interchangeably and vaguely while referring to two totally different concepts. You might ask, why is it so important? Well, these factors determine bet sizing and frequencies, and they are crucial, especially on the flop. Today, we'll discuss the terms and how to use them in practice.

What is range advantage in poker?

Let's start with the range advantage! When discussing having a range advantage, we refer to having more very high EQ hands than Villain as a proportion of our whole range. At the same time, we have more high EQ hands as a proportion of our entire range than Villain. Thirdly, we have fewer very low EQ hands as a proportion of our whole range than Villain.

If you read it carefully, three main factors simultaneously add up: quantifying, ratio and the entirety of ranges. Quantifying is essential as we want to have a large number of powerful hands and very few low EQ hands compared to our opponent. Moreover, ratio matters because not only do we wish to have more of stronger hands, but we also need them to be a significantly higher proportion of our range than Villain's. Lastly, we are examining the entire range; we cannot focus only on the nutted region or some arbitrarily determined part of the range.

A classic example of range advantage is EP vs BB on a dry board, where a tight, overpair-heavy range with high EQ hands (even when unpaired), etc., meets a wide and weak range consisting of more low EQ hands such as 53s and K4s but lacking the top-tier JJ+ AK part, which is responsible for strong top pairs and overpairs (high EQ) in the ranges.

Therefore, when talking about range advantage, what matters is the whole range vs the whole range, how much EQ a range has on average. If it's more than 50, you have a range advantage; if it's more than 55-60, you have a big range advantage, and if it's above 60, you have an enormous range advantage. So, it not only matters if we have an advantage but also how big it is. A 51-49 situation is not so favourable that we could build an overaggressive strategy based on it.

Even though you might have more nutted hands, you should examine the entire range. Otherwise, you determine who has a nut advantage, and that's different.

What is nut advantage poker?

We are talking about the nut advantage when one of the players has more of the very high EQ hands. Beginners often misunderstand, and they focus on the actual nuts on the specific board, while nut advantage refers to a broader group of hands. Anything that has more than 80% of EQ against Villain's range probably qualifies, of course, depending on the board texture.

Similarly to the range advantage, the ratio of nutted hands compared to the entire range matters. Hence, it's not enough to count the few combos of nuts when determining who has the nut advantage. Knowing how big part of a range those nutted hands are is critical.

For example, in a CO vs BB situation, on a flop like ♥T♣5♣3, all of the overpairs will count as nutted hands due to their high EQ against the entirety of BB's range. The best hands BB could have here are sets for 55 and 33, which are also included in BTN's range. Two pairs are scarce on a disconnected board like this. Hence, the overpair region and the strongest top pairs will give BTN a large nut advantage.

Check out the two ranges!

COvBB ranges on ♥T♣5♣3, EQ distribution and range interaction
COvBB ranges on ♥T♣5♣3, EQ distribution and range interaction

Not only are the nutted combos high in numbers, but they are also a more significant part of BTN's range than BB's. Also, look at how wide the trashy part is in BB's range!  

How to use range or nut advantage in practice?

Range advantage determines the frequency, aka how often we want to bet. The more significant the range advantage, the more we want to bet, and the smaller the advantage, the less we want to invest. This is especially true for the flop play since we'll often apply a polarizing strategy on turns and rivers. Hence, just because you have an advantage doesn't mean you can bet every hand. In many cases, betting the middle of your range is a huge mistake, especially when you should be betting a polarized range.

When we have a significant range advantage on the flop, we can bet more often with a wider range (sometimes even the entire range, aka range betting). Both our bluffs and value hands benefit from this fact. The more fold equity, the better for your bluffing hands. At the same time, the more value hands beat Villain's bluffcatchers, the more value betting goes up in EV.

When we have a significant nut advantage, we can and want to bet bigger (even overbetting in some cases). Therefore, nut advantage will determine our sizing in most cases. But what about situations when we are not ahead or the advantage is minimized?

When we don't have any significant advantage, we tend to size down and bet a narrower, more polarized range. So there is no such connection: if we bet small, we do it with a wide range, and when we bet big, we do it with a more polar range. The reason should always be the range and nut advantage when choosing frequencies and sizes.

An excellent example of this is monotone boards, especially in a Blind versus Blind situation. The flop equalizes the nut prevalence, so SB has a tough time playing out of position and is forced to apply a polarized c-betting strategy (and check a huge part of the top of the range as well).

Summary

Now you understand why using the terms nut and range advantage interchangeably is problematic. Actually, they refer to very different things; range advantage, as its name suggests, considers the whole range, while nut advantage focuses solely on the nutted part of each range. It's crucial to see that the ratio of strong hands is also important. We must be aware not just the fact that one of the players has an advantage but also of the extent of that advantage. There are various consequences of nut and range advantage, and we suggest studying various boards thoroughly. The main takeaway to use in practice is that range advantage determines the frequency we wish to bet, while nut advantage is responsible for the sizing we're supposed to choose. Beginners often misunderstand or add false cause-effects to the discussed terms, so you must practice all new information outside the tables.

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