Paired boards can be confusing and frustrating.
They often create scenarios where one player is way ahead and another is way behind, which makes it difficult to get value when you have the goods and often tempting to bluff– potentially over-bluffing –when you don’t.
We’ll take a look at 4 hand histories featuring paired boards in this article. Each hand focuses on a different concept to help you better approach paired boards:
- Hand 1 – Range advantages on paired boards
- Hand 2 – The static nature of paired boards
- Hand 3 – Check/raise bluffing on paired boards
- Hand 4 – Hand strength relative to range
These hands were played by members of The Poker Lab and submitted to our private Facebook group for peer and coach review
Hand 1 – Range Advantages on Paired Boards
Our first hand was submitted by Poutine M. It was taken from a range quiz within The Lab, which is why there is no hand dealt to Hero.
$1/$2 6-max NLHE
Hero is in the CO with:
Hero raises to $5. BTN calls. SB folds. BB folds.
Flop (Pot: $13)
T♠ T♦ 6♠
Hero checks. BTN checks.
Turn (Pot: $13)
Question: How should Hero play his range on this flop and turn?
Every time you see a flop, you should consider who’s range it connects with more: you or your opponent(s).
When a player has a range advantage, they can play their range more aggressively– value betting and bluffing more frequently –and there is not much the other player can do about it. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- The player with an inferior range will have a hard time calling down often enough against multiple barrels
- The player with a range advantage will have more strong value hands that are incentivized to bet, so betting with more bluffs as well is required to stay balanced
Let’s take a closer look at what the specific ranges for each player in this hand might look like:
You may have noticed a couple things that make this T♠ T♦ 6♠ flop heavily favor the player in the cutoff.
- The cutoff can have strong pairs and the button can not
We can pretty safely eliminate TT-AA from the button’s range because she would almost certainly 3-bet with them pre-flop. On the other hand, the cutoff has 25 combinations of these strong pocket pairs, one of which has flopped quads.
- The button has fewer combinations of trips
The cutoff’s open-raise range contains a number of Tx hands that the button would typically fold pre-flop(namely T6s-T7s, JTo-ATo and maybe T9o). In total, the cutoff has 46 combos of trips here. The button has 12.
With so many strong hands to bet on the flop, the cutoff can profitably bluff at a relatively high frequency, putting pressure on the button’s weak range. Bluff with hands that can’t comfortably check/call a bet and have good equity when called. Stuff like low flush draws, straight draws and hands with backdoor draws tend to make the best candidates.
When the button checks back on this flop, the cutoff is again incentivized to play aggressively on the turn as the range of their opponent is further weakened by this action.
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Hand 2 – The Static Nature of Paired Boards
A static board texture is one where equities are unlikely to shift drastically on the following street. Most paired boards would be considered static boards.
This hand was submitted by Lab member Oliver.
$0.05/$0.10 6-max NLHE
Hero is UTG with the:
Hero raises to $0.30. MP folds. CO calls. BTN folds. SB folds. BB calls.
Flop (Pot: $0.95)
Q♠ 9♥ 9♣
BB checks. Hero checks. CO checks.
Turn (Pot: $0.95)
BB checks. Hero bets $0.71. CO folds. BB folds.
In this example, Hero bets a large size ($0.71 into $0.95) on a Q-9-9-2 board after it checks around on the flop. However, with medium-strength hands on static boards like this one, checking the turn is superior to betting for two reasons:
- Many better hands are still present in our opponents’ ranges
Despite showing some passivity in the hand so far, our opponents can still have a number of 9x and Qx combos in their ranges. We are way behind hands like these and betting into them is a disaster for us.
- It will be difficult to extract value from worse with JJ
The bigger problem with value betting JJ is the lack of possible worse hands that can call. Lower pocket pairs will be hoping to check their way to a free showdown and will pretty much never call two bets.
By checking, we avoid bloating the size of the pot with a medium-strength hand and keep the prospect of our opponents bluffing alive. (Plus, we can just value bet on the river.)
There was one more issue with the way Hero played this hand: the bet sizing.
Since we’re trying to induce calls from relatively weak pairs and Ace-highs, a smaller sizing(between 33% and 50% pot) would be far more appropriate if you do elect to bet here. Smaller bet sizes increase the likelihood that you will get calls from worse hands.
Keep in mind, when looking to extract just one street of value, it is better to be in position. When in position, you will be more likely to reach showdown without having to face an unwanted river bet from your opponent.
Hand 3 – Check/Raise Bluffing on Paired Boards
Players often feel the urge to bluff on paired boards due to the unlikelihood of their opponent having trips. However, you need to carefully think about range advantage/disadvantage before bluffing to do it as effectively as possible.
This hand was submitted by Lab member Brett:
$0.02/$0.05 3-max NLHE
Hero is in the BB with:
BTN raises to $0.15. SB folds. Hero calls.
Flop (Pot: $0.32)
9♠ 4♥ 4♣
Hero checks. BTN bets $0.15. Hero raises to $0.50. BTN calls.
Turn (Pot: $1.32)
Hero bets $1. BTN calls.
River (Pot: $3.32)
Hero bets $3.35 and is all-in.
In the above hand, our Hero check-raises out of the big blind with T♣8♦ on a 9♠-4♥–4♣ flop. However, the range advantage on this given board texture actually lies with the button raiser.
A button raising range will have many more 4x combos than a big blind calling range (which may only have A4o/A4s and 45s). This means that our player in the big blind is attempting to check/raise in a situation where they have a range disadvantage, something which you should try and avoid.
It is good to have bluffs in most of your ranges, but you want to avoid over-bluffing and becoming unbalanced, especially on disadvantageous boards. If you check/raised with every hand like T♣8♦ here, you will simply have far too many bluffs.
Also, be conscious of the size of your value range. The smaller raise size you use, the fewer bluffs you should have. Try and use hands with multiple ways of improving when bluffing in these spots.
Hand 4 – Hand Strength Relative to Range
There are situations in No Limit Hold’em where you simply must call a bet with a particular hand even though you expect to be wrong at a somewhat high frequency. This is the nature of the game and it will happen to you at some point.
If you fold too many hands relative to your entire range in these spots, you open yourself up to getting exploitatively bluffed. The solution is to call down with these hands and don’t beat yourself up about it when you run into a better one.
This last hand is an example of that and was submitted by Josh:
Hero is in the SB with:
Hero raises to $2. BB raises to $8. Hero calls.
Flop (Pot: $16)
A♥ A♦ 4♥
BB bets $10.08. Hero calls.
Turn (Pot: $36.16)
BB bets $22.76. Hero calls.
River (Pot: $71.68)
BB bets $62.24. Hero calls.
BB wins the pot with:
While our Hero does run into the flush in this instance, folding AJ would be far too weak – especially when playing heads-up.
As a general rule, when you have a strong hand which will beat a couple of your opponent’s value bets or chop the pot, you should make the call. This way, you’ll always win the pot when your opponent is bluffing, and only lose it when you run into the higher part of your opponent’s value range.
That’s all from me today. See you guys next time.
(Note: Become a master of paired flops, multi-way pots, flush draws and more with The Poker Lab training course. Click here or below to learn more.)
More poker strategy content from Doug Polk and UpswingPoker:
- Make sure you’re avoiding these 5 Misconceptions That Way Too Many People Believe
- Find out which is the better strategy between GTO vs Exploitative Play
- Go back to the top of this paired board poker article