Playing well on paired boards is crucial in order to maximize your win-rate.
To help with this, cash game pro Fried ‘mynameiskarl’ Meulders launched a learning module in the Upswing Lab course, focusing on how to play paired flops.
In this article, you will learn some of the basic principles from this new lesson. I will also go over a few hand histories centered around playing paired flops in position as the preflop raiser.
Note: If you want to take big steps toward mastering paired flops (as well as how to proceed on turns and rivers), join the Upswing Lab now and check out Fried’s Paired Flops module. But for now, let’s start off with some basic principles for betting paired flops.
This article is marked as advanced. If you’d prefer easier reading, check out our introductory articles here or our intermediate articles here.
Paired Flop Principles
The following section touches on some pretty advanced concepts. If you feel overwhelmed by what you’re reading, that is totally okay. Just try your best to understand the general points that I am making and focus on the bolded text.
Equity Distribution by Position and Board type
Part of what makes paired flops interesting is that the equity distribution for each player varies based on which specific card has paired:
On most paired flops, the in position (IP) preflop raiser (PFR) will have the range and nut advantage over the out of position (OOP) player.
For example, on a K♦ K♥ J♣ flop the IP PFR will have the equity/range advantage in addition to having more super strong hands (see: nut advantage) because he is more likely to have trips/full houses compared to OOP.
However, on low paired flops (88x and lower) the OOP player will often have the nut advantage. The IP player maintains the overall equity/range advantage, but he no longer reigns supreme when it comes to the strongest possible hands.
For example, on a 5♣ 4♦ 4♥ flop, the IP PFR will maintain the range advantage, but the nut advantage belongs to OOP as he is now more likely to have trips or better.
How Often You Bet and Your Bet Size Should be Based on Your Range and Nut Advantage
Now that we’ve covered the concepts of “range” and “nut advantage” are referring to, let’s talk about why they’re important:
The reason it’s important to study equity distributions in general is that it will dictate the size and frequency with which you should bet.
Betting Frequencies—When to Bet
The following rules apply to betting in any situation in poker:
- If you have the range advantage, you should usually bet often.
- If you do not have the range advantage, you should usually check often.
When it comes to paired flops, the IP PFR will almost always have the range advantage and should be betting at a high frequency.
There are some flops that will require more checking than usual by IP PFR, and I encourage you to check out Fried’s Lab module to find out more about these trickier boards. However, it will almost never be a big mistake to bet on a paired flop as IP PFR.
The main question then becomes: what size should you bet?
Proper Bet Sizing
Good players tend to limit their actions to 2 specific bet sizes in any given situation. This is largely because having any more than 2 bet sizes makes it too difficult to maintain a balanced range.
Many good players even limit themselves to 1 bet size in order to simplify their strategy. Unless you’ve studied a specific board/situation thoroughly, I suggest opting for 1 size in a given spot.
The decision to use a small or large bet is largely determined by which player has the range advantage in conjunction with the nut advantage.
You’ll see what I mean by this from the hand examples in the next section, but the key thing to remember here is this:
You should generally save your big bets for when you have the nut advantage and use your smaller bets when you don’t.
On boards where it isn’t clear which player has the nut advantage, it’s usually safer to put most of your hands into a smaller bet category to avoid building a big pot when you aren’t sure where you stand.
Remember also that if you are opting to use a bigger bet size, you will have to lower the frequency with which you bet. Big bets should usually be done at a lower frequency and small bets are good for betting at higher frequencies.
Lastly, it isn’t mandatory to always bet on paired boards as the PFR. This is particularly true when you are out of position (OOP). Betting is only correct when the Expected Value (EV) of a bet is higher than the EV of a check—this applies to both value hands and bluffs.
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Now that we’ve covered some core principles, let’s take a look at a few hand examples from Fried’s module and discuss how these principles apply to Fried’s decision making process.
$5/$10 No-Limit Hold’Em
Fried opens Button to $23.50 with K♦ 6♦. Big Blind calls.
Flop ($51.20): 9♥ 4♦ 4♣
Big Blind checks. Fried bets $16.50. Big Blind calls
Turn ($83.40): 9♥ 4♦ 4♣ 3♠
Big Blind checks. Fried bets $53.06. Big Blind folds.
Our first flop contains a low-pair, which means the OOP player (Big Blind) will have the nut advantage. The IP PFR, however, still has the overall range-advantage and should be betting this flop with a high frequency.
Here is some additional analysis by Fried on this flop:
While this flop isn’t a 100% c-bet, I will be betting on this board much more often than if the board were all low cards and more connected like 4♦ 4♣ 5♣. My opponent will have more 4s in his range than me here, but not by much.
