How To Play Double-Paired Boards In Cash Games

When the turn brings a card that puts two pairs on the board — K♠ K 8 8♠, for example — you may find yourself in a tough situation to navigate.

Is your bottom full house good? Will Ace-high be strong enough to win at showdown? Should you turn an underpair (like Pocket Fours) into a bluff?

These tricky double-paired boards will be the focus of today’s article. Specifically, I’ll be looking at these board types in two common positional match ups as the preflop raiser:

  • Button vs Big Blind
  • Small Blind vs Big Blind

Let’s dive in!

This article is marked as advanced. If you’d prefer more fundamental reading about poker strategy, check out introductory articles here.

Double-Paired Boards: General Ideas

There is one common theme about the strategy for playing double-paired boards. If you only take one thing away from this article, it should be this:

The aggressor on the previous street will be at a nut disadvantage when the turn double pairs the board.

For this reason, the aggressor must slow down and play a more defensive strategy. This helps her realize more equity with her entire range, which increases overall expected value.

Double-Paired Boards As the Preflop Raiser from the Button

Paired flops come in many different forms and the optimal strategy for each can vary wildly. For example, let’s compare an 8♠ 8♣ 6 flop with a K♠ K 8 flop.

On 8♠ 8♣ 6, the optimal strategy is to c-bet around 50% of the time versus the Big Blind. On the K♠ K 8 flop, the GTO strategy is to c-bet with the entire opening range of the Button. This difference in flop strategies will carry over to the turn.

(Want to learn all about playing different types of paired flops? Check out this article. It’s not a bad idea to read that article before continuing with this one.)

Moreover, there is another very important factor to take into consideration: donk betting. Will the player in the Big Blind employ a donking strategy or not? Because, if he will start donking some of the turned full houses, then the player on the Button can start attacking the checking range of the Big Blind much more aggressively.

Let’s take a look at the K♠ K 8 turn strategy when the Big Blind doesn’t have a donking strategy on an 8♣ turn (which will be the case for most opponents):

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The pot is assumed to be 100 chips, and I’ve given the solver 3 bet size options: 50%, 75%, and 135% pot.

The solver chose to use the smallest size (50% pot) at a very low frequency — it only likes betting around 12% of the time. Why is that?

It’s because the Big Blind has a nut and range advantage when the board pairs the 8. After all, the Button will be c-betting with her entire range on the flop, while the Big Blind will be folding a good chunk of his range against a c-bet there. Thus, the Button still has a lot of trashy hands at this point whereas the Big Blind will have a fairly strong range.

When this is the case, the Button is forced to play a very defensive strategy. If she chooses to play aggressively, she opens herself up to getting check-raised off of her equity very often. It also exposes her check-back range to a more aggressive probing strategy on the river.

Now, let’s talk about the exact hands with which the solver chooses to bet

The hands that bet most are the Kx hands that are accompanied by a 7 or lower (K7s-K2s). It’s worth considering: why would those hands be preferable to betting with a higher Kx hand like King-Queen?

It’s because many of the Big Blinds check-folding range is made out of the pocket pairs between 22 and 77. When you hold 2-7 as the kicker, you block the folding range and unblock the calling range (hands like A8-98). When you hold the Queen kicker, you actually block a little bit of the calling range (Q8) and unblock the folding range.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the bluffs on this double-paired turn.

In the range above, you can see that the heart of the bluffing range is T9 and some of the lowest pocket pairs. T9 is a great bluff because it has the best blockers — making it less likely the opponent has KT, K9, T8, or 98 — while simultaneously having very little equity/showdown value. The low pocket pairs are also great because they have virtually no showdown value.

I’ve covered a lot of minor factors, here, but over time they add up to a higher win-rate.

Now, let’s move on to playing out of position on double-paired boards as the small blind.

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Double-Paired Boards As the Preflop Raiser from the Small Blind

Let’s now take a look at the same board, but this time from the point of view of the Small Blind after raising preflop and getting called by the Big Blind.

On the flop, the Small Blind’s optimal strategy is to c-bet with the entire range for a small size (33% of the pot) because of the equity advantage that the Small Blind has over the Big Blind. Against that strategy, the Big Blind ends up folding around 25% of his range.

When the turn double pairs the board, the same situation as before occurs for the aggressor. The Small Blind is now at a nut disadvantage due to having a wider range. In this case, even though the Small Blind has more combinations of full houses in an absolute sense, the proportion of his whole range that is a full house is significantly smaller.

Take a look below.

Small Blind Range Composition:

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Big Blind Range Composition:

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You can see here that the Small Blind has 92 combinations of full houses and quads, while the Big Blind has 81 combinations of Full houses. Despite this, those full houses represent only 19% of the Small Blinds range, while the full houses represent 24% of the Big Blinds range.

For this reason, the Small Blind must play a very defensive strategy as you can see in the following solver solution:

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What you can see in this image is that the solver prefers to use a 75% pot-sized bet (68 chips into 90) and that it only elects to bet with 6% of hands. That bet frequency is low enough that one could argue for playing a simplified 100% check strategy here

The range composition is extremely similar to the one used by the Button in the previous example. The Kx full houses with a low kicker are the hands that want to value bet. The best bluffing hands are, once again, T9 and some of the low pocket pairs.

It’s interesting to see the out of position strategy look so similar to the in position strategy, but it makes sense in these extreme double-paired spots.

Final Thoughts

Double-paired boards are so rare that, unless you are already a very advanced player, studying them is not going to boost your overall win-rate by a great deal. However, there is not one situation in which studying will make you win less money. With the information in this article, you are now well equipped to play these spots when they eventually arise.

That’s all for this article! As usual, if you have any questions or feedback please let me know in the comment section down below!

Now that you’ve read about this fairly rare situation, I think it’s best you read about very common ones next. Check out 3 Spots You Should Almost Never C-Bet if you want to keep upgrading your game for free.

Until next time, good luck, grinders!

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