Balancing on Paired Boards

Paired boards have increasingly become a game of “chicken” for no-limit players. When players started figuring out there were very few combinations of an opponent’s hand that could withstand a lot of pressure, paired boards became more heavily contested situations. A lot of pressure applied to an opponent on a good paired board can cause a lot of opponents to fold out an incorrect range simply because it’s difficult to know someone’s bluffing frequency in a given situation until you know their game pretty well.

An example of equity on a low paired boards using the exact same opening hand ranges for our opponent of 23.4%. Your opponent open raises, and you call and see a flop of: 7c7d3h.

 Paired Low Board

  •   Check/Call with Gutshot: ~34% equity versus your opponent’s range. (54s, 54o, 65o, 64s+)
  •   Check/Call with Air: ~47% equity versus your opponent’s range. (A9s–AJs, A9o–AQo, KTs+, KJo, QJs)
  •   Check/Call with small pair: ~58% equity versus your opponent’s range. (22, 44–77)
  •   Check/Call with two pair (bottom): ~62% equity versus your opponent’s range. (A3s, A3o, 43s, K3s)
  •   Check/Call with Over Pair (two pair): ~71% equity versus your opponent’s range. (88–JJ)
  •   Check/Call with Trips: ~95% equity versus your opponent’s range. (A7s, A7o, 87s, 87o, 75s+, 76o, 97s, K7s, 97o)
  •   Combined equity of all ranges: ~51% equity versus your opponent’s range.
  •   Combined Equity of made hands: ~72% equity versus your opponent’s range.

Since your equity for each hand range will be much better on a low paired board, there are several profitable lines you can take. Check/calling with your air, small pairs, over pairs, trips, etc., is a viable line. You can turn some of your air range into bluffs on later streets. Leading at the pot is also a good line if you are against an opponent whom you don’t think will play back at you very often. Check-raising tends to polarize your range a bit too much in spots like this, so in general it’s not the best line to take unless you actually have a hand against an opponent who cannot fold.

This is generally a way ahead or way behind situation. So unless you have a really aggressive game, most of the time you’re going to keep the pot somewhat smaller, or allow your opponent to bluff when you do have a big hand. At the same time, you’ll want to fight for these boards, so in general, check/calling and then leading the turn is a very good line. In situations where you are the pre-flop raiser, betting small on the flop with your entire range, and then betting close to pot or slightly over betting the pot can be a very profitable line that will apply maximum pressure to your opponents hand range.

In the above example, you are the pre-flop raiser from late middle position with KdQd. You have one caller in the cut-off. The flop comes: 8c8d4h. Generally as the pre-flop raiser you’re going to want to continuation bet here, but it’s opponent dependent. If you do decide to continuation bet, you should generally continuation bet less than you normally would. About 1/2 the pot or less would be a good size. If you are raised, you can 3-bet the flop at a cheaper cost or call and lead the turn. If your opponent just calls your continuation bet, you can make a large bet on the turn, forcing them to fold out their Ax hands and small pairs. If you pick up a card that helps your hand such as any diamond, a king or queen, you can continue with a normal sized turn bet.

There are several viable and profitable lines to take in a common spot like this, but most of your decisions should rely on how aggressive and tricky your opponent is. The less tricky and aggressive they are, a standard continuation bet and double barrel on improved turns will generally be profitable. Against trickier opponents, betting small, over betting the turn, and check/calling can all be profitable lines as well.

Let’s take a look at general equity on a broadway paired board using the exact same opening hand ranges for our opponent of 23.4%. Your opponent open raises, and you call and see a flop of: QcQh8d.

 Paired Broadway Board

 Check/Call with Gutshot: ~32% equity versus your opponent’s range. (T9s, T9o, J9o+, J9s+)

  •   Check/Call with Air: ~42% equity versus your opponent’s range. (AKs, AKo, A9s–AJs, A9o–AJo, KJs, KJo)
  •   Check/Call with Small Pair: ~42% equity versus your opponent’s range. (22, 44–77)
  •   Check/Call with Two Pair (bottom): ~58% equity versus your opponent’s range.
    (86s+, 87o, 98o, 98s, T8s, J8s)
  •   Check/Call with Over Pair (two pair): ~77% equity versus your opponent’s range.
    (AA–KK)
  •   Check/Call with Trips: ~91% equity versus your opponent’s range. (AQs, AQo, KQo, KQs, QTs+, QTo+)
  •   Combined equity of all ranges: ~51% equity versus your opponent’s range.
  •   Combined Equity of made hands: ~65% equity versus your opponent’s range

Again you can see that the overall average equity in each hand range grouping is slightly lower on a broadway paired board versus a low paired board. If you check/called with your air range and small pairs as your primary line, you’d have to turn these hands into bluffs a good percentage of the time on later streets. So fold out a lot of your gutshot, air, and small pair range when you’re out of position, or look to lead with some percentage of those hands. Check-raising generally won’t be a good line because your equity isn’t as good, and your opponent believing you have a strong enough hand to check-raise won’t work often enough.

In general you’re going to have slightly more equity on lower flops than on broadway flops for most flop textures. This will allow for slightly more creativity if you choose lines and balance them well with the style of poker that fits your game best. If you prefer playing a more passive and trappy game, then you should have a better idea of which boards to check/call with, and which ranges are best suited for this. If you have a much more aggressive game, you can see which textures are best for check-raises and leading at the pot.

Just keep in mind that your approximate flop equity versus your opponents continuation bet range will be much different versus their turn betting range. Your flop equity versus their range is not your realized equity until you can get to showdown. Having an idea of where your hand grouping stands versus a typical opening range will allow you to see profitable lines better, and balance your range accordingly. You should go through each of these flop textures and make sure you understand what kinds of lines you will take on average against most opponents. Once you’re comfortable with your plan, and you’ve practiced it a bit, you can add more and more deception into your hand ranges as your opponents get more sophisticated.

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