Seeing double: What to do when the turn pairs the board

In Omaha, by contrast with the PLO-minus-2 card game, board pairing turns can make a dynamic board static and a static board virtually frozen. In the heat of battle, it can often be difficult to decipher whether a given pair helps our range or our opponents more. More importantly will he fold to 2 barrels, 3 barrels or never and how light can we value bet?

This article forms the first in a 3 part mini-series discussing the play of board pairing turns as the pre-flop raiser in a single-raised pots. The examples are all taken to be in position, but with a little thought you can extend the ideas to out of position play yourself. The first one in the series discusses a disconnected A high flops. Subsequent posts will examine more coordinated textures. The reader will note that I have not gone into extensive detail on our opponent’s pre-flop range in this article. It transpires that the absolute width is relatively unimportant given the flop continuing parameters that most players use. Whilst the A high discussion is a little dryer than my usual offerings, it offers important insights into quite how differently each pairing card should be played. I hope you enjoy applying what you learn here to your game. Good luck at the tables!

Ace-high rainbow

Consider a flop of Ad8s3c
Once we have raised pre-flop and had our continuation bet called on the flop, our opponent’s range is dominated by {Axxx}, with some slow-played top set, the occasional middle set and very few bottom sets

1. The curious reader may be pleased to learn that the best turns in the deck for our range when we have a tight pre-flop range are {T-K}. With a loose range, the cards {2, 4, 5, 6, 9, T} are best, along with diamonds (since the non-A BDFD appears often). Unsurprisingly, rainbow turns are among the worst for our range. For this article, we are focused on the pairing turns. The turns {A,8,3} either make their range {very strong, bluff-catcher, medium-strength} respectively.

On the As turn, we have close to zero fold equity. The discussion below should be read in the knowledge that our turn range is close to a 90%-10% dog against our opponent’s turn range. We cannot fire the turn with a high frequency unless our opponent check/folds everything that isn’t a boat on the river. In principle our opponent could realize this and make some tight folds when we barrel the turn. In practice, almost all opponents will call every Axxx that they hold. It follows that we should rarely bet the turn and not the river on a bluff or even semi-bluff. Note that KK65ss only has 19.5% equity against non-boat{ Axxx} and 12.5% against all {Axxx}. If you are going to bet the As turn, then bet POT. The next piece of information you need is that, if your opponent did not already have a boat on the turn and never slow-plays flop and turn, he will fill up only 18% of the time on the river. If he is the slow-playing type, he will have a boat by the river 38% of the time2. If he takes the ‘standard’ approach of check-raising  the A8 boat but not the A3 then he will have a boat by the river 25% of the time. All of these numbers point to an extremely profitable vacuum triple-barrel on the A pair, and an extremely unprofitable vacuum double-barrel. Presently, most tight players 1+done here without the goods, and most loose players fire two and give up. If your opponent is likely to call/call/call with AK here then he will have a hand he can call with around 55% of the time on the river, {Q,J,T} make the worst barrel cards against this opponent (calls increase to 65%) and the K itself is the best. If he will call with AQ+ then the triple barrel is terrible and you should not bet the turn. On a final note, the backdoor flush coming in is much better for you than your opponent. With one of his cards guaranteed to be a non-flush A, it is much harder for him to have a flush on the river than for you. If your opponent will fold AK on the flushing river then triple barrel the flushing card every time.

On the 8d turn, our first concern is that 17% of our opponent’s range is {A8, AA}, even if he 3bets many AA pre-flop, provided he check-calls the flop with his two pair and sets. In contrast, only 9% of ours is from UTG and about 4% with a wide button range! Fortunately, between 11-14% of our range contains a bare 8, whereas our opponent has virtually zero non-boat 8s in his turn range. As before, with one of his cards guaranteed to be a non-diamond A, it is rare he makes a back-door flush (10% of his Axxx), whereas we will have the rivered flush 20-25% of the time. In practice, the weakest hand we can value bet the turn with is AK, yet many nitty opponents will make tight folds with their non-boat hands and so we can double-barrel air with a high frequency. Against these opponents, triple-barreling is foolhardy, whereas those opponents who are cogniscent that they should continue with many of their {Axxx} hands on the turn will frequently decide to fold the river unimproved. Your opponent makes an even better target if he refuses to check a full house three streets, since his river range is then capped at AK/rivered top two on most river cards. Despite the reality that we are a 33%-67% equity dog range versus range on the turn, the middle card pairing provides an excellent opportunity to continue our aggression until our opponent adjusts. Note that our opponent’s equity distribution is quite polarized, which accounts for the favourable bluff spot, in contrast to his smoother distribution in the final example below.

