Reading Board Texture

Reading the board texture should have an affect on all of your post flop decisions in no limit holdem from whether or not to bet or raise, to your bet sizing. For that reason, ability to read and understand board textures is an important skill to add to your game.

Wet and Dry Boards

A dry board is the name given to a board where the possibility of your opponent having a strong made hand of a strong draw is very remote. An example of this would be a K72 rainbow board (all different suits). If you had raised pre-flop with AK and got a call, then the only hands you are realistically behind to are 77 and 22 as it is likely that your opponent would have re-raised with AA and KK, and unless he’s a very irrational player he won’t have called a raise with K2, K7 or 72 before the flop. As well as that, there are no possible strong draws out there, so the likelihood is that you’re very far in front with your top-pair top-kicker, and your opponent is drawing to two or three outs.

An example of a wet board would be something like 6s7s8d. If you raise with KK from early position and get called by a player on position, you should tread very carefully when the board is like this. Pocket pairs and suited connectors make up a large amount of peoples’ cold calling ranges in position and your opponent could easily have you crushed with 66, 77, 88, 45, T9, in very bad shape with 67 or 78, or a coin flip with hands like 89 or the nut flush draw. Many players make the mistake of thinking their opponent must have a draw in this situation and trying to get all-in if possible, but the truth is that if they do have a draw, they have a lot of equity against you, and there is also the possibility that they have a strong made hand that has you drawing very slim.

On wet boards you should be more inclined to bet bigger so as to protect your hand and charge your opponent for drawing, where as on a dry board you can afford to give him a better price, in the knowledge that he probably doesn’t have that strong a hand. Remember though to vary your bet sizes according to the texture of the board, not according to the strength of your hand.

Continuation Betting and Board Texture

Because shorthanded no limit holdem games have become so aggressive, you need to be a lot more judicious with your use of continuation bets. You can no longer get away with blindly betting every flop; regardless of whether you hit or miss. Picking the right combination of board texture and opponent is critical if you want your continuation betting strategy to be profitable.

The first thing you need to look at is your relative hand strength and its potential for improvement. For instance, you’re much better off to c-bet a Kc6c7s with Ac8d than with 22 because if you are called, you at least have some equity and the chance to overtake your opponent in the first case.

The second important factor is to recognize the type of situations where you are in a hand with an aggressive opponent and the board texture is one where he is likely to play back at you. If you miss completely on a very co-ordinate board, you are much better off to just wave the white flag and take a free card against an opponent who is going to be check-raising you with a high-frequency. By the same token you should be looking for board textures to raise continuation bets in pots where you are the cold caller.

A final important point about continuation betting is to learn to recognize how the turn card changes the complexion of the board and whether it warrants firing a second barrel at or not. The classic case would be where you raise pre-flop with something like A5s and then continuation bet a J72 rainbow board and your opponent calls. In this case your opponent most likely has a hand like JT, 99 or 78. Now a King falls on the turn; this is a great card for you to follow up your aggression. There are now to overcards on the board if your opponent has a 7, and even JT will start to worry when you follow up on the turn, fearing that you may have hit with something like KQ or AK.