Whether to play fast or slow in certain spots is a common discussion topic among poker players. In this article, we’ll take a look at the best way to handle an overpair. Without further ado, let’s get cracking.
What Is an Overpair?
First of all, we should be clear about what we mean by an overpair. The term is just shorthand for “an overpair to the board”. So whenever you hold a pocket pair and all three cards on the flop are lower in value, this is an overpair.
For instance, you are dealt 9-9 and the flop comes 8-6-2. Your pocket nines would be classed as an overpair. However, if the turn brought a Jack, your pair would now be an underpair. In this article, however, we are referring specifically to the situation on the flop.
Play Fast or Slow?
Now that we have defined what an overpair is, let’s get into answering the question of how to actually play an overpair. As a general rule, like with many situations in poker, playing fast is a good thing. By slowplaying, you could potentially miss out on picking up some chips against weaker hands. Worse still, you may give your opponent a chance to take the lead if they are drawing.
So, in short, play your overpairs fast a lot of the time. However, this is poker and nothing is ever that simple. If you have guessed that there are some exceptions to the rule, you’re right. Let’s pick through a few of the main ones.
Protecting Your Range
It is always a bad idea to be predictable at the poker table. Doing so leaves you vulnerable to exploitation by good, observant players. Therefore, you must mix up your strategies to keep your opponents guessing.
Having already stated that we should look to play our overpairs fast, what is the point in ever checking? Well, first of all, it strengthens our checking range. We want our opponents to see that we are capable of a check on the flop with a premium pocket pair. That way, they are less likely to try to push us around when we check with weaker holdings.
Further, checking offers our more loose or aggressive opponents the chance to bluff into us from time to time. But what hands in your range should you choose to mix things up?
Basically, you want to take the strongest hands in your range. In this case, we are referring to the premium pairs, A-A, K-K, and possibly Q-Q. These are just the least vulnerable hands to being outdrawn when slowplaying.
If you were to hold Q-Q on a rainbow flop of J-6-2 against a single player, you’d be licking your metaphorical lips. However, against two or three opponents, the picture would be a little different.
When there are multiple players to share the burden, your continuation bet possesses much less of a threat. None of them feel obliged to call, knowing that if they fold, there is someone else behind to keep you honest. As a result, you’re going to be called by losing hands less often than when you are up against one player. In these multiway situations, a check call makes more sense than a bet on the flop.
On a Bad Flop Against the Big Blind
If you are holding an overpair, how bad can the flop really be? What we mean is those horrible connecting boards that offer lots of draws. For instance, something like T(Spade) – 8(Spade) – 7(Club) is not the prettiest of flops when you’re holding aces. Especially if you’ve been called by someone in the big blind.
Think about the big blind’s range when calling a pre-flop raise. It could be full of hands which could be two pairs or a made straight. In this situation, check-calling is the safer way to proceed.
Out of Position Against a Cold Call
Let’s say you raise pre-flop and are called cold by one opponent. Even if your overpair is a premium one and the board is not at all scary, you should proceed with caution. Think about your opponent’s range here.
A cold calling range is pretty narrow, especially if the player is a strong, tight opponent. There may be a lot of pocket pairs and not many speculative suited-connector-type hands. Therefore, we do have to assume that sets are going to be in play a lot of the time on the flop.
Of course, if you’re up against a loosey-goosey type, this is far less of a concern. But here, we’re assuming that you’re playing people who know what they’re doing.
For the most part, it makes total sense to play your overpairs fast. Try to get money into the pot to extract maximum value. However, in a few exceptional situations, you should mix in check-calls to protect yourself from potentially stronger hands or simply to protect your checking range.
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