We can summarize this flop by saying: Fried has the overall range advantage, but is at a slight nut disadvantage. Given this, betting small with a higher bet frequency is the best strategy.
Fried correctly bets around ⅓ pot and we head to the turn.
As stated in the intro, Fried goes in-depth with his turn and river strategies after paired flops in the full module, and I encourage everyone to check it out. That said, here’s a brief analysis of this turn spot:
The turn 3♠ doesn’t do much to help either player and Fried must decide whether or not to fire the second barrel or check it back.
Fried opts to go for the bet, explaining that if you only bet your draws on this turn you won’t have enough bluffs in your range to balance your value bets. The Big Blind’s range is also still very wide here and a double barrel can fold out a number of high card hands and other floats.
While K♦ 6♦ does have some showdown value, Fried would be more likely to check back stronger high-card hands like A-high and KQ in hopes of reaching showdown.
Upon later solver analysis, Fried showed us that K6s should be betting this turn around 38% of the time. However, K♠ 6♠ and K♥ 6♥ make up the bulk of that betting range as they block 4x hands like 6♠ 4♠ and 6♥ 4♥, respectively.
$2/$5 No-Limit Hold’Em
Fried opens Cutoff to $11.55 with Q♠ 8♠. Big Blind calls.
Flop ($25.60): J♠ J♦ 2♠
Big Blind checks. Fried bets $8. Big Blind calls
Turn ($41.60): J♠ J♦ 2♠ J♥
Big Blind checks. Fried bets $28.05. Big Blind folds
This high-card board pair gives the IP PFR both the nut advantage and the overall range advantage. Fried explains that this is a board he will be betting basically 100% of the time. He could divide his range into two bet sizes, but in this case he opts to make a small ⅓ pot bet.
The turn doesn’t change much in terms of the range advantage for either player. Fried points out that the distribution between each player having quads is about even in this case. Given that Fried still has the overall range advantage, with all of his high-pocket pair hands still in his range, he opts to double barrel ⅔ pot.
Later solver analysis suggested Q8s should bet this turn roughly 50% of the time. However, if you look below you will see the Q♠ 8♠ specifically should be checked nearly 100% of the time, while all the other Q8s will do the bulk of the betting. Can you guess why this is?
Have you figured out the reason for Q♠ 8♠? Put simply, if Fried bets the turn with Q♠ 8♠ and is called he is virtually drawing dead against a full house or quads. Because of this, the solver suggests checking back any flush draw close to 100% of the time.
This strategy keeps all of OOP’s range that Q♠ 8♠ has equity against still in the hand, while at the same time keeping Fried from over-bluffing the turn. These flush-draw check backs will also serve as great bluff catchers the times they complete on the river.
Fried then goes on to explain that with hands like Q♦ 8♦ it’s better just to bet the turn and try to force folds from OOP’s high-card hands right now.
I was pretty amazed when Fried first pointed this all out as it’s just one of those nuanced spots 99% of players would never think about.
Let’s check out our last hand:
$2/$5 No-Limit Hold’Em
Fried opens Button to $11.55 with Q♣ T♣. Big Blind calls.
Flop ($25.60): 9♣ 9♠ 6♣
Big Blind checks. Fried bets $8. Big Blind calls.
Turn ($41.60): 9♣ 9♠ 6♣ 8♥
Big Blind checks. Fried bets $25.15. Big Blind calls.
River ($91.90): 9♣ 9♠ 6♣ 8♥ 9♥
Big Blind checks. Fried checks.
Big Blind wins with A♥ 4♣
The pair of nines on the flop is once again good for the PFR IP player in terms of nut advantage. If the board weren’t as draw-heavy Fried could bet this flop 100% of the time with his whole range.
Q♣ T♣ is certainly strong enough to bet here, and Fried follows through once again for roughly ⅓ pot.
The turn 8 probably helps BB’s range slightly more than Fried’s, but as a default Fried explains that he is going to bet here whenever he turns extra equity. Fried bets roughly 61% pot, BB calls, and we head to the river.
Unfortunate river for Fried, and he elects to check. In situations like this, Fried explains that he’s not going to be able to bet 100% of his missed draws or he will wind up bluffing too much.
Fried also explains that, in spots like this, it isn’t ideal to bluff with missed flush draws because you are blocking the type of hands you want your opponent to be folding.
It should go without saying that villain’s double float with A♥ 4♣ is way too wide here, but that’s poker. Loose opponents like this are always going to be the types of players you want at your table.
This wraps up our preview on the new Paired Flop module at the Upswing Lab.
Hopefully, this article provided you guys with some great starting off points on how to think about playing paired flops, while also getting you excited about checking out the full Paired Flop module for yourselves.
As always, if you have any questions or feedback I’ll be happy to respond to you in the comments section. Good luck at the tables!
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