Texas Hold’em is a game of incomplete information. We often delve into studying ranges, patterns, and the metagame, becoming obsessed with uncovering hidden information. Unfortunately, this mindset can make us overlook basic knowledge and underestimate the importance of some obvious elements, such as community cards’ texture.
Community cards often don’t receive the attention they deserve, leading to an information gap compared to the potential insights they can provide. In this article, we will go back to the basics and attempt to answer the seemingly simple question: How do you read community cards?
Types of Community Card Textures Recognizing the type of community card texture you’re facing becomes crucial once the community cards are dealt with.
- Rainbow Community Cards, e.g., K♥ 7♣ 2♦: These are very typical. With no flush draws in play, players lose many cards they could aggressively bet on or call with. The common betting pattern here is “continuation bet, then fold.”
- Two Suited Community Cards, e.g., 9♠ 7♠ 3♣: These are trickier as they widen the possible calling ranges compared to rainbow boards. Moreover, there’s a higher chance of potential continuation betting getting raised or check-raised.
- Monotone Community Cards, e.g., A♠ K♠ 8♠: In these cases, the relative strength of hands like top pairs or middle pairs diminishes. Chasing a flush isn’t as profitable, as even if you complete the flush, it can be easily spotted by opponents.
- Paired Community Cards, e.g., J♥ J♦ 6♣: Similar to rainbow boards, the ranges become exceptionally narrow here, leaving little room for maneuvering, especially against ABC players who quickly reveal whether they hit the flop.
Community Cards and Potential Pot Odds When considering potential pot odds, the community card structure plays a vital role. For example, if you hold A♥ Q♥ and the community cards are K♥ 7♥ 2♥ 4♥ 5♦, it’s tough to get paid off. The community cards block the second-nut flush (K-high flush), and opponents are unlikely to call with their medium-strength hands as the flush is highly probable.
However, A♥ Q♥ is likely to get paid off on a 9♣ 8♣ 7♥ 3♥ 2♥ community card texture since opponents will struggle to put you on a backdoor flush, and they might hold many strong hands (99, 88, 77, JJ+, JT, K-high flush, etc.). Similarly, Q8o can make a value bet on an A-T-J-5-9 community card texture, but 89 would find it extremely difficult to get paid on a 5-6-2-7-J board. The first texture creates many top pairs and middle pairs, hiding our draws, while the second one does the opposite.
Blockers When talking about blockers, we typically refer to our hole cards as reducing the likelihood of specific combinations in our opponent’s range. However, we often overlook that community cards can also serve as blockers. An obvious and valuable example is when a community card includes an Ace, a common playable card pre-flop.
A♣ 2♥ 5♣ as a community card texture will block several flush draw combinations in opponents’ ranges, as Ax is the most common playable hand pre-flop. Sometimes, this reduction in possibilities intensifies. In the case of a nit player from an early position, J♣ 2♥ 5♣ community cards will contain many flush draws, but with A♣ 2♥ 5♣, there will be hardly any.
Turn cards that act as blockers can easily expose dishonest gameplay. An obvious example is when the turn card brings a pair of Aces, making it less likely that a player who continued betting on the flop actually holds the hand they represent. Similarly, the second-largest card appearing on the turn after a specific flop suggests that the bettor’s range is skewed towards draws because many of their middle-strength hands are now excluded.
Absolute vs. Relative Hand Strength A significant mistake made by recreational players is getting too enamored with the absolute strength of their hole cards, regardless of the community card texture. While “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” A♥ K♥ with a K♣ 4♠ 9♦ flop will give you a much stronger top pair than J♥ 9♣ with a 9♠ 7♠ 6♥ flop. Relative hand strength often outweighs absolute hand strength, and community cards are the decisive factor in determining relative hand strength.
Consider a few more examples. Holding 9♠ 9♣ with a 9♥ 3♦ 2♣ flop gives you an absolute nut hand, and losing is highly improbable. However, the same hand on a 9♥ 8♥ 4♦ flop is still a nut hand but more challenging to play correctly. On a J♦ T♦ 9♦ flop, 9♠ 9♣ doesn’t have the nut hand anymore, and finding the right play in this situation can be quite challenging.
In summary, understanding the community card texture is crucial in Texas Hold’em, as it significantly impacts your strategic decisions and relative hand strength. Recognizing the types of community card textures, their effect on pot odds, and how they serve as blockers can give you a substantial edge in the game. Don’t forget that relative hand strength often outweighs the absolute strength of your hole cards, and community cards play a decisive role in this aspect.