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Checking Flops with Overpairs: When Should You Do It?

You look down at the beautiful Q Q.

You raise preflop and get called by two players. The flop is all undercards, so you still have an overpair. You start to reach for chips, but then you remember this article. What did it say about scenarios like this?

You’re about to gain insight into when it’s appropriate to check on the flop with an overpair in order to win the maximum. Three spots are covered in this article:

  1. Multiway
  2. Out of position against a tight caller
  3. Bad flops in position versus the big blind

Let’s begin!

Spot #1: Multiway

Suppose you raise preflop with Q Q and get a couple of callers, one is on the button and the other is in the big blind.

The flop is dealt T 9 5♠.

You should heavily consider checking in this scenario, unless you are playing against a recreational player who is likely to make a mistake versus a bet.

The reasons behind checking here are pretty complex:

It mostly has to do with the fact that the equity is split between 3 players. This means your hand actually has significantly less equity than it would against one player.

On top of that, the burden of defense now rests on two players, which means neither of them is forced to call with a wide range of hands versus your c-bet. In other words, they will call with hands that lose to your QQ less frequently than they would if it was a heads-up pot.

One last important factor is that since you are up against two players, the odds that you are up against a stronger hand is greatly increased.

When we consider these reasons together, the decision between betting and checking becomes much closer than it may initially seem.

By plugging the details of this hand into a cutting-edge 3-way solver, we can see that the solver elects to check 100% of the time (yellow = check):

The solver also calculated that the expected value (EV) of checking is 0.1bb higher than betting 60% of the pot (you can see the EV of both options on the right-middle of the image).

What’s the Plan After Checking?

This part is tricky because it will depend on several things, including:

  • The exact ranges of your opponents.
  • If the button bets.
  • If the big blind calls the bet.
  • Board texture.

For the most part though, you should just check-call and proceed with caution given the variables above. 

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Spot #2: Out of position against a tight cold-call range

This is a situation that is misplayed even by some of the best poker players out there.

For example, you raise in middle position with AA♣ and a regular calls on the button. The flop comes J 5♠ 3♣.

99% of players will immediately start putting money into the pot, but that is a slight mistake according to solvers. Don’t get me wrong, betting here is not -EV by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not always the highest EV line either.

Here’s the downside of betting: even though your range has more overpairs than your opponent’s range, your range is still overall weaker than his. His range is very narrow/condensed, and thus, sets represent a much larger part of his overall range.

What this means is that if you are to adopt a straightforward approach (bet your strong hands and draws while checking the middling part of your range), your opponent will be able to start raising that c-bet very aggressively. This forces you to make decisions for your whole stack at a high frequency, and it won’t be easy for you to counter.

This is, of course, in theory, and it will only happen when playing against high caliber opponents that are aware of these exploits. Having said that, even by checking, you are likely exploiting your opponent’s over-aggression against your check. We’ll talk about that in the next section.

What’s the Plan After Checking?

This time the situation is not as complicated because you are only up against one opponent.

You will generally want to check-raise with your overpairs unless the board has at least a made straight possible, in which case you can go for the check-call.

You will find that most opponents will play too aggressively versus your check, trying to represent a very strong hand, but they will often give up on the river.

Spot #3: Bad Flop In Position Versus the Big Blind

By bad flop, I mean a very connected board like 9♠ 7♠ 5, T♠ 9 8, or 7♣ 5 4.

These boards heavily favor the big blind’s range because he will have more straights and two pairs than you. On a 9-7-5 flop, for example, PioSolver elects to check at a very high frequency with overpairs (middle position vs big blind):

Checking Overpairs

Notice how the higher overpairs are checked more frequently than the lower overpairs. AA is checked more often than KK, which is checked more often than QQ, which is checked more often than JJ and TT.

These checking frequencies are driven by each hands’ vulnerability. There is no card that can come on the turn to make AA less than an overpair, so you can happily check and let another card come.

By contrast, there are 4 cards that can make KK less than an overpair and 8 cards that can make QQ less than an overpair, so these hands should be bet more frequently than AA. They should still usually be checked, though, because they retain their absolute hand strength very well.

If you’re up against an observant and skillful opponent, betting with your overpairs on these connected boards can make your life hell. If you don’t check with enough of them, your opponent can put you in brutal spots by ramping up his aggression against both your bets and your checks.

He can play more aggressively for the same reason as spot #2: he has more nutted hands (two pair or better) compared to his overall range than you do.

What’s the Plan After Checking?

Checking makes your life very simple.

You are going to call versus a probe bet on every single turn, even if it puts a four-straight on the board (but usually fold on the river in that case). If the turn doesn’t put a four-straight, then you are going to call every river except the ones that complete the four-straight.

Pretty straightforward, right?

Final Thoughts

Implementing checks with overpairs in these spots will give you a confidence boost (because you’ll have strong hands in your range where you otherwise wouldn’t). Plus, these checks will make the rest of the hands much easier to navigate.

That’s all for now! I hope you liked this article, I really enjoyed writing it! If you have any questions or feedback please leave a comment down below.

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Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!

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About the Author
Dan B.

Dan B.

Online grinder aspiring to reach the highest stakes and crush the toughest games. I'm available for quick strategy questions and hourly coaching -- reach out to me at [email protected].

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