Chapter 29: Board Texture in Online Poker
I was recently playing $2/$4 on Full Tilt. I raised AcAh preflop and got called by a tough regular on the button. The flop was JsTs9s. I bet, my opponent raised, and I folded quickly.
At another table at the same time, I raised AsAh preflop and got called by a tough regular on the button again. The flop was 5d2d2h. I bet, my opponent raised, and I 3-bet, hoping to get my stack in.
These two examples show how I based my decision on “board texture.” In the first example, the board was very coordinated. There are many straight and flush draws out there as well as two pair combinations. The second example, the board is a dry board. That means that there aren’t as many flush and straight draws and two pair combinations possible, and that they are less likely given the rank of the cards.
Board texture refers to:
How coordinated the board is. For example, a JT9 board makes many straights possible. It also makes two pairs possible, as people are more apt to play cards closer in rank (such as JT and T9).
Any flush draws or flushes present. A JsTs9s board is bad for AA with no spade because many of our opponent’s hands now have our hand either drawing nearly dead against a flush, or our opponent’s hand has really good equity with a spade. For example, QsJc on this board is a 65% favorite over AA with no spade.
What rank the cards are on the board and how they relate to your opponent’s likely hand. When I get raised on the 5d2d2h flop, I am not worried about my opponent having a deuce. Good players don’t call raises preflop with 2’s in their hand, unless he has flopped quads or fives full of deuces and that’s too rare of an event to worry about. Chances are he has a smaller overpair, a flush draw, or is making a bluff, figuring me for a hand like AK.
You must ALWAYS be analyzing board texture. Understanding how the board relates to your opponent’s hand, first before he acts, then after he acts, will help you put him on a hand range and choose the best play.
Let us go back to the QQ hand I played from the hand ranges and equity chapter. I knew the board, which was 9c5c4h, hit three of the pocket pairs he calls preflop with a set. I knew also that his weaker overpairs, JJ and TT, liked the flop and knew he would go all-in with them. I used board texture to help me figure out his hand range, which then helped me figure out that I was going to win just enough to make a call profitable.
In the later chapters when I discuss “tricky” play, I emphasize using board texture to know when to pull off moves like check-raise bluffs or double and triple barrels.