People confuse the term polarization a lot even though it is a very simple concept. Simply put when someone is “polarized” they are either very strong or very weak. In practical terms this translates to them either holding a nut type hand or a bluff.
Commonly I will hear someone say that their opponents’ hand is polarized between something like top pair or a set. This is obviously a misuse of the term.
Often times in the games today there are spots where people are commonly polarized. This happens a lot in raised pots, especially three bet pots where a player raises the preflop raiser’s continuation bet.
Let’s take a look at an example. Player A in a $5-$10 game raises in middle position to $35. Player B reraises on the button to $105 with J♣ J♠ and $1500 effective stacks. It gets folded back to Player A who calls. The board runs out Q♥ 3♥ 8♦. Player A checks and Player B puts out a continuation bet of $125. Player A now check raises him to $375. Player B thinks for a bit and disgustingly folds his hand bitter that he cannot beat the queen on the board. But is the queen really relevant in this situation?
Usually decent players will not choose to check raise a hand as weak as AQ in a three bet pot from up front as they realize that this can commonly put them in a way ahead way behind situation. This creates a situation of polarization. Player A rarely has a medium strength hand in this spot. Usually he will have a very strong hand like a set or possibly a slow played AA or some sort of draw. So the fact that player B cant beat the Q on the board really does not matter. Player B must determine if Player A is strong or is bluffing as we have already established that it is highly unlikely that he holds a queen only.
This concept is lost on a lot of midstakes players. They fail to realize how common it is that their opponents’ ranges are completely polarized.
I always find it funny that certain types of players will fold top pair weak kicker because they have “kicker problems” not realizing that with their opponents given action the kicker in play is completely irrelevant. Check out my podcasts over at seatopenpoker.net episode “Depolarization” for further of discussion of this concept.