Improving your fundamentals in common spots is one of the easiest ways to improve your win-rate.
Here’s the common spot that will be the focus of this article: you raise, the big blind calls, and a paired flop falls.
What will be covered?
- Why You Shouldn’t Play All Paired Boards The Same Way
- How to Build Your C-Bet Range on Paired Boards
- Playing Versus Check-Raises
Note that the specific advice and examples that follow assume you opened from the button with a typical button range (because button vs big blind is the most common match up). This is important to keep in mind so you can adjust your strategy when you’ve opened from a different position.
Why You Shouldn’t Play All Paired Boards The Same Way
Every possible paired board is unique, but it’s reasonable to divide them all into two groups:
- High paired flops: when the pair is TT or higher (such as K♣ K♥ 4♦).
- Low paired flops: when the pair is 99 or lower (such as 8♣ 8♥ 4♦).
These two groups of paired boards warrant different approaches because of how ranges interact with each other.
Specifically, their difference comes from the fact that the big blind has more equity on the lower paired boards, which is driven by the abundance of overcard and backdoor flush draw hands in their range.
For example, if the flop is 8♣ 8♥ 4♦, the big blind will have many hands that have an overcard (or two) with a backdoor flush draw:
- A♦ T♦
- K♥ J♥
- Q♣ J♣
- J♦ 9♦
- T♣ 9♣
- 9♥ 7♥
- …and so on.
All of these hands have a decent amount of equity (25-50%) against a typical c-betting range. As a result, your opponent in the big blind will be able to continue on these low paired flops very often against a small c-bet.
Compare this to a K♣ K♥ 4♦ flop: the only hands that have an overcard and a backdoor flush draw are suited Ax (of hearts, clubs, or diamonds in this case).
Due to the lack of overcard plus backdoor hands in the big blind’s range on high paired flops, he will be forced to fold significantly more often versus a small c-bet.
How to Build Your C-Bet Range on Paired Boards
Unsurprisingly, the way you should approach c-betting should change depending on whether the pair is high or low. Let’s start with…
High Paired Boards
The strategy here is very simple: bet your entire range for a small size. Click here to see the PioSolver solution that backs up this simple yet powerful strategy.
Low paired boards
You can go one of two ways when c-betting on low paired flops:
- Bet small with most hands, check the rest.*
This would include checking back some hands like K-high plus backdoor, some overpairs such as AA and KK, and your lowest 8x, such as 98s, 87s, 86s. Also, checking back with a few combos of trips is a great move to protect your checking range.
- Bet small with your entire range.
This is a good way to play if you think your opponent does not check-raise aggressively enough.** You’re essentially exploiting their low check-raise frequency with this size.
*Click here to see the PioSolver solution on which this strategy is based.
**PioSolver check-raises 26% of the time against a 33% pot c-bet on this board. You will be hard pressed to find an opponent who check-raises anywhere near that frequently, which is why this is often an effective exploitative strategy.
Playing Versus Check-Raises
Ugh, the dreaded check-raise. No worries, you can deal with it!
Against tight players (aka most players in the world), you should play very tight versus a check-raise on paired boards. Tight players are heavily weighted towards strong hands, so you can actually exploit them by folding.
The trickier question is how to defend against aggressive check-raisers. Versus such players’ check-raises on paired boards, you should generally call with the following hands:
- Trips and full houses.*
- All of your pairs (including pocket pairs).
- Every A-high and K-high that has a backdoor flush draw.
- Every two overcard hand that has a backdoor flush draw.
- All of your hands with an overcard plus a backdoor flush and straight draw.
*Barring a read that your opponent really hates folding, you should heavily lean towards just calling with these strong hands to protect the rest of your calling range (and to allow your opponent to keep betting).
If you face a bet on the turn after calling the check-raise, you will want to raise your threshold for continuing. As a general rule, you will want to call with the following hands versus a turn barrel:
- Top pairs and better.
- Lower pairs with a straight or flush draw.
- Strong draws (flush draws and open-ended straight draws).
Your exact defense range versus the barrel should vary based on the turn card that comes (and, as always, your opponent’s tendencies). The more the turn card interacts with the check-raiser’s perceived range, the stronger hand you will need to call.
If your opponent checks on the turn, you should look to stab at the pot for a small size. The range with which you should stab includes strong hands (such as top pair top kicker and better) and semi-bluffs that can hit very strong hands on the river (straight draws and flush draws).
Paired boards are a lot more fun to play when you are the aggressor because you can implement a simple yet very effective betting strategy: bet small and frequently. This strategy will allow you to take the pot down very often while giving yourself a great price.
Remember to always be mindful of how aggressive your opponent may or may not be check-raising and adjust your defense accordingly.
I hope you enjoyed this article and that it cleared up some confusions you might have had about paired boards!
Any questions? Please let me know in the comment section down below and I’ll do my best to answer in a timely manner.
Want to learn more about playing on different flop types? Read 10 Fundamental Tips for the Most Common Types of Flops next.
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
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