1. PokerVIP
  2. Strategy Articles
  3. Texas Hold'em No Limit Intermediate
  4. How to Play XXY Flops
Texas Hold'em No Limit Intermediate

How to Play XXY Flops

7,269 Views on 1/11/16

Paired boards are the "ugly duckling" among all the other possible flop textures. There's not a lot of play to them and they often result in strange situations.

Article image

Paired boards are the "ugly duckling" among all the other possible flop textures. There's not a lot of play to them and they often result in strange situations in which both ranges and player intentions are largely unclear.

It's important to approach those kinds of situations with a level head, and have a contingency plan in place to avoid losing our cool (and consequently - money). 

Not All Paired Boards are Created Equal

First of all, not every paired texture is the same. While something like a 995 rainbow is a real lockdown board where no hand has good equity vs. the nuts, there's a lot more play to something like Th9s9s.

The latter texture is much more akin to the regular, unpaired flops than the former example of a paired lockdown board. On a Th9s9s there's a good number of draws and medium strength hands possible, while on 995 you're always either way ahead or way behind.

A cbet on Th9s9s will work considerably less often and you can find some decent reasons to raise cbet or check/raise on that texture while raise on 995 will happen far less often (due to the high success rate of continuation bet) and it will always look somewhat sketchy.

When in Doubt - Cbet

Speaking of continuation bet, this is your bread and butter play on a paired board texture. Recreational players will usually adopt a fit or fold strategy, ABC players are unlikely to get a piece or give you any troubles. The boring fact of the matter is that paired board textures usually provoke a classic cbet/fold exchange because that makes the most sense from the combinatorics standpoint. 

What about playing on an XXY flop against a very good opponent? This will usually be surprisingly easy. Some pros advocate the lack of a flop raising range no matter the texture. Others aren't quite as radical, but they often use this approach for paired boards. This is coincidentally the approach you yourself should assume when playing on such texture without the initiative.

Sure, you can dabble with highly exploitable bluff raises against opponents who don't really pay attention to the game but for the most part, it's somewhat difficult to balance your raising range on a XXY board. This is true for many reasons, one of which is the fact that paired board textures block a considerable amount of strong hands in villain's range and discourage medium strength hands from putting a lot of money into the pot, therefore you don't really want to raise with your strong holdings since the likelihood of getting paid off is so small.

And since you're not raising your strong holdings it doesn't make much sense to make yourself easy to exploit by raising with a highly unbalanced, bluff heavy range. It's far easier to add a good amount of floats to the strong hands that you're calling with.

Your main issue on XXY boards will be playing against a 'tricky' opponent who decides to put in a raise cbet or check/raise "because no one ever has anything on a paired board". Fortunately, there are some tools to counteract that.

Cbet/3Bet Line

When playing against someone who likes to raise on a paired board you can always go one level higher and employ a cbet/3bet line which should be fairly effective at punishing this highly exploitable play.

The only problem with the cbet/3bet line is that it's also highly exploitable. Since it doesn't make much sense for the villain to be raising in the first place and he's bound to be somewhat bluff heavy - if you really had a strong hand you wouldn't want to go over the top.

Instead, you'd aim to keep the villain's range as wide as possible. 

Enter the cbet/float Line

The alternative approach to punishing a raise on a paired board is responding to a line that doesn't make that much of a sense, with a line that makes all the sense in the world. If you're planning on making your best impression of Phil Ivey in the hand against Andrew Feldman posted above here's what you should know:

It's very hard for Andrew not to be dishonest on this flop texture. He can't possibly have a lot of strong hands on a 55T board (especially when we focus on minor details available to Ivey like the fact that 54 might be one of those extremely unlikely combos of 5x in Feldman's range and Q4 is blocking some of those)?

Also, like we've already established above raising with a value hand on a paired board doesn't really make much sense. Ivey realizes that and instead of going over the top (which given extremely unbalanced range of his opponent should have a similar expectation in the long run) he continues to tell a story that makes sense.

Lastly, remember that just because it's hard to flop big on a paired board and just because it doesn't make much sense to play a big hand aggressively on that texture, some players won't really care about any of that. That's why it's very important to establish that you're not playing against a super passive recreational player.

Otherwise, you can level yourself out of your hard earned money when you decide to cbet/float against someone who will only ever raise the flop with trips or better.

More Top Rated Content


Coaching Videos


Matt VIP

Matt is predominantly a mental game and planning expert, with a terrific knowledge of science, meditation, practical methods of improvement and of course, a good level of poker skill! Look out for his strategy articles and follow him for hi ... Read More


YouTube logo
PokerVIP Chip


22.3K Subscribers