Poker Strategy With Ed Miller

Connected boards are important in hold’em. Boards like Q-10-9, 6-4-2, and 8-7-6 hit a large number of hands and blunt the advantage that premium preflop hands like K-K have on most flops. Here are three tips for how to approach these commonly misplayed boards: Tip #1. Value bet liberally on two gap boards. Not all connected boards are created equal. The boards with no gaps—those like 10-9-8 and 7-6-5—create the most upheaval in hand rankings. A hand like A-A is weakened considerably the moment something like J-10-9 hits the flop. With gaps between the board cards, this upheaval becomes less dramatic. A hand like A-A preserves much more value on a J-9-7 flop than on a J-10-9 flop. Indeed, it’s often good to try to attack two gap connected boards. These boards hit a lot of hands, but hit few very hard. A board like J-9-7, for example, hits K-Q, Q-J, J-10, 10-9, 9-8, 8-7, and even 7-6. It also “hits” pocket pair hands 10-10 and 8-8. Players with these hands will likely feel like they’ve got something when they see the flop. But in each of these cases, the hand is a big underdog to a strong top pair hand like K-J. In particular, hands like 10-9 for a pair and a gutshot are about a 2-to-1 underdog to K-J. Not only is 10-9 an underdog, but few of the hand’s outs are hidden. If a ten or eight hits, the player with K-J will know he’s likely in trouble and may give up. Only the two nines are even somewhat hidden, and most players holding top pair would be wary as well if a nine hit the board. So it could be a big mistake to call a turn bet holding 10-9 against top pair, since you’re a dog to get there, and if you do hit, you’re relatively unlikely to get paid off.
Nevertheless, despite being an underdog with an obvious hand, many players will easily call both the flop and turn with a hand like 10-9. This sets up a lucrative value betting situation for the player with top pair or an overpair. So if I catch a 10-8-6 flop with a hand like K-K, my plan will be to make big value bets on the flop and turn and reevaluate if I get raised or if an obvious scare card hits. Tip #2. Bluff the river when the four-straight bricks. Say you open-raise with K-Q and get two calls. The flop comes J-9-7 with two clubs. Your opponents check, and you bet. One player calls. The turn is an offsuit 3. Your opponent checks, and you bet. Your opponent calls.
The river is an offsuit 5. Your opponent checks. Bluff. This is a great bluffing spot. A large percentage of the time, your opponent will have been calling with a pair-plus hand like J-10, 10-9, 9-8, J-8, 8-8, and the like. After the turn and river bricks, these hands don’t look like much against a big river bet. Most $2-$5 level players are quick to fold the river to a final barrel in this scenario. The bluffing situation is even better if an overcard hits the board, such as a king on a 9-7-5 flop. But an overcard is not necessary to make for a good bluffing spot against nitty $2-$5 players. Likewise, if a flush comes in, your bluff will fail occasionally when your opponent was drawing to the flush, but it’s still probably a good bluffing spot. This logic also holds on boards with one or zero gaps as long as the turn and river cards don’t connect. So if you happen to bet an 8-7-6 flop and the turn and river come a 3 and Q, go ahead and bluff.