Reading Board Texture in Hold 'Em Poker

written by: John

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One of the problems I think many players have when playing poker is being too two-dimensional and by that, I mean they don't tend to look at anything but their own two cards and their chip stack. In fact, there was a time when I did as well. It is easy to be caught up in what cards you have and get excited with no regards to what your opponent may have.

I think the biggest mistake that is made with this frame of mind is not learning how to properly read board texture and how it relates to your hand and more importantly, how it may relate to your opponent's hand.

So to help some of you move from a 2-D level of thinking to 3-D and beyond level thinker, here are some examples on what to look for when learning how to read board texture.

Reading Board Texture in Hold'em

There are several kinds of flops that at one point or another you will see when playing poker. Let's take a look at these flops and see how we should go about acting.

High Card/Rainbow Flop | Ad-10h-5s

When looking at this board, what do you see? The first thing I notice is that this board is uncoordinated in terms of a flush draw unless someone is going to chase the backdoor draw. The next thing I look at is possible straights. Anyone with a K-J or K-Q will be on a gut-shot straight draw and if anyone managed to talk him or herself into playing with garbage cards such as 2-3, 2-4 or 3-4, then there is a 'wheel' draw as well.

On a flop like this, a pair of aces should be able to take it down with no problem and furthermore, the aces should be bet for value. No one needs a free card on a board where there are slight draws. If there is a player drawing to a gut-shot, any bet should discourage them chasing any further and if not, then it's their mistake.

Another interesting aspect to this hand is if you have something like K-10 or Q-10 and have a middle pair with a backdoor straight draw. In this situation, I like to check to see what my opponent does or if they check to me, I'll lead out to stab at the pot or at the very least to get information.

Flush Flop | 5d-Kd-10d

When there are 3 cards to a flush on the flop, one of a couple things happen. The first thing that I normally see happens is someone tries to take a stab at the pot thinking that there was no way someone flopped a flush. Well, it happens. If you were not the one to flop the flush or nut flush draw you should lose interest pretty quickly.

The second thing that tends to happen is that there is absolutely no action because everyone is afraid that the other guy has the flush. In a situation like this, it's best to stay out of the way even if you have like top pair. If the action is passive all the way to the river and there wasn't another diamond on the board, you may try to take a small stab at it but if you do, just be prepared to insta-fold.

Paired Board | 8h-6h-6d

The first thing to consider on a flop like this is if any of your opponents are capable of playing a raggedy hand such as A-6, K-6 or like to play suited connectors such as 5-6 or 6-7. Aside from that, the only real concern is if any one paired the 8's and is now sitting on 2 pair.

The one mistake I have made myself in the past is act too aggressively when I have paired the 8 (or similar) but am not sitting on a very good kicker. This is something to watch out for as well.

Lastly, as odd as it may seem that one of your opponents decided to play 8-6 and now has a boat, it is possible. This needs to be heavily considered if you happen to have some sort of flush draw or straight draw.

Face Cards | Ad-Qs-Kc

This kind of board can be especially dangerous for those who cannot let go of a good pair with decent kicker. Here, as you can see there is a straight for anyone with 10-J or gut-shot draws with 10-9, J-9 and so forth. These boards are really dangerous and if you manage to flop top-pair good kicker or even two pair, it should still be in the back of your mind to tread carefully here. Also, keep in mind that if two of these cards were suited that it was a good chance that that one if not two players would be going to showdown with you.

Board Texture in Hold'em

Hopefully these examples shed a bit of light on what a player should be considering when the flop comes. It may be important to realize the strength of your own hand, but doubly important to gauge that in comparison to your opponents hand range and how their range may have connected with the board. Once a player understands how to do this, they are sure to find plenty of spots where they can save or gain a few chips.