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Three Tips for Maximizing Your Winnings With Overpairs

by Doug Polk |  Published: Nov 21, 2018


The Upswing Poker Lab is a poker training course taught by Doug Polk, Ryan Fee, and other top poker pros. The Lab is updated regularly with in-depth learning modules, theory videos, and a wealth of information to make you a better poker player.

How do you play overpairs after the flop? “Play ‘em fast,” someone once told me. Despite its simplicity, this is generally good advice. The idea is to get maximum value from what’s presumably the best hand. But nothing is simple in poker. In this article, we’ll dig deeper into the details of playing overpairs after the flop.

No. 1: Consider Your Stack Depth When Choosing Bet Sizes

If we’ve three-bet preflop, we should use bet sizes that allow us to go all-in on the river. This won’t be difficult with effective starting stacks of around 100 big blinds – betting around 60 percent pot on each street should do the trick. However, when deeper we need to use larger sizes. And if we’re playing very deep, we may need to work in an overbet.

Let’s look at an example, played by Ryan Fee against Garrett Adelstein on Live at the Bike!.

Garrett opens to $800 from UTG+2. Ryan three-bets to $2,600 in the cutoff with KHeart Suit KClub Suit. Garrett calls.

Flop (Pot: $5,575): 10Spade Suit 9Spade Suit 2Diamond Suit

Doug’s Advice: We should always bet this flop with kings, and because of the many possible draws, we’ll want to use a substantial bet size.

Ryan bets $3,300 (around 60 percent pot). Garrett calls.

Turn ($12,175): 3Club Suit

This is where things get interesting. Ryan overbets $16,000.

Doug’s Advice: This is a great spot to overbet. Garrett can have plenty of draws and he isn’t likely to have a flopped set. Kings without a spade functions well as an overbet because it blocks K-J and K-Q, hands Garrett will fold on the turn, making it more likely Garrett has a made hand or strong draw that can call. Ryan can also balance his range by overbetting high-equity draws, such as 8Spade Suit 7Spade Suit or Q-J offsuit.
Garrett calls.

River ($44,175): 7Heart Suit

Ryan shoves for $39,350. Garrett calls, mucking 8Heart Suit 8Spade Suit.

Doug’s Advice: Ryan, the effective stack, has $39,350. This means he can shove for a 90 percent pot-sized bet. This is a mandatory river shove. For Ryan to be behind, Garrett would need a flopped set (unlikely), a rivered set (unlikely), or a hand like aces that has been trapping the whole way (unlikely).

No. 2: Mix In Traps With Your Least-Vulnerable Ooverpairs

Again, we should usually fast-play our overpairs. But sometimes we can slow-play our least vulnerable overpairs for the following reasons:

1. It strengthens our checking range, thus protecting its weaker hands.
2. It allows us to have strong value bets in our range on later streets.
3. It induces bluffs from aggressive opponents.

Let’s look at another example. This hand was played by Doug Polk against Daniel “DANMER” Merrilees at $100-$200 heads-up on Live at the Bike!.

Doug opens to $500 on the button with KDiamond Suit KClub Suit.

Daniel, who started the hand with $20,900 in the big blind, three-bets to $2,000.
Doug four-bets to $5,300. Daniel calls.

Flop ($10,600): JDiamond Suit 7Spade Suit 2Heart Suit

Daniel checks.

Doug’s Advice: Checking strong hands on a dry board is sometimes a good idea. However, I lean toward checking less-vulnerable hands, like aces or a set of jacks, rather than with kings or queens.

With only 1.5 pot-sized bets behind, and a range advantage as the four-bettor, we should use a small size (~25 percent pot) when we bet.

Doug bets $2,800. Daniel calls.

Turn ($16,200): 7Club Suit

Once again, Daniel checks to Doug.

Doug’s Advice: This is a fantastic turn. The middle card pairing means some of our opponent’s likely hands­­—e.g., K-J suited, Q-J suited, J-10 suited—are now drawing to just two outs. Moreover, there are no possible flush draws, so hands like ASpade Suit QSpade Suit or AHeart Suit QHeart Suit with which our opponent could’ve floated the flop, now have little equity.

The fact that we can jam the river for value with a low stack-to-pot ratio also makes this a great spot to check. This allows us to bluff our weak hands more effectively on the river, and it gives us the chance to pick off river bluffs.

Doug checks back.

River ($16,200): 4Club Suit

Daniel shoves all-in. Doug snap calls. Daniel’s QClub Suit JClub Suit hits the muck.

No. 3: Don’t Let A Flop Check-Raise Discourage You From Betting On Later Streets
Betting on the flop and getting check-raised can cause flashbacks of getting stacked in an overpair versus set situation. But it shouldn’t prevent us from value betting on later streets, should our opponent check.

Let’s look at a final example. This hand was played between Doug Polk and Shaun Deeb in a seven-handed $100-$200 game on Poker Night in America.

Doug opens to $600 with KDiamond Suit KHeart Suit. Cutoff calls, as does Shaun Deeb in the big blind.

Flop ($1,900): JClub Suit 9Spade Suit 6Diamond Suit

Shaun checks. Doug continuation-bets $1,150. Cutoff calls, and Shaun check-raises to $3,700.

Doug’s Advice: The flop is a clear bet, and after the check-raise from Shaun in the big blind, we have a clear call. Folding is far too tight, and three-betting only gets action from better hands while folding out bluffs.

Doug calls. Cutoff folds.

Turn ($7,900): 4Diamond Suit

Shaun checks.

Doug’s Advice: This is an interesting spot with kings. We’d usually bet overpairs here, but always betting lets our opponent trap us and go for the double check-raise with his strong hands. So, the best approach is to check some of our least-vulnerable overpairs (aces, for example, and particularly aces with the ADiamond Suit) while betting others along with draws.

Doug bets $5,350. Shaun calls.

River ($21,150): 4Club Suit

Shaun checks.

Doug’s Advice: This is an amazing river. It counterfeits flopped two pairs, such as J-9 or 9-6 suited. The only way we’re not good is if our opponent trapped with a set of nines or sixes on the turn, which is unlikely. By shoving we get value from top pairs that played the flop too aggressively.

Doug puts Shaun all-in for just under half pot, and he promptly folds.

For more advice on this topic visit the Upswing Lab, or check out the great example hands in Doug Polk’s “Poker Hands” YouTube series.

Good luck, grinders! ♠

Doug Polk is one of the world’s top no-limit hold’em cash game players and has more than $5 million in tournament winnings. Polk is a lead instructor at The Upswing Poker Lab is a poker training course updated regularly with in-depth learning modules, theory videos, and a wealth of information to make you a better poker player.

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