Poker Hand Range Notation

Learn how to use Hold’Em hand range notation to perform a qualitative hand analysis. Understand the symbols, filters, and main groups often used.

Poker hand range notation may sound like something mathematical and complicated, but simply it’s a way of writing out ranges of poker hands in a way that can be read by other people for the purposes of analyzing a hand.

The standard poker hand notation is also used by a variety of poker software and websites. So, knowing some of these advanced hand range notations and filters may help you when using poker tools to analyze your hands.

What Is a Hand Range in Poker

A poker hand range is a way of thinking about all the possible hands our opponent can have in any given situation (i.e., hand range reading). For example, when we’re UTG there are a variety of hands that we’re going to raise in this spot such as AA, KK, AK, etc. So when we see someone raise in this situation, we don’t know exactly what hand they have but we can make assumptions about which hands they will be raising, and we call that their range.

A lot of the poker matrices and charts you see online are a visual representation of multiple ranges.

How Poker Hand Range Notation Works

When we talk about ranges we want to be able to get across all the hands we’ll be playing in a spot without having to type out every single hand combination. If we cannot send this information with an image of a hand matrix, the next best thing we can do is use notation to shorten the amount that we have to type.

We use various symbols and numbers to avoid having to write out “a pair of twos, a pair of threes, a pair of fours…” for every hand in our range. We try and shorten it as much as possible so that it’s still readable for someone who knows it, and doesn’t take days to type!

Poker hand range notation is also used by various pieces of software as a way to import and export ranges. We’re going to cover the various parts of poker notation so you can make sense of long strings of letters and numbers!

Denomination of the cards

We’ll start with the simplest part of hand range notation in poker: card denominations. These will be pretty self-explanatory for anyone who has ever picked up a deck of cards before, but we may as well start at the beginning!

Pretty simple stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. The only important thing to note is that the ten is the only numbered card that is represented by a letter. The easiest way to remember it is that the five Broadway (or the 5 best) cards are all letters and the rest are numbers.

Suitedness of the cards

When talking about suited hands, you can talk about all the suited combos of a hand by putting the letter ‘s’ after a hand combination – such as AQs. This represents all four combinations of ace-queen suited.

However, you can specify the exact suit of the hand or of each individual card by putting the first initial of the suit after each card (AQ representing ace of clubs, queen of spades), or twice after the hand to represent a suited hand (ATdd representing ace of diamonds, ten of diamonds).

The reason we put the suit twice after a suited hand is to avoid confusion between specifying a hand is suited to spades (AQss), or if you’re talking about all the suited combos of that hand (AQs).

You’ll find that when you’re talking about preflop calling ranges you’ll just use the ‘s’ to denote suited combos of hands as ranges are still very wide at this point, only when you get to flop, turn, or river decisions do ranges get small enough that the actual suits of the combos matter.

Filter symbols

This is where we start to get a little more complicated as we bring in different symbols to help keep our poker hand range notation as short as possible. Even people experienced with such notation may not have seen some of these symbols before!

A lot of this looks a lot more complicated than it is, and truthfully, if you’re talking about ranges with your friends you’ll most likely just use the ‘+’ or the ‘-‘ symbols as these are the most common. The rest are mainly used by poker software, so while it’s not essential knowledge it can be useful to get a handle on what all these symbols mean.

Compounded ranges

When we’re talking about ranges that we would play (i.e., preflop starting hole cards), we’ll have to put a lot of these symbols together as our raising ranges don’t consist of one line of the poker matrix – we raise all parts of the deck. What we do is use a comma-separated list to group all those hands together into one big range.

Let’s have a look at a couple of ways we can use NLHE hand range notation to talk about a UTG raising range:

Example 1 – 22+, AT+, A2s-A9s, KJ+, K8s-KTs, Q9s+, J9s+, T8s+, 97s+, 87s, 76s, 65s, 54s

This is what you’ll likely see on any poker forum when talking about poker hand ranges, only using the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ in a comma-separated list as this is the most readable and most understandable way to read a range for the average poker player.

