Board coverage is a relatively new concept in the poker world.
It became a hot topic when solvers gained widespread use, but not everyone knows what it is. To bridge that gap, this article will answer some questions about it:
- What is board coverage?
- Why does board coverage matter in theory?
- How much does board coverage matter in practice?
Let’s dive in!
Board coverage is a qualitative assessment of how well a range of hands will interact with all of the potential flops, turns and rivers.
For example, if you raise with a range containing only high pairs and high-card hands (AA, AK, KK, etc.), your range has bad board coverage. Such a range will never hit low flops and medium flops (such as 8♥ 7♣ 6♠ or 6♦ 4♠ 2♥).
On the other hand, if you raise with a range containing high pairs and high-card hands, plus suited connectors and low pairs, your range has better board coverage because at least some of your hands will hit every type of flop. Whether it comes A♠ A♣ K♠ or 6♥ 5♥ 4♣, you’re covered.
This concept further expands into future streets — you also want to have good board coverage for all potential turns and rivers.
Board coverage matters because, in theory, lacking certain strong hands on particular boards allows your opponent to exploit you.
In other words, if you can’t have some strong hands in all lines, even a small amount of them, you are exploitable.
Why are you exploitable? Because an omniscient opponent would be able to use big bet sizes with more value bets and bluffs, knowing you never have a super strong hand with which to pick him off. He’ll bluff you more often, extract more thin value and greatly increase the expected value of his overall range.
Moving a bit deeper into the game tree from the preflop example given previously, let’s take a look at a flop example that demonstrates how board coverage impacts strategy.
In this example, the player on the button raised preflop and the big blind defended.
The flop comes 8♠ 6♦ 4♦ flop and the big blind checks. Let’s take a look at the solver’s solution for the button.
If you play this way as the button, the big blind has to play somewhat defensively on any turn that completes a draw.
For example, suppose you check back as the button and the turn is the 7♥. Here is what the big blind’s strategy should look like:
He’s betting around 43% of the time and checking 57% of the time.
But what would change if the button chose to c-bet all draws and all overpairs on the flop? Before revealing the solver output for such a situation, think about how you would exploit the button on the 7♥ turn if you knew he could never have a straight or overpair.
It’s crucial to understand that everything above this applies if, and only if, your opponent is somehow familiar with your strategy. In practice, that’s quite rare. I don’t remember ever telling anyone what my exact strategy looks like. Many times I don’t even know it perfectly myself, so how could the other player know?
But here’s an absolutely crucial takeaway:
The necessity of board coverage increases as the player pool size decreases and the skill of the player pool increases.
As an extreme example, suppose you always play with the same 10-20 players who are all talented high stakes crushers. You would need to consider board coverage as a part of your strategy to at least some extent. Otherwise, those crushers will be able to effectively pressure you on certain boards.
On the opposite side of the coin, if you play micro stakes online or low stakes live game, considering board coverage is not nearly as important. Your opponents in those games will be much less likely to identify and exploit a lack of board coverage in your game.
Board coverage is an advanced concept which you can play with, but you have to remember that its practical applications can be somewhat limited.
Imagine trying to explain the most brilliant physics theory to a monkey. It wouldn’t matter how brilliant the theory is because the listener cannot comprehend it. It’s kind of the same deal with board coverage. Your range’s board coverage won’t matter when your opponent doesn’t care to identify and exploit your strategy.
That’s all for now! I hope this article has cleared up some misunderstandings which you may have had about this topic. If you have any questions or feedback please let me know in the comment section down below and I’ll do my best to get back to you.
If you want to keep reading free articles, check out this one next: Polarized Ranges vs Linear (Merged) Ranges Explained.
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
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