How To Approach King High Paired Boards

I was perusing some questions in a Facebook group recently, and came across this one:

General sort of question when playing from a 20-25BB stack.

Folded to me on the CO and I make a raise to 2BB with my entire range.

BB calls and flop is K♥️ 3♣️ 3♠️

90% of the time I c-bet dry boards for around 1/3 pot, and most of the time I’ll have missed completely. I feel like I get exploited a lot where BB calls the c-bet and then I have no idea what to do. Should I keep firing representing a king or let it go? Should I be checking a larger portion of my range?

I think what’s causing a headache for this player is that he’s treating all dry King high boards the same. He’s already worried about being exploited when the BB calls his continuation bet and is unsure of what to do on turns and rivers, which suggests he doesn’t have a plan past the flop for this kind of board. The best way to approach this puzzle is to make sure you have a solid flop strategy and build from there.

It’s understandable to look at this flop and call it a dry King high board, but there’s one obvious characteristic that makes it different from a K82r board, for example – it’s a paired board! Paired boards play very differently from other boards because it’s very tough for the BB to have connected. About 80% of his range will have completely whiffed and, given the BB will have 3-bet or jammed all his pairs, it’s hard for the BB to find enough continues when the CO c-bets. Having said that, when the BB does connect with this board, he will have a very strong hand, either two pair (Kings and Threes), trips or a full house.

Who has the equity advantage?

The CO has the equity advantage in this spot and that usually means he can bet very frequently, however…

Who has the nut advantage?

We’re going to classify nuts as trips or better in this example. Normally we would refer to it as two pair or better, but I think a distinction needs to be made here because two pair on a paired board is quite obviously not as nutted as trips.

While the CO has KK, A3s and possibly K3s and 33 depending on his preflop strategy, the BB has a tonne of 3x like A3o, 93s, 43o and 32s. Not only does the BB have more combos of nutted hands here (61.8 combos versus 6 combos), it also makes up a bigger proportion of his range (7.5% versus 1.4%).

This all means that the CO goes from being able to bet very frequently because he has equity advantage to having to check a pretty high percentage of the time (roughly 50%). By having more 3x hands in his range, the BB gets to check-raise this flop very aggressively (about 37% of the time versus a GTO c-bet strategy), which means the CO has to be more selective in choosing which hands to bet here.

What sizing should the CO choose?

As I mentioned earlier, it’s very tough for the BB to be able to continue on this board when they completely whiff, so the CO can actually choose the smallest bet size possible and just minbet. This allow him to bluff cheaply and also forces the BB to continue with more hands than they would like, which in turns allows the CO to get more value with non-nut hands like Ace high.

What should the CO’s flop strategy look like?

Nutted hands (trips or better) - The CO should probably bet his A3s, K3s and 33 hands and then check KK, which has a lock on the hand and blocks a big chunk of the BB’s continues.

Two pair (AA, Kx and underpairs) - The CO should bet his best Kx hands and start checking as the kicker gets worse, so AK would be a high frequency bet and K4s would be a high frequency check, for example. AA could be mixed and then the lower the pair, the more protection it needs so the more frequently the CO should bet it. 44 is therefore a high frequency bet and QQ is a high frequency check.

Ace highs - Generally, the better the Ace, the more frequently the CO should bet. AQs is a value bet on this board since the BB is forced to continue with much weaker hands like ATs or QJo versus the minbet. The CO does have to be careful to bet too frequently with his offsuit Ax hands though since these will struggle to defend versus a check raise as it’s impossible for them to have a back door flush draw. On a rainbow board, ¾ of the CO’s suited Ax hands will have a back door flush draw and become much easier calls when the BB check-raises.

Turn strategy – what are you trying to achieve?

Let’s say that the CO minbets and the BB just calls. The BB is supposed to checkraise very aggressively at equilibrium, but a lot of players will see the dry nature of the board and just slow play his trips, so this is something to be mindful of as we go to the turn.

The BB’s range will consist of some boats, top pair, Ace high, best Queen and Jack high like QJ/QT/JT and some random floats with two cards higher than a 3 and lower than a King with a back door flush draw like Qh8h or Ts8s.

This article would get too long if we went through every turn card and every hand the CO has in his range, so I’m going to give you some general things to think about when choosing whether to double barrel or check.

When the BB calls the c-bet, both players’ equities run much closer together, since the BB has folded much of his garbage now and the CO still has some weaker hands in his range. On a paired board, it’s also tough for there to be standout turn cards that really help one player’s range or the other, which means there’ll be a lot of mixing (betting and checking). An Ace is actually the one standout card in the deck that the CO should check back more frequently since it’s slightly better for the BB’s range.

The BB's equity across all the different turn cards

CO's strategy on all the different turn cards when the BB checks

When developing a solid turn strategy, it’s important to know what you’re trying to achieve. Let’s say the turn is the Qd and the CO has one of the worst hands in his range like 65s – this makes sense as a bet to get a lot of better hands to fold, like Ace highs and any random two cards higher than a six that the BB floated like Jh8h or 9c8c. If the CO has A9s instead, then this makes sense as a check since he’s already doing well against those weaker hands. The CO should continue to bet his value hands like KQ, AA, and trips or better, and then can mix between betting and checking other Kx hands. JT has now improved to an 8 out straight draw and can also bet.

This means that the weaker parts of CO’s range benefit from betting to get better hands to fold, and the more showdown value a hand has, the more it can be steered towards showdown and checked back.

But what about the river?

OK so the CO bets 70% pot (5.25bb into 7.5bb) and the BB calls again and the pot is now 18bb with 16.75bb behind. Now what?

Let’s say the river is a blank like the 2c and the BB checks. If we still give the CO the 65s since that’s a hand he’ll be betting on the Qd turn a high percentage of the time, what should he do with it on this river?

The answer comes from looking again at the BB’s range. When he calls the turn bet, his range consists of some boats (K3), some trips (A3), a good chunk of Kx, a good chunk of Qx and