paired board poker

Paired Boards: 3 Examples That Reveal The Optimal Approach

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 3 hand histories featuring paired boards in this article. Each hand focuses on a different concept to help you better approach paired boards:

  • Hand 1 – The static nature of paired boards
  • Hand 2 – Check/raise bluffing on paired boards
  • Hand 3 – 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 – 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:
J J
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)
2
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.

 (Note: Study poker with step by step instructions and examples for a huge number of topics. Click here or below to learn more about The Poker Lab training course.)

Hand 2 – 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:
T 8
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)
J
Hero bets $1. BTN calls.

River (Pot: $3.32)
5
Hero bets $3.35 and is all-in.

In the above hand, our Hero check-raises out of the big blind with T8 on a 9♠-44flop. 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, combined with the crucial fact that the button’s range contains all premium hands, 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 T8here, 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 3 – 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:

$0.50/$1 HUNL

Hero is in the SB with:
A J
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)
3
BB bets $22.76. Hero calls.

River (Pot: $71.68)
9
BB bets $62.24. Hero calls.

BB wins the pot with:
J 5

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:

I have over $5,000,000 in live tournament winnings. In 2014, I won my first World Series of Poker Bracelet, followed up with a 2nd bracelet in 2016. My online winnings are over $2,000,000 on Full Tilt and PokerStars alone, mostly at Heads Up No Limit, and those graphs are publicly available on HighStakesDB.

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