On the 3s turn, the discussion is dominated by a fact that is counter-intuitive. If your opponent only calls the flop with {Axxx,88,33,AA} then his range on the turn is much stronger than yours irrespective of pre-flop ranges. Over 50% of our opponent’s turn range will be {AKxx + two live cards or better}, whereas only 20% of my UTG range fits this description. If you are opening from the BT with a wide range and C-betting this flop close to 100% of the time when checked to, then you have around 24% ‘strong’ hands. Unfortunately for the aggressor, tight players will have as much as 27% of their range {A8 or better} when they just flat the flop with {Axxx,88} even when they 3-bet all of their AA. The numbers are thus very much against frequently potting the turn and giving up on the river, since that strategy allows a solid opponent to continue a strong range to the river (58% of his hands are AK+). Once you realise the weakest hand we can value bet here is {AKxx} with the ‘xs’ both live, you will be far less inclined to waste a second bullet here since you have the weaker turn range3. The natural question is, how do we exploit a villain who plays in this fashion? Your mistake is on the flop, not the turn, since you tend to C-bet 70%+ on the flop often and permit your opponent to take a tight range to the turn. If you make much smaller C-bets on these boards, then he must either include hands weaker than top pair in his continuing range or you have already beaten him when you start playing straightforwardly on later streets4. When you do continue, pot the turn with a range consisting of {AKxx, 3,AA,88,8,A8, any BDFD} and barrel most rivers with all of your value hands better than AK (including a bare 3 on a flushing river) and around 70% of your bluffs5.

This article has given you a solid grounding on what to think about on board pairing turns. Be sure to check back next week for the second part in the series, where we address pairing turns on a Q high flop.

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Show 5 footnotes

  1. This is because the only players with many 33xx in their range are fish, and they are likely to check-raise bottom set on the flop.
  2. These numbers are of course affected by the width of your opponent’s range, an absence of A+low side-cards reduce the boat frequency on low rivers. However, these tight ranges will contain a lot of AKxx by the river and so the low run-out is not as great a boon as it may seem.
  3. As the defender, if your opponent is aware of this you want to lead the turn frequently. If he barrels the turn often, this is a great spot to check-raise him.
  4. The criticism that we don’t expect the board to pair is null, our opponent’s range will be stronger than ours on most turns when he calls the flop here with a tight range.
  5. If your opponent gets wise to your strategy on A high rainbow flops, he may start reverse-floating you. If he does, you have to call a lot wider than top pair on the river after you check back turn.
By |2017-04-10T13:23:16+00:00September 20th, 2012|


  1. Rob H June 18, 2013 at 8:25 am - Reply

    I began reading your articles for the second time today to attempt to reinforce what i’ve learnt the first time. I’ve been putting in significant volume to attempt to apply the concepts to my game and consequently have instantly seen an increase to my bottom line simply because i am so much more in control of my decisions, sizing, reacting to textures, aggression, creativity etc etc.. you get the point. However, i would like to ask your approach to learning and applying all the concepts. I understand from your perspective that this question will not be as simple as: Do this!!! but i assume you could impart some form of methodology to help me learn faster than at current. What methods do you recommend to students whom are learning your “new” content from a background of very low understanding? Play standard game for 5k hands and apply a couple of concepts, check statistical differences and learn? alternatives?

    • Phil Rocquemore June 18, 2013 at 10:35 am - Reply

      Hi Rob,

      I am actually developing a site that will be tackling the ‘learning problem’ head on. Many of my articles have references, some oblique some direct, as to how to learn effectively. If I were to give three pointers for a beginner at systematic improvement, they would be:

      1) Keep to 6 tables maximum. Never play more, not to get more rakeback, not because the games are good, nothing. Your goals is to get a huge bb/100 and crush the competition before moving up (some rake issues at microstakes, but once you get to a decent level, bb/100 is a priority over hourly). This is the best recipe to prevent tilt, makes the game enjoyable and keeps you enthusiastic about the game.

      2) Don’t try to learn many things at once. Buy a monitor attachment copy holder (I use a 3M DH445, available on amazon for about a tenner). Print off the three strategy improvements you are working on and put them in the copy holder. At the end of every session, review to see how well you addressed those issues. Once you have them down to ‘unconscious competence’ print new ones. Repeat.

      3) Mindset: “Decisions not dimes” and “Stay humble”. Learn to enjoy outplaying people as a priority over just winning money. As I have moved up I discovered that many of the ‘names’ in poker were making mistakes which I could prove were gross mathematically. The companion to this is that these players are still winning (in at least some cases). This means that there are areas of the game I have not yet analyzed where they are playing better than me. Trying to work out why they are winning rather than just pumping my ego by emphasizing where I know they are weak was a major step for me.

      If you are interested in formal study then I have theory seminars running continually as well as individual coaching.

      Good luck at the tables,


  2. Rob H June 17, 2013 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    One of the best blogs i’ve ever come across. I’m in disbelief this is free and it has immediately disposed of countless leaks in my game. Even more amusing is the fact that now understanding solid concepts, it makes railing highstakes PLO that much more amusing since i can see clear leaks in their games too, and hence why they are “fish”. I hope i grind enough cash to eventually purchase a lesson or two from you. Lastly, you write in such a great way that i find myself laughing and learning; you are brilliant. Keep up the good work

    • Phil Rocquemore June 17, 2013 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      Dear Rob,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad to see a reader taking the time to go back over my previous articles, particularly since this one is rather dense! Keep on putting in work, and I’m sure you’ll see some success. There is a significant difference between understanding something whilst reading it and applying it in the heat of battle.

      Good luck at the tables,


  3. Emre Kenci September 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    Love the plo-2 game reference. From isildurs response to galfond nl+2 game…

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