Many novice players place their opponent on a specific hand. For example, “I put him on AK.” But in reality, there are almost always other hands that the opponent would play in the same manner. For that reason the correct approach is to place your opponent on a range of hands, estimate the probability of each of those hands, and base your strategic decision on how your hand plays against the totality of that range.
Many online equity calculators such as Flopzilla will calculate your “run out” equity against a given range. And while how your hand does against an opponents’ range is important when facing possible all-in situations, it’s not an all-inclusive method to determining the most optimum play. NL hold’em has other play options than moving all-in and running out the cards. To optimize your play, you’ll need to think about how specific lines of play work against a certain portion of his range, and then calculate how it works against the other portions of his range. The line of play with the highest blended EV against the totality of that range is the optimum play.
The point being, when there are other alternatives to being effectively all-in, thinking about how the hand will likely play with differing strategy lines will often create better options that just determining your equity based on a run out. For example, maybe you’ll size your bets lower to keep more of your opponent’s range in his calling range. Perhaps you’ll bluff the river small since a lot of his range is whiffed draws.
The critical concept is that the correct play doesn’t depend on how much equity your hand holds based on a run out, but rather how can you play your hand to obtain the highest EV possible? Often you’ll find a better line of play when considering all your options and not just basing it on current run out equity.
Compartmentalize your opponents’ range into segments, a drawing segment, a segment that the nominal ranking beats your hand, and a segment that you nominally beat. Do a range analysis and determine what the odds are that he holds each portion of those segments? What is the best line of play against each segment? How does the best play in one segment effect the value of the other segments? Make a best guess estimate of how your hand plays EV-wise against all those segments utilizing differing lines of plays. Select the best play!
Yeah, it’s complicated. You’ll have to do a lot of work away from the table to get a feel of it. Additionally, you have to have a good read of your opponent’s ranges. But over time, with focused experience, you’ll train your mind to accomplish these tasks.
And when you do, you’ll be a much better player.