Example 2 – 22+, A.s, ATo+, KJo+, T^s, [QJT87]9, [T7]8, [75]6, 54s

This is the exact same range but using all of the notation available to us in order to make it as short as possible. Even if you’re familiar with what all the notation means you can see it’s a lot harder to read off than the range in Example 1, which is why when we’re talking to people we make it look like the first example.

Hand Range Groups

In both of the above examples, we put some hands into hand range groups which we use to signify a large number of hands with relatively little text. We’ll look at the most common ones you’ll see and exactly how many combos you can talk about with a couple of characters.

Pairs

Pairs make up the start of every poker range so it seems right that we talk about these first. The notation for pairs is also fairly simple, only using the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ symbols, representing either; all pairs equal to or above the stated hand (55+), all pairs between two stated hands (22-55), or all pairs equal to or lower than the stated hand (66-).

Most opening ranges (aside from the earliest position ranges) will contain all the pairs so be prepared to see 22+ a lot! Writing 22+ covers 13 different hands and 78 different combinations of hands, so you can see from this example alone how useful range notation is in Texas Hold’Em.

Suited Hands

From some positions, you will want to open suited varieties of hands but not off-suit varieties. For example, if you’re UTG in a 6max game you may want to open ace-five suited but not ace-five off-suit. To denote that only the suited varieties of the hand are in our range we put an ‘s’ after the hand.

You can see from the examples that we can use the ‘s’ in conjunction with other parts of poker hand range notation. As there are fewer suited combinations of hands

Offsuit Hands

Similar to the suited varieties, we’ve just covered, there may be some situations where you have only off-suit combinations of hands in your range. For example, it’s common to 4-bet the off-suit varieties of some hands as a bluff, and call the suited varieties so it’s necessary to differentiate when talking about your range. To denote that only the off-suit varieties of the hand are in our range we put an ‘o’ after the hand.

As you can see, the off-suit hands make up a lot more combinations than the suited varieties – 12 combos to 4 – so being able to avoid writing all of those out will come in handy!

Complex Hands

As we’ve mentioned previously, these kinds of notations aren’t commonly used when discussing hands amongst other people as they’re hard to read and not commonly known. However, they would be useful to use when talking about specific, narrow ranges, such as when you get to the turn/river and your range is much more defined around certain card denominations.

Being able to say in a couple of characters that your range consists of 160 combos of hands between a 7 and a J can be very useful when looking at hands where the board texture has narrowed your range down to hands around those cards.

Even being aware of the fact that all unpaired hands between a 7 and a jack make up 160 combinations is really useful when thinking about combinatorics and how many hands in your range you need to defend in a certain spot. This is what the high-level players are thinking about in-game, and they get there by studying ranges and familiarizing themselves with what that looks like mathematically.

Poker Hand Range Notation: FAQ

What does offsuit mean in poker?

In poker, off-suit means that the two cards your holding aren’t the same suit. Each combination of unpaired hands has 12 off-suit combos (cd, ch, cs, dh, ds, hs, dc, hc, sc, hd, sd, sh). Pairs are 6 combos each and by definition cannot be suited.

What does suited mean in poker?

In poker, suited means that the two cards you’re holding are both the same suit. There are four suits in poker so there can only be four combinations of suited unpaired hands – clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades. Pairs cannot ever be suited.

Why do we use a special notation for poker hand ranges?

We use a special hand range notation to make it easier for other people to read and understand our ranges when we’re analyzing hands. Poker software also uses the same notation to display ranges in a poker matrix.

Do you really need to know how to use the hand range notation?

You should definitely learn the basics of hand range notation such as the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ symbols, and how to list your ranges to be easily readable. However, the more advanced notation isn’t necessary can be avoided for the most part.

How to use poker ranges effectively?

When we’re playing poker we always want to be putting our opponents on ranges as we never know the exact hand that they’re playing. Using range notation when analyzing hands gets you into the habit of thinking in ranges, as using ranges will give us a better idea of what to do with our hand than guessing what our opponent’s precise hand will.

We’ve covered a lot in this article, so hopefully, the next time you come across some poker hand range notation it shouldn’t look so scary!