How to Play Trips (As the Preflop Raiser and Caller)
Playing trips can be pretty simple in some situations, but there are some small nuances that you might be missing.
If you are indeed missing those nuances, you have an opportunity to increase your win-rate by learning them. Lucky for you, that’s what this article is for.
Let’s dive in!
Note: I’ll be covering how to play trips on paired boards, such as AJ on a J-J-3 flop. If you want to learn about playing sets (such as 55 on a J-7-5 flop), check out the link in the conclusion.
There is a fundamental distinction between playing trips as the preflop raiser and as the preflop caller.
As the raiser, you typically have the range advantage, which means you should be more aggressive.
As the caller, you typically are at a range disadvantage which means you have to be more passive and, at times, tricky. This is because you do not have the luxury of being able to check and realize equity for free like the in-position player.
Let’s further see how we should approach playing as the raiser on different flops, before moving over to playing them as the caller.
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The rank of the paired card on the flop makes a big difference in the way you should construct your strategy.
As the preflop raiser, you will have a bigger range advantage on certain paired boards and a smaller range advantage on others. The size of your advantage should be absolutely crucial to your strategy. Let’s take a look at a few simulations to illustrate this point.
Example 1: 7♠ 7♥ 4♦
Let’s start with a 7-7-4 rainbow flop. Here is a PioSolver solution for this board (Button and Big Blind in a single raised pot):
On this paired board, the preflop caller actually has the nut advantage. This is because the caller will hold a 7 significantly more often compared to the preflop raiser*. Having fewer trips forces the preflop raiser to play more passively, value betting less thinly and semi-bluffing less often.
*The preflop caller will have trips 6.2% of the time in this spot compared to 4.7% for the preflop raiser. That’s a 32% difference, relatively speaking.
Because of these two aspects, the Button cannot be extremely aggressive, but he still should be betting with the trip hands roughly 90% of the time. He should only check when he has trips with a lower kicker.
Example 2: J♠ J♥ 5♦
Now, let’s take a look at the next flop, J-J-5 rainbow (also Button vs Big Blind):
Here we see that the preflop raiser can be far more aggressive in his approach. This is because:
- He is not at a nut disadvantage on this flop
- He has more combinations of trips compared to the 7-7-4 flop, which means that he can add more semi-bluffs to his range.
In this case, the solver suggests betting the same amount of trips as the 7-7-4 flop — 90% of them. Trips are still checked some of the time to protect the checking range.
Playing well out of position with a high stack-to-pot ratio is not a walk in the park. Holding trips, however, makes it much simpler because you are holding a very strong hand with which you will want to check-raise for value very frequently. How frequently is a question that the solver has a great answer for!
Let’s take another look at the 7-7-4 rainbow flop, but this time from the Big Blind’s perspective against a small c-bet.
If you look at the 7x hands, you can see that there is a preference to check-raise less frequently with the Ace kicker and also with the low kickers. This makes sense because when you hold the Ace kicker, your opponent is a bit more likely to have an air-ball bluff, and you’d rather that hand continue to bluff or improve to a second-best hand that will pay you off.
The lower kickers also make more sense to go for the check-call more often because they are also unblocking some air-ball hands and you can squeeze some more value from them on the later streets.
Overall, the solver elects to check-raise with these specific combos of trips around 66% of the time, check-calling the rest of the time. This pattern holds true on the vast majority of paired flops. All of the other trips (K7-J7) are check-raised by the solver at a high frequency.
The most important takeaways from this article are:
- You need to figure out who is more likely to have trips on the flop given the specific paired card
- If you have a lot of trips (on high paired flops) then you should c-bet at a very high frequency
- When out of position as the preflop caller, you should always split your trips between check-raising and check-calling (but predominantly check-raise)
That’s all for this article! I hope that you enjoyed reading it and that you learned something new! As usual, if you have any questions or feedback please let me know in the comment section down below and I will do my best to reply.
If you want to learn how to play flopped sets next, check out How to Play Flopped Sets in 8 Common Situations.
